Contingency in Revolution: France, 1789

Ivan Ermakoff, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Contingency claims in revolution studies are quite frequent. But often they do not state clearly where they stand. Their meaning remains vague and evocative. The revolutionary dynamic that emerged in France in 1789 makes it possible to distinguish four broad types of claims depending on whether the focus is on (1) the role played by conjunctions of processes or factors in the etiology of revolutions, (2) the sequential character of revolutionary events, (3) the indeterminacy inherent to tense moments of showdown, or (4) the impact of individual actors on revolutionary dynamics.

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 Presented in Session 119. Contingency, Networks, and Power in Long-wave Historical Development