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14,000 Images of the French Revolution Released Online

Crown: "I lost a head"; Guillotine: "I've found one" (1793) (via French Revolution Digital Archive)
Crown: “I lost a head”; Guillotine: “I’ve found one” (1793) (via French Revolution Digital Archive)

Toppled crowns and tumbrels to the guillotine are just part of the massive archive of images and documents released online this month. The French Revolution Digital Archive, a partnership between Stanford University and the Bibliothèque nationale de France, was announced last week with some 14,000 high-resolution images.

For anyone who tried to use the thorough, but cumbersome, BnF website for research, this is joyous news. Yet even for curious non-academics the archive is incredibly user-friendly and rich with vivid material on one of history’s most tumultuous times. The archive, a multi-year project, is divided into two areas —  Parliamentary Archives and Images of the French Revolution — with a very handy visual timeline included on each search so you can pinpoint what exact point of time you want to target. While the images are heavy on prints and illustrations, there are also photographs of medals, coins, and other artifacts.

You can approach the images by themes like “religion,” the woeful “King and the Royal Family,” and the chaotic “political rivalries and social conflict.” There are also divisions in art and culture, like “heroes” and “allegories,” and even the titillating  “politics in the boudoir.” The keywords once you’re viewing an image are in French, but overall it’s accessible to either anglo- or francophones.

Below are just a few finds from the archive, with caricatures of revolutionary villains and heroes, illustrations of pivotal events, and of course the rise of the “National Razor” that gave tens of thousands of citizens a deadly shave: the guillotine.

Caricature of Louis-Joseph, Prince of Condé (190-92) (via French Revolution Digital Archive)
Caricature of Louis-Joseph, Prince of Condé (190-92) (via French Revolution Digital Archive)
A satiric image of a "lesson" being given to the king (1791) (via French Revolution Digital Archive)
A satiric image of a “lesson” being given to the king (1791) (via French Revolution Digital Archive)
A caricture showing a duel between Robespierre and the moderates (1792) (via French Revolution Digital Archive)
A caricture showing a duel between Robespierre and the moderates (1792) (via French Revolution Digital Archive)
The "aristrocratic hydre" against the people, with the Guillotine in the background (1789) (via French Revolution Digital Archive)
The “aristrocratic hydre” against the people, with the Guillotine in the background (1789) (via French Revolution Digital Archive)
An illustrion of when Prince Lambesc enter the Jardin des Tuileries with a sword and part of his royal regiment on July 12, 1789 (via French Revolution Digital Archive)
An illustrion of when Prince Lambesc enter the Jardin des Tuileries with a sword and part of his royal regiment on July 12, 1789 (via French Revolution Digital Archive)
The dress of the clerby, nobility, and Third Estate (1789) (via French Revolution Digital Archive)
The dress of the clergy, nobility, and Third Estate (1789) (via French Revolution Digital Archive)
A caricature showing the three estates as part of a carriage (1789) (via French Revolution Digital Archive)
A caricature showing the three estates as part of a carriage (1789) (via French Revolution Digital Archive)
An astronomer looking at the stars, and falling into an abyss (1789-92) (via French Revolution Digital Archive)
An astronomer looking at the stars, and falling into an abyss (1789-92) (via French Revolution Digital Archive)
A caricture of the futures of the three estates (1790) (via French Revolution Digital Archive)
A caricture of the futures of the three estates (1790) (via French Revolution Digital Archive)
Stam with a skull and guillotines with the words "liberty" and "fraternity" (1799) (via French Revolution Digital Archive)
Stam with a skull and guillotines with the words “liberty” and “fraternity” (1799) (via French Revolution Digital Archive)
The guillotine (1793) (via French Revolution Digital Archive)
The guillotine (1793) (via French Revolution Digital Archive)
Robespierre, off to the guillotine (1794) (via French Revolution Digital Archive)
Robespierre and the guillotine (1794) (via French Revolution Digital Archive)
Mr. Guillotin proposing his machine to the National Assembly for executions (1791) (via French Revolution Digital Archive)
Mr. Guillotin proposing his machine to the National Assembly for executions (1791) (via French Revolution Digital Archive)
Praying to the shrine at St. Anns Hill, illustrated by James Gillray (1798) (via French Revolution Digital Archive)
Praying to the shrine at St. Anns Hill, illustrated by James Gillray (1798) (via French Revolution Digital Archive)
Satirical funeral procession for the Jacobins (1792) (via French Revolution Digital Archive)
Satirical funeral procession for the Jacobins (1792) (via French Revolution Digital Archive)

View more documents and images at the French Revolution Digital Archive.

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