The Insurgent Barricade.
Mark Traugott, author of a study of Parisian workers during France's 1848 Revolution, offers a comprehensive history of the barricade, covering its origins, construction, and spread. The author argues that the barricade concept endured from generation to generation, despite long gaps in its use, and later took on a life of its own. In effect, it became not only a standard tactic in an uprising but also a symbol of revolution. Understanding the history of the barricade is to understand the history of modern revolution.
Traugott devotes the first six chapters to tracing barricade history. Traditionally, the Parisian resistance against Henry III in 1588, the so-called First Day of the Barricades, is seen as the beginning. Traugott's research refutes this with evidence that they were used in 1569 and 1571, both instances probably inspired by some unknown earlier examples. The main contribution of the 1588 event was establishing a "barricade consciousness," essentially the collective memory that brought the automatic use of the technique in subsequent rebellions (52). This is seen in their reappearance sixty years later during the Fronde in 1648. Traugott argues that this revolt also established the basic pattern for subsequent use.
Although barricades are normally not seen as part of the French Revolution, Traugott again takes a revisionist stance, finding numerous appearances starting with the anti-Bourbon activity in 1789 and continuing through the 1790s. The author believes that these events enabled the idea to survive, in effect connecting the early barricades with the ones that dominated revolutions in the 1800s.
After the barricade phenomenon exploded in France's 1830 Revolution, the idea internationalized when it spread to Belgium. By 1848, the idea had infiltrated popular culture, so it was no surprise to see it return that year. Numerous foreign residents in Paris apparently also caught the fever and helped the concept spread throughout Europe, establishing it as an integral part of any revolution and as a symbolic defiance of state authority. Inspired by the Paris Commune, the idea spread globally during the 1900s, but Traugott's narrative does not go into this.
The author then analyzes the barricade concept itself, beginning with their tactical employment during an insurrection. These often formidable piles of rubble, and whatever else was handy, served to protect the rebels, rally support, create liberated zones, undermine military and police loyalty to the regime, and proclaim to the citizenry that resistance had begun and that it was time to commit. Traugott believes that they also serve a psychic purpose by connecting the uprising to the previous ones, which had never vanished from popular memory. To build a barricade is to revolt, and vice versa.
Insurgent Barricades is a work that should have been written ages ago, filling a gaping hole in revolutionary studies. In particular, the appendices include a massive database listing every barricade incident in Europe from 1569 to 1898. Each entry includes descriptions of the involved barricades and extensive historical notes. This section alone makes the work invaluable to revolutionary scholars.
Peter L. de Rosa
Bridgewater State University
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|Author:||de Rosa, Peter L.|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2012|
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