French Revolution and Diplomatic Practice (The)

Bassville's assassination (french agent in Rome) at a banker's, january 13th 1793. Ink and feather, gray wash.


Contrary to the historiographical commonplaces that consider the revolutionary period as a diplomatic void, diplomacy under the Revolution falls into three clearly distinct periods: while almost intangible under the constitutional monarchy (1789-1792), French diplomacy was at the outset structurally obstructed at the beginning of the Republic (1792-1795), before gradually being militarized under the Directory and the Consulate (1795-1804). As a result, although republican diplomatic practice was initially distinguished by a genuine art of compromise, it later stood out as much by its instransigent defence of national dignity as its desire to negotiate according to the reciprocal interest of the French nation and European peoples. This diplomacy of national sovereignty should therefore not be confused with a vehicle for revolutionary propaganda: more than an “art of negotiation” in the service of monarchs, it was redefined and reevaluated as a genuine science of European national interests.