Ronen SteinbergJan 1, 2024
The Afterlives of the Terror
Facing the Legacies of Mass Violence in Postrevolutionary France
Cornell University Press 2019
How did the "Reign of Terror" end? In his new book, The Afterlives of Terror: Facing the Legacies of Mass Violence in Postrevolutionary France (Cornell University Press, 2019), Ronen Steinberg explores the end of "the Terror" of 1793-94 as a process that included a range of legal, material, ethical, psychological, and emotional challenges. From the vocabulary and stories people used to describe the experience of revolutionary violence, to debates about accountability, redress, and commemoration, Steinberg's book traces the complicated aftermaths of a period that different observers have since characterized as either a part of or apart from the Revolution and its values.
Throughout its caerful and provocative chapters, The Afterlives of Terror takes up concepts that have most often been used to think about and examine the Holocaust since the middle of the twentieth century: trauma, transitional justice, and coming to terms with the past. Not seeking to equate the violence of the Terror with the violence of the Holocaust, Steinberg nevertheless suggests that these frames can be used productively to ask questions about how people dealt with and responded to the Revolution's "difficult" past. Thinking with and through these powerful and relatively abstract ideas, each of the chapters in Afterlives remains grounded in specific historical cases and archival materials, illuminating how individuals, as well as the French state and society more broadly, experienced and negotiated the Terror's lasting impact. Adventurous in the questions it poses and the carefully researched and elucidated responses it develops, this compelling book will be of interest to readers working across multiple time periods, national contexts, and disciplines.
Roxanne Panchasi is an Associate Professor of History at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada who specializes in twentieth and twenty-first century France and empire. She is the founding host of New Books in French Studies, a channel launched in 2013.