The Historiographical Afterlives of Maximilien Robespierre

  • Bailea Jackson MacEwan University


Based on the Independent Study I am completing, my presentation will explore how interpretations of the French Revolutionary leader Maximilien Robespierre have varied across time and place. I attempt to tease out some of the connections between scholarly and popular interpretations and their respective historical and historiographical contexts. Should Robespierre be counted among the French Revolution’s greatest villains or tragic victims? His dramatic rise to power and controversial legacy have piqued interest both in academia (from Marxists, revisionists, etc.) and beyond. Influential film and literary portraits of Robespierre, such as those featured in Hilary Mantel’s epic novel A Place of Greater Safety and Andrzej Wajda’s movie Danton, have imaginatively attempted to fill the gaps where archival evidence is absent. Spanning his early campaign against the death penalty through his ruthless defence of political Terror, this presentation will not only chart the evolution of scholarly interpretations of Robespierre, but also shed light on how non-academic commentators have made sense of the divisive leader known as “the Incorruptible.”


Faculty Mentor: Kelly Summers

Department: History