Terrorism and revolutionary violence: the emergence of terrorism in the French Revolution

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6 Scopus citations


Accounts of terrorism, which locate the emergence of the concept in the French Revolution, tend to accept two premises. First, they assume that the concept of terrorism names a particular form of violence. Second, they regard Robespierre as the first practitioner of terrorism, thus suggesting an understanding of the term as state violence. While this article substantiates the second premise by way of a discussion of the first systematic articulation of terrorism by Tallien in 1794, it problematises the first premise through an examination of archival evidence from the period between 1794 and 1797. By identifying a variety of conceptual uses of terrorism as a form of government, political philosophy and political identity, I argue for an expansion of the conceptual space within which terrorism is primarily understood as a form of violent action.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)193-210
Number of pages18
JournalCritical Studies on Terrorism
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 4 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Babeuf
  • French Revolution
  • Russian revolutionaries
  • Tallien
  • terror
  • terrorism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


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