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The Fall of Robespierre


24 Hours in Revolutionary Paris

Colin Jones

24 August 2023

ISBN: 9780198715962

592 pages

Price: £12.99

The day of 9 Thermidor (27 July 1794) is universally acknowledged as a major turning-point in the history of the French Revolution. Maximilien Robespierre, the most prominent member of the Committee of Public Safety, was planning to destroy one of the most dangerous plots that the Revolution had faced.


This item is not yet published. Orders will be supplied on publication.

This item is not yet published. Orders will be supplied on publication.


The day of 9 Thermidor (27 July 1794) is universally acknowledged as a major turning-point in the history of the French Revolution. Maximilien Robespierre, the most prominent member of the Committee of Public Safety, was planning to destroy one of the most dangerous plots that the Revolution had faced.

  • A dramatic 'real-time' chronicle of an historic, topsy-turvy 24 hours in the life of a city gripped by Terror
  • Offers a fresh, unusual and vivid new look at individual and collective motivations when confronted by Revolution and Terror
  • The cast-list of the drama includes Robespierre and his allies; the conspirators against him; national and city politicians caught up in the action; the public executioner and officials from the Revolutionary Tribunal; sans-culottes and tricoteuses faced with a tough political choice; and journalists, shop-keepers, market women and day-labourers who wanted nothing more than to stay out of things
  • Shows that ideological fervor, the instinct for self-preservation, apathy in the face of Revolutionary idealism and sheer chance all had a part to play in the outcome of this pivotal episode in the French Revolution

About the Author(s)

Colin Jones, Emeritus Professor of Cultural History, Queen Mary University of London

Colin Jones CBE is Emeritus Professor of Cultural History at Queen Mary University of London. He has published widely on French history, particularly on the eighteenth century, the French Revolution, and the history of medicine. His many books include The Medical World of Early Modern France (with Lawrence Brockliss, 1997), The Great Nation: France from Louis XV to Napoleon (2002), Paris: Biography of a City (2004), The Smile Revolution: In Eighteenth-Century Paris (2014), and Versailles (2018). He is a Fellow of the British Academy and Past President, Royal Historical Society.

Table of Contents

    PART 1: ELEMENTS OF CONSPIRACY (Midnight to 05.00 a.m.)
    PART 2: SETTINGS FOR A DRAMA (05.00 a.m. - 12 noon)
    PART 3: A PARLIAMENTARY COUP (Midday to 5.00 p.m.)
    PART 4: A PARISIAN JOURNÉE (5.00 p.m. to midnight)


"Vital, incisive, revelatory, The Fall of Robespierre offers a crisis anatomised, 'by the map and by the clock.' Its close-focus intensity makes us question everything we thought we knew about the bloody events of Thermidor Year II. It takes us to the place, to the instant, to the heartbeat of revolution in the making." - Hilary Mantel, author A Place of Greater Safety and the Wolf Hall trilogy

"The melodramatic story of Maximilien Robespierre's fall has been told many times before, but never in such gloriously sensual detail... Colin Jones brings the French Revolution to life in all its colour and horror... Above all he is brilliant on the psychological twists of politics, which would cost Robespierre his life." - Dominic Sandbrook, 21 Best History Books of 2021, The Times

"The book is suspenseful because, even though we know the way things end, it relates the build-up to Robespierre's execution in breathless detail. Mining abundant archival material (from the reports of government functionaries, soldiers and spies to the diaries and letters of private citizens of all political beliefs), Jones shows how turbulence, confusion and contingency shaped each moment of that day." - Caroline Weber, London Review of Books

"... a thrilling blow-by-blow account of that fateful day in the summer of 1794. One can almost hear the ticking of the clock, minute by minute, second by second, counting down to the guillotine." - Joseph Hone, Books of the Year 2021, History Today

"A brilliant hour-by-hour recreation... He has a marvellous eye for colour: the sweat and fear in the Parisian prisons, the exhausted paranoia of the government committees, the stench of the guillotined bodies in the death pits outside the city. He is excellent on the contingency of political history... And, above all, he is brilliant on the psychology of politics, the way the mood of an assembly can switch in a moment with devastating consequences." - Dominic Sandbrook, The Sunday Times

"Jones insists that to understand 9 Thermidor it's necessary to dig down to the level of "infinitely small" details. In his admirable account he meticulously reconstructs the day on an hour-by-hour basis, crisscrossing the city as he does so." - Gerard deGroot, The Times

"Colin Jones, a professor of history at Queen Mary University of London, handles a huge amount of material with skill and verve. He creates an extraordinarily vivid minute-by-minute portrait of Paris and its people on that pivotal day..." - Constance Craig Smith, Daily Mail

"... minutely detailed and unfailingly gripping... Jones's superbly researched and strikingly original book produces an optic of a radically different kind. 'Only by getting "up close" and drilling down into the "infinitely small" details of the revolutionary process', its author insists, can the day's course and outcome be understood. And for once this counsel of perfection can be put into practice." - John Adamson, Literary Review

"The greatest merit of Colin Jones's microscopic study of those deadly days in the summer of 1794 is that he succeeds in conveying the terrified uncertainty of the many actors, including large numbers of ordinary Parisians...His account required a massive amount of archival work, and his bibliography is testimony to his labors... The broader educated public with an interest in this extraordinary period will enjoy Jones's lively narrative..." - Peter McPhee, H-France

"An incisively argued and thrilling moment-by-moment examination of one of the French Revolution's most dramatic days... Colin Jones achieves the exceptional feat of putting 9 Thermidor in a new perspective... Jones's enthralling, incisively argued book is a fine contribution to the debate." - Tony Barber, Financial Times

"Behind the books general reader-friendly narrative structure, academics will find historical virtuosity on display." - Katie Jarvis, The English Historical Review

"The story of the Ninth of Thermidor has been told many times, but never so well as in Colin Jones's The Fall of Robespierre." - David A Bell, The New York Review

"... Colin Jones, as well informed about eighteenth century France as any professor of history could be, leads us through Paris on the exceptional day of 9 Thermidor, Year II." - Johan Hakelius, Engelsberg Ideas

"Jones offers a new perspective on the Terror and nature of the Thermidorian Reaction. The unconventional narrative structure and style bring contingency to the fore and, in so doing, lead to new interpretations not only of Maximilien Robespierres downfall but of the course of the French Revolution." - Katlyn Carter, Age of Revolutions

"... overall this is a classic: living up to the title exactly, it does so with full marks for style and substance... If you have any interest in the French Revolution, or politics in general, or the "processes of history" you will find The Fall of Robespierre a riveting, rigorous and thought-provoking read." - Anthony Webb, Popular History

"The work Jones produced to support his point is remarkable... With its minute detailing of human characters, The Fall of Robespierre has the texture of literature and is good material for a mini-series or...how about another Hamilton?..." - David Luhrssen, Shepherd Express

"This is an astoundingly scholarly book, written with a beautifully assured hand... a book for the historian of the French Revolution itself... The minutiae of detail, and the ability to convey it, along with the mounting tension, is a specific talent, and which has been so obviously achieved by the author of this fascinating and superb volume." - Sandra Callard, On: Yorkshire Magazine

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