The insurrection of 31 May–2 June 1793 that overthrew the Girondins and brought the Montagnards to power was a decisive event in the history of the French Revolution. Morris Slavin’s study is the first that discusses the background, the mechanisms, and the immediate results of the uprising, as well as the hidden forces that produced it and the contradictions that were inherent in it from the beginning.
Slavin’s approach to the controversy between the Gironde and the Mountain is from below (d’en bas), from the vantage point of the sections of Paris and their extralegal assembly, the Eveche assembly, and its Comite des Neuf. He shows how and why the Montagnards used the insurrectionary organs created by the sans-culottes for their own purposes, and how the Montagnards won them over against their Girondin enemies by granting the sans-culottes economic concessions, at the same time disarming them politically.
This revelation of the profound differences between the sans-culottes and the Montagnards on the goals of the insurrection is a major contribution to understanding French revolutionary behavior. Slavin finds that the rank and file in the pro-Girondin sections were just as self-sacrificing and just as patriotic as the followers of the Mountain. The dispute between the Girondins and the Montagnards was an intraclass contest, not a class struggle.