Living in Paris during the French Revolution: The Story of an Ordinary Citizen


Kathleen Fitzpatrick Theatre, Arts West (Building 148), Faculty of Arts, The University of Melbourne, Parkville


Under ordinary circumstances, the life of Adrien-Joseph Colson (1727-1797), before and during the French Revolution, would be totally unknown and forgotten. A petty lawyer residing in Paris, he never held any positions of authority; he never published any newspapers or pamphlets; he was never a member of a Revolutionary club. Nevertheless, he did write over 1000 letters to a friend in the provinces that have been almost miraculously preserved, and that provide a remarkable account of his experiences. His correspondence is particularly fascinating in that it serves not only as a record of his own life but of that of his neighbours and his neighbourhood in the very centre of Paris where he lived.

The lecture will provide an overview of Colson's biography, with particular emphasis on what it reveals of the intense emotions generated by the rumours, the denunciations, and the panic that swept through his neighbourhood and measurably affected the dynamics of the Revolution.

Living in Paris during the French Revolution: The Story of an Ordinary Citizen is part of Living the French Revolution: A symposium in honour of Peter McPhee.


Professor Emeritus Timothy Tackett, University of California Irvine

Timothy Tackett is an Emeritus Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine. Among his more important books are Priest and Parish in Eighteenth Century France (1977); Religion, Revolution, and Regional Culture (1986); Becoming a Revolutionary (1996); When the King Took Flight (2003); and The Coming of the Terror (2015).