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"True genius is almost always sans-culotte" --Henri Grégoire

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Sans-culottes (French for without knee-breeches) was a term created 1790 - 1792 by the French to describe the poorer members of the Third Estate, according to the dominant theory because they usually wore pantaloons (full-length trousers) instead of the fashionable knee-length culotte.

Their support came from domestic crises, such as shortages of bread and political injustices. Led by revolutionaries such as Jacques Hébert, the sans-culottes played a crucial role in such events as the September massacres of 1792, and supported the most radical left-wing factions in successive revolutionary governments. During the Reign of Terror, they provided important support for Maximilien Robespierre and the Committee of Public Safety; in March 1794, though, the government distanced itself from the Hébertists; Hébert himself was convicted by the very Revolutionary Tribunals he had lauded, and was guillotined; months later, in the Thermidorian Reaction, Robespierre would suffer the same fate.

See also

September Massacres

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