How did the British react to July 1789?
1789 is one of the most significant dates in history - famous for the revolution in France with its cries of 'Liberté! Egalité! Fraternité!' that led to the removal of the French upper classes. The French Revolution didn't just take place in 1789. It actually lasted for another six years, with far more violent and momentous events taking place in the years after 1789. However, here we examine the British reaction to the events in France during this famous year - were the British government extremely worried or did they see it as merely a few minor disturbances?
Looking at primary source material from 1789, including a London newspaper report, together with both official and personal letters sent from Paris, you will be asked to assess and investigate the reaction. The significance of 1789 is now well known, but did anybody at the time even dare to suggest how important it was?
Let's look at the evidence to find out.
- What evidence is there that the population of Paris were worried?
- What was wrong with the official police force?
1. Look at Source 1. This is an extract from the London Gazette from Monday 13 July 1789.
- Why were the people outside the Bastille so outraged when the Governor gave the order to fire on them?
- Some were then allowed in - on what condition?
- What happened to the 40 who went into the Bastille?
- What happened to the Governor?
2. Look at Source 2. This is an extract from the London Gazette from Tuesday 14 July 1789.
- According to the source, people lined the streets - how does the source describe their behaviour?
- How pleased were people with the King's promises? How were people behaving?
- What evidence in the source suggests further trouble could easily break out?
3. Look at Source 3. This is an extract from the London Gazette from Wednesday 15 July 1789.
- Examine Mr. Jenkinson's description of the storming of the Bastille - is there any reason to doubt his claims? Give your reasons.
- Why, according to this source, did the King 'recant all his former words' and agree to the people's demands?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of this evidence?
4. Look at Source 4. This is a letter from a Mr Jenkinson from Paris, dated 15 July 1789.
- How have the recent events affected newspapers?
- Why does the ambassador have little to report?
5. Look at Source 5. This is an extract from a confidential report from the British Ambassador.
- What is wrong with the account of the storming of the Bastille?
- What reasons does the ambassador suggest for the quick and easy take over of the Bastille?
- What reasons are given to 'lament' the death of the Marquis de Launay?
- What does the small number of prisoners actually inside the Bastille suggest about the reign of King Louis XVI?
6. Look at Source 6. This is another extract from the report seen in Source 5.
- How many members of the royal family have fled?
- What does the ambassador say is 'scarcely possible to imagine'?
- What main reason is suggested for wanting these people to return?
7. Look at Source 7. This is a further extract from the report seen in Source 5 and 6.
- Serious revolution, leading to real danger for Britain.
- A Paris-based revolt that the King was forced to agree to.
- Minor disturbances, of no real consequence at all.
8. Look again at Sources 1-7. Using all the available sources, decide which of these descriptions best fit each source:
Explain the reasons for your decisions.
- What had been the reaction to the King's promises following the storming of the Bastille?
- How serious and long lasting did the ambassador suggest the problems were?
9. Using all your previous work, write a detailed paragraph explaining how seriously the British took the events of July 1789.
Use your source evidence effectively and think about the following issues: