In the French village of Segonzac in 1796, weaver Thomas Bordas spoke out during a municipal ceremony. Frustrated by how stifling the politics of the Revolution had become, he proposed a show of hands: who wants a republic, and who wants a king? Soon after, he was arrested and charged with having attempted to bring about a counterrevolution. Citing hundreds of similar incidents of "seditious speech," Jill Maciak Walshaw demonstrates that eighteenth-century French villagers were well-informed and outspoken on political issues. This study, set in the southwestern regions of Guyenne and the central Pyrenees, reveals the contradiction at the heart of state-village interaction: authorities viewed peasants as ignorant and apolitical, or else reactionary and easily led astray, yet carefully monitored and suppressed their opinions. 'A Show of Hands for the Republic' redefines how we understand peasant politicization, arguing that the characterization of rural views as conservative or backward-looking is mistaken. Villagers acted politically, in ways reflective of local character and grounded in their experience of local politics. The pivotal decade of the Revolution left a legacy in the countryside that went beyond a superficial and short-lived exposure to national affairs: it brought a meeting of political cultures, and confirmed that rural public opinion had become a force to be reckoned with. Jill Maciak Walshaw is Assistant Professor at the University of Victoria, British Columbia.
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