In April, 1793, the Revolutionary Tribunal of Paris condemned a handful of prisoners to death for crimes against the French Republic--and judges, jury, and spectators wept as sentence was passed.
In July, 1794, the Tribunal sent thirty to fifty people a day to the guillotine.
What, in fifteen months, turned the Tribunal into an instrument of mass murder? What collective madness or terror seized its personnel, some of them callous psychopaths, others decent men trapped in nightmarish circumstances? How could they casually condemn hundreds to death, from peasants to duchesses, from teenagers to senile octogenarians? And how, in the end, could they justify themselves by declaring, in all sincerity, that they had merely done their patriotic duty?
In this book, first published in 1909 and now re-published with additional notes for the 21st-century reader, acclaimed historian G. Lenôtre examines the Revolutionary Tribunal, its beginnings, its personnel, its premises, its most famous trials of revolutionaries and royalty, and finally its downfall as the Terror careened to its bloody conclusion. His extensive archival research strips away layers of myth and presents a factual and fascinating history of a dark and often misunderstood era.