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The Revolt of Paris, 1588: Aristocratic Insurgency and the Mobilization of Popular Support

The historiography of the Day of the Barricades is traditionally based on the notion of the autonomy of the “people.” This version of events conforms to the conventions of League propaganda, which aimed to distinguish between the popular uprising and the intervention of the duc de Guise, who was represented as the defender of hierarchy and order. In fact, during the preceding years he had used public ceremonies to legitimize protest against royal policy and to fashion his image as the defender of rights and of the faith. His clients and the Sixteen, well entrenched in a number of parishes and fortified by vicinage, kinship, and sociability, supported his politics of opposition. As for the events of 12 May, the popular defensive reflex of the morning must be distinguished from the afternoon counterattack led by cadres of radicals and noble insurgents. Narrative and the divergence between actual events and their representation can tell us much about the social determinants of political activism and social relations on the Barricades.