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79 4 The Long-Term Incidence of Barricade Events and the Lost Barricades of the French Revolution The curious thing is that barricades suddenly resurfaced in the neighborhood of the Hôtel de Ville on November 19, 1827, after disappearing from the Parisian scene for nearly two centuries: indeed, they never figure in the imagery of the Great French Revolution. Georges Duveau, 1848 Barricade events are inherently rare. My effort to document all instances of barricade construction over a span of more than three centuries has turned up just 155 such incidents.1 That total could be viewed as either understating or overstating the actual number of barricade events. On the one hand, I have no illusions that I have managed to uncover every instance of barricade building that took place from the time of the tactic’s origination until the end of the nineteenth century. On the other hand, even this simple tally could be seen as overstating the frequency of the barricade phenomenon, since many of the cases enumerated, rather than being free-standing, occurred directly in the wake of some large-scale and highly visible “initiator” event. Thus, when the silk workers of Lyon rebelled in April 1834, they inspired smaller “spin-off” incidents of barricade construction in Saint-Etienne, Chalon-sur-Saône, and Vienne that one can confidently assume would never have taken place had the Lyonnais canuts not taken the lead.2 An even more striking illustration of the problem is provided by the eleven barricade events that occurred in December 1851 in reaction to Louis-Napoléon’s overthrow of the Second French Republic. The initial insurrectionary response in the capital on December 3 was followed over the next six days by ten minor collisions in outlying locations, all of which involved barricades. The database (appendix A) lists them all as separate incidents, but, allowing for delays in the transmission of news from Paris to the provinces, they might legitimately be viewed as part of a single constellation of barricade events. The interrelatedness of 80 Long-Term Incidence of Barricade Events specific cases will be a crucial consideration in the effort to sort out the complex process of barricade diffusion in 1848 (the central focus of chapter 6), but for now, identifying meaningful patterns in the distribution of barricade events requires that we first form a comprehensive picture of the entire period under investigation. THE INCIDENCE OF BARRICADE EVENTS IN TIME AND SPACE The relative scarcity of barricade events is brought home by this observation: I have been unable to authenticate the appearance of even a single barricade in 288 of the 332 years covered by my data. Graph 1 not only illustrates that barricade construction was confined to a comparatively small number of “eventful” years but also demonstrates that a large proportion of the 44 active years were tightly clustered into distinct peaks of insurrectionary ferment. Let us momentarily narrow our focus to France, the obvious candidate for single-case analysis, since an outright majority of all events—92 of 155, or 59 percent —occurred there. Because French barricade use was even more tightly concentrated into comparatively brief bursts of civil unrest, and because they can be directly related to country-specific political developments, these surges now become more readily interpretable. Graph 2 displays the temporal distribution of all French events in my database. These define several vertical spikes over which I have superimposed shaded bands representing the six crucial moments in the history of the period when popular upheaval posed a realistic threat of imminent regime change. They correspond to the crises associated with the Holy League and the Fronde, with which we are already familiar; the French revolutions of 1789, 1830, and 1848; and the Paris Commune of 1871. Together, these twenty-six years of heightened insurrectionary activity account for nearly two-thirds of all French barricade events recorded over more than three centuries.3 Graph 2 may provide a bird’s-eye view of this type of insurrectionary activity , but its graphic display also has the potential to prove misleading. In it, the 1588 and 1648 peaks are no more prominent than other, lesser sixteenth- and seventeenth-century skirmishes and are dwarfed in comparison to the many outbreaks that occurred during the long nineteenth century, when the French turned to barricade building with increasing frequency. Yet, as the previous two chapters have shown, when one allows for the growth in size of French society, the First and Second Days...


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