A French Genocide: The Vendee

A French Genocide: The Vendee

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This work provides a detailed narrative of the civil war in the Vendee region of western France, which lasted for much of the 1790s but was most intensely fought at the height of the Reign of Terror, from March 1793 to early 1795. In this shocking book, Reynald Secher argues that the massacres which resulted from the conflict between patriotic revolutionary forces and those of the counterrevolution were not the inevitable result of fierce battle, but rather were premediated, committed in cold blood, massive and systematic, and undertaken with the conscious and proclaimed will to destroy a well-defined region, and to exterminate an entire people. Drawing upon previously unavailable sources, Secher argues that more than 14 per cent of the population and 18 per cent of the housing stock in the Vendee was destroyed in this catastrophic conflict. Secher's review of the social and political structure of the region presents a different image of the people of the Vendee than the stereotype common among historians favorable to the French Revolution. He demonstrates that they were not archaic and superstitious or even necessarily adverse to the forward-looking forces of the Revolution. Rather, the region turned against the Revolution because of a series of misguided policy choices that failed to satisfy the desire for reform and offended the religious sensibilities of the Vendeans. Using an array of primary sources, many from provincial archives, including personal accounts and statistical data, Secher argues for a demythologized view of the French Revolution. Contrary to most 20th-century academic accounts of the Revolution, which have either ignored, apologized for, or explained away the Vendee, Secher demonstrates that the vicious nature of this civil war is a key event that forces us to reconsider the revolutionary regime. His work provides a significant case study for readers interested in the relationships between religion, region, and political violence.

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