Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

HIST 30: The French Revolution: Primary Sources

French Primary Sources in Translation

What Are Primary Sources:

"Primary sources are original records created at the time historical events occurred or well after events in the form of memoirs and oral histories. Primary sources may include letters, manuscripts, diaries, journals, newspapers, speeches, interviews, memoirs, documents produced by government agencies such as Congress or the Office of the President, photographs, audio recordings, moving pictures or video recordings, research data, and objects or artifacts such as works of art or ancient roads, buildings, tools, and weapons. These sources serve as the raw material to interpret the past, and when they are used along with previous interpretations by historians, they provide the resources necessary for historical research."
(American Library Association, Reference and User Services, History Section)

If you are doing research on French history and you don't speak French, one of the challenges is to find primary sources in translation.  This section is designed to help you locate such materials. Many sources have now been digitized and are available on the web.  Other primary sources are collected together and published in a book; you can locate them through OSCAR, the online catalog.  

Primary Sources on the Web

Large Collection of Primary Documents

French Revolution Digital Archive (Stanford University and Bibliotheque Nationale de France)
Useful for the vast collection of images of the French Revolution.  Also includes the "Archives Parlementaires", but not in translation

Liberty, Equality, Fraternity:  Exploring the French Revolution
Provides access to an "extraordinary archive of some of the most important documentary evidence from the Revolution".  The site includes 245 images and political cartoons, maps, songs,  and 338 text documents ()personal memoirs, official reports, newspaper articles, eyewitness accounts), most of them translated in English and edited for the student and general reader.

Times of London
If you are interested in the British newspaper coverage of the French Revolution, the London Times Digital Archive (1785-2009)  is available to you.

The French Revolution  and the Revolutions of 1848 (Hanover Historical Texts)
Small collection of primary documents (translated in English) scanned by the History Department at Hanover University

Enlightenment (Fordham University)
Good collection of primary sources (many translated in English) from the Modern History Sourcebook at Fordham University.

French Revolution (Fordham University)
Good collection of primary sources (translated in English) from the Modern History Sourcebook at Fordham University.

French Revolution (Online Library of Liberty) 
The Online Library of Liberty is a project of the educational foundation Liberty Fund.  The section on the French Revolution includes several interesting primary sources including "On the Admission of Women to the Rights of Citizenship".

The principal speeches of the statesmen and orators of the French revolution, 1789-1795;

Specific Documents, letters, personal accounts, etc.

Cahiers de Doleances 1789
Some of the Cahiers from the three estates have been digitized.  You can also find some of them in print in the library in Translations and Reprints of the Original Sources of History, vol. 4

Letters from Paris, on the Causes and Consequences of the French Revolution, by William C. Somerville, 1822

Memoirs Relating to the French Revolution, by Francois-Claude-amour Bouille, marquis de. 1797

On the Admission of Women to the Rights of Citizenship, by Marie-Jean-Antoine-Nicolas Caritat, 1790

Prison Journals During the French Revolution, 1837

Source Studies on the French Revolution

The Diary and Letters of Gouverneur Morris, 1888

The reign of terror; a collection of authentic narratives of the horrors committed by the revolutionary government of France under Marat and Robespierre. Written by eye-witnesses of the scenes. Tr. from the French. , 1826

Vindiciae gallicae : defence of the French Revolution, 1791 / James Mackintosh

 

Featured Source

Using OSCAR to Find Primary Sources

Using Oscar to Find Primary Sources:

You can also  use OSCAR to find primary sources.     Just enter your keywords and add one of the following words, depending on what you are looking for:  correspondence, papers, speeches, memoirs, personal narratives, documents, sources. 

For example:    France and revolution and correspondence

                         France and revolution and documents

 

A few example of primary sources in OSCAR:

The memoirs of Madame Roland : a heroine of the French revolution

The principal speeches of the statesmen and orators of the French revolution, 1789-1795; ed. with introductions, notes, and indices, by H. Morse Stephens

The French Revolution, by Georges Pernoud and Sabine Flaissier. Pref. by André Maurois. Translated by Richard Graves (Sources)

Reflections on the revolution in France, by Edmund Burke

Revolutionary demands : a content analysis of the Cahiers de doléances of 1789

Interesting anecdotes of the heroic conduct of women, previous to, and during the French revolution [electronic resource] / translated from the French of M. Du Broca, and other writers of authenticity.