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From the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, historians, politicians, and even the interested public believed radical ideas to be at the bottom of this upheaval. Upstaged by social explanations, particularly in the first two-thirds of the twentieth century, intellectual accounts have regained prominence, as recent scholarship has reiterated that ideas mattered. But what ideas? This essay focuses on those ideas that became evident at and around the outbreak of the revolution in 1788–89. For this period, a new wave of scholarship emphasizes not the idea of equality but rather historic rights and patriotism. In these accounts, Enlightenment notions of natural law provided the central justification for radicalizing the revolution as the decade proceeded. Beyond patriotism and rights, this essay also examines other competing discourses, especially those that challenged the church.