The Afterlives of the Terror
Facing the Legacies of Mass Violence in Postrevolutionary France
Aims and Scope
The Afterlives of the Terror explores how those who experienced the mass violence of the French Revolution struggled to come to terms with it. Focusing on the Reign of Terror, Ronen Steinberg challenges the presumption that its aftermath was characterized by silence and enforced collective amnesia. Instead, he shows that there were painful, complex, and sometimes surprisingly honest debates about how to deal with its legacies.
As The Afterlives of the Terror shows, revolutionary leaders, victims' families, and ordinary citizens argued about accountability, retribution, redress, and commemoration. Drawing on the concept of transitional justice and the scholarship on the major traumas of the twentieth century, Steinberg explores how the French tried, but ultimately failed, to leave this difficult past behind. He argues that it was the same democratizing, radicalizing dynamic that led to the violence of the Terror, which also gave rise to an unprecedented interrogation of how society is affected by events of enormous brutality. In this sense, the modern question of what to do with difficult pasts is one of the unanticipated consequences of the eighteenth century's age of democratic revolutions.
- 240 pages
- 7 b&w halftones
- CORNELL UNIVERSITY PRESS
- French Revolution, Mass Violence, Transitional Justice, Trauma Studies, Memory
"The Afterlives of the Terror is a superb work of scholarship that breaks new interpretive ground. Combining exhaustive research with engrossing storytelling, Steinberg's analysis of a major topic in the history of the French Revolution is noteworthy for its originality and its lucid prose."
Jeremy D. Popkin, University of Kentucky, author of Concise History of the Haitian Revolution:
"Steinberg's effort to put the Reign of Terror in the context of present-day concerns with transitional justice and the 'working through' of collective trauma is a new approach that produces productive insights, both about the French Revolution and about modern revolutions and genocides."