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12 - Revolution at Geneva: Genevans in Revolution

from Part II - Western, Central, and Eastern Europe

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 October 2023

Wim Klooster
Affiliation:
Clark University, Massachusetts
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Summary

The topsy-turvy and complicated revolutionary politics of the late eighteenth century is nowhere better illustrated than in the history of Geneva. Intermittent popular rebellion erupted in 1707, the 1730s, the 1760s, the early 1780s and 1790s. This led to speculation about whether the Protestant Rome would meet its end through civil war. Alternatively, one of its rapacious and imperially-minded neighbors, the monarchies of France or Savoy, might devour the republic, ensuring that Geneva followed so many of the continent’s lesser states into oblivion. This chapter provides an overview of the history of Geneva and explains its role in the Age of Revolutions especially through the events of 1782, which saw a popular rebellion put down by invading troops from France, Savoy, and Bern. A significant exile diaspora followed. Some of the exiles who advocated republicanism at Geneva opposed it in France. Although revolution could be attempted at Geneva, this did not mean it would work elsewhere. The age of revolutions was full of fractures, with political stances complicated by the legacy of small state failure and the inability of revolutionaries to establish stable states capable of defending themselves militarily.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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