Glossary of Revolutionary Terms

The number of institutions claiming control or authority over culture in this short period can be bewildering, as can the chronology of the Revolutionary events and the nomenclature of other aspects: political and social groups, micro-periods, and so on. Although terms are explained on their first appearance in the text, for ease of reference, for some here follows a brief glossary of those which may be unfamiliar to musical or theater historians.


Commune: The municipal government of Paris, 1789-1795, composed of a General Assembly and a city council [Conseil de ville]. Term often used by extension to designate the commonality of citizens.

Municipality: Administrators of the Commune.

CIP: Committee of public instruction [Comité d'instruction publique]: one of twelve committees established by the Assemblée législative (and continued during the period of the Convention and beyond) to formulate a plan for public instruction and which progressively assumed authority over different aspects of theatre amongst other areas.

CSP: Committee of public safety [Comité de salut public]: one of the twelve committees, responsible above all for overseeing the defense of the new republic against foreign attacks and internal rebellion. It formed the de facto executive government in France during the Terror.

CSG: Committee of general security [Comité de sûreté générale]: one of the twelve committees, originally named the surveillance committee [Comité de surveillance], established to investigate acts of treason and serve as political police; after April 1792 it had the power to arrest suspects, and general responsibility for surveillance of state security.

Convention: The constitutional and legislative assembly which sat from 20 September 1792 to 26 October 1795. It held its first session in a hall of the Tuileries; thereafter it met in the Salle du Manège, and then from 10 May 1793 in the Salle des Spectacles.

District: The sixty electoral divisions of Paris, each named (Filles Saint-Thomas, Cordeliers, etc.), created for elections to the Estates-General in 1789 and replaced by forty-eight sections in the municipal law of 21 May 1790.

National Assembly: The legislative assembly, first named Constituent Assembly (May 1789-September 1791), and then Legislative Assembly (October 1791-September 1792).

Terror: The period of provisional government characterized by a policy and institutions of intimidation and repression of political opponents. In its widest sense this covers government from 10 August 1792 to beyond the end of this study (the Thermidorian Convention kept several emergency measures intact). In a more restrictive sense the "Great Terror" designates the ten-month period starting 5 September 1793 when Terror was declared "the order of the day" until the Thermidorian reaction (27 July 1794).

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