Honors Theses

Date of Award


Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis



First Advisor

Marc Lerner

Relational Format



The following thesis discusses the death and quasi-deification of Jean-Paul Marat, politician and journalist of the French Revolution. I focus on the tensions between social, artistic, and political movements that sprung up in the wake of the radical’s martyrdom. I also demonstrate the drastic change in general attitudes and policies— political, social and artistic—toward Marat between the years of the Terror and Thermidor. I hope to prove that Marat, in transcending his own policies and words after death by becoming a visual and tactile symbol representing both social justice and political terror, is a pivotal figure for the French Revolution. For secondary sources, my research included histories of the French Revolution, biographies of Marat, theoretical texts on historical memory, and art history texts. I used primary sources in the form of English translation of French newspapers and speeches. My primary sources also included original artworks. My research indicated that Marat proved emblematic of the cults of civil religions during the French Revolution. Because the Cult of Marat was in some ways both a popular movement and an official propaganda campaign, the study of this unique demonstrates the nexus between French radicals in the government and among those among Parisian rabble. Yet the study of the Cult of Marat also shows the tensions between popular radicals and their counterparts in the National Convention. From my study of the Cult of Marat, I discovered that the Jacobin line was generally one of ambivalence toward popular movements. The figures of Maximillien Robespierre and Jacques-Louis David demonstrate this complex relationship of the members of the Jacobin Club and the National Convention toward the crowds of Paris radicals. While Robespierre wanted to suppress the Cult of Marat, David nurtured the movement and orchestrated much of its propaganda. Outside Jacobin circles, there was an even greater gulf of opinion. This development is best seen by the shift in attitudes toward Marat following the moderate reaction of Thermidor. Using the theoretical framework of historical memory, I was able to explain the creation and destruction of the Cult of Marat as a social phenomenon as much as a political phenomenon.

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