Book

The Terror of Natural Right

Dan Edelstein

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print October 2009 | ISBN: 9780226184388
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226184401 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226184401.001.0001
The Terror of Natural Right

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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Natural right—the idea that there is a collection of laws and rights based not on custom or belief but that are “natural” in origin—is typically associated with liberal politics and freedom. This book argues that the revolutionaries used the natural right concept of the “enemy of the human race”—an individual who has transgressed the laws of nature and must be executed without judicial formalities—to authorize three-quarters of the deaths during the Terror. It further contends that the Jacobins shared a political philosophy that it calls “natural republicanism” which assumed that the natural state of society was a republic and that natural right provided its only acceptable laws. Ultimately, it proves that what we call the Terror during the French Revolution was in fact only one facet of the republican theory that prevailed from Louis XVI's trial until the fall of Maximilien Robespierre. An original work of historical analysis, political theory, literary criticism, and intellectual history, this book challenges prevailing assumptions of the Terror to offer a new perspective on the Revolutionary period.

Keywords: French Revolution; Terror; Maximilien Robespierre; natural right; liberal politics; Jacobins; natural republicanism; Louis XVI; revolutionaries; political philosophy

Book.  350 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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Table of Contents

Prologue Hostis Humani Generis in The Terror of Natural Right

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Imaginary Republics in The Terror of Natural Right

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Finding Nature in The Terror of Natural Right

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Off with Their Heads in The Terror of Natural Right

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The Despotism of Nature in The Terror of Natural Right

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