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Directory, France, 1795–1799

Eric F. Johnson

Subject History
Social Movements » Collective Behaviour

Place Western Europe » France

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1700-1799

Key-Topics equality, French Revolution, government , revolution

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405184649.2009.00470.x


The Directory was the executive branch of the government of France between November 2, 1795 and November 10, 1799. It was formed after the fall of Robespierre and the National Convention, and was overthrown by Napoleon Bonaparte . The period of its existence was a transitional one, and the Directory reflected the contradictory nature of the era. Although bearing the authority of one of history's most inspiring social transformations, its rule was characterized by bureaucratic maneuvering and the petty politics of narrow self-interest. In retrospect it is evident that Robespierre's fall marked the beginning of the end of the French Revolution , but that was not apparent to those who lived through the experience. The Thermidorians who overthrew Robespierre masked their profoundly conservative aims, for a time, with revolutionary rhetoric, and when their actions revealed their fundamentally counterrevolutionary nature, it sparked a political resurgence of radical Jacobinism. Furthermore, the Conspiracy of Equals led by “Gracchus” Babeuf showed that the flame of the Revolution had not been completely extinguished in the era of the Directory. The Directory coexisted with a legislative branch of government. The legislature was bicameral, with a Council of Five Hundred (the “lower” house) and a 250-member Council of Elders (the “upper” house). Members of the Council of Five Hundred ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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