Popular revolt and the rise of early modern states


By Sam Cohn, published 1st March 2006

In the 1960s and 1970s, historians and sociologists who were not specialists in the Middle Ages constructed models of pre-industrial crowds and revolt to understand the distinctiveness of modern, post-French Revolutionary, Europe. Foremost among these scholars were George Rudé, a historian of eighteenth century England and France, and Charles Tilly, a sociologist of the French Revolution, who afterwards branched out into various fields of historical sociology. For Tilly, "the form" of popular protest changed from "communal" to "associational" in the middle of the nineteenth century. Before this turning point, popular revolts were "localized, uncoordinated, dependent on the normal rhythms of congregations like marketing, church-going, or harvesting…"1 For Rudé, the characteristic form of "the pre-industrial crowd" was the food riot, which rose and fell with the ebb and flow of grain prices. As a result of...

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