Key Dates 1795-1815

Chronology from Le Maitron of key dates in French labour history

Author: Stéphane Sirot, additional material by Michel Cordillot, René Lemarquis et Claude Pennetier and Steve Jefferys (italicised)


April 1-2 A workers’ insurrection repressed in Paris.

May 20, May 23 Another workers’ insurrection in Paris ending in the Army occupying the militant Saint-Antoine district. The revolt is finally over after three days of fighting. The slogan of the revolutionaries was ‘Bread and the Constitution of Year 2‘.

December Workers strikes in Paris


March 30 Gracchus Babeuf and his comrades establish the Insurrectionary Committee of the Equals. Sylvain Maréchal drafts the Manifesto of the Equals.

May 10 Babeuf, Buonarroti and 245 ‘Equals’ supporters arrested.

September 9, 10 Equals plot to win over the Grenelle soldiers for a revolution foiled. Many arrests.

October 10 30 of the Equals condemned to death by a military court.


May 27 Babeuf and others in the Conspiracy of the Equals guillotined.

November 16 Carpenters strike in Paris


September 19 110 inventors and industrialists participate in the opening ceremony of an Industrial Exhibition in the Champs de Mars organised under the 1795-1799 Directorate.


November 9 Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte stages a Coup d’État that overthrows the Directorate and opens a period of social calm with regulations highly favourable to employers. This took place on the 18 Brumaire an VIII in the revolutionary calendar.


December 24 Chambers of Commerce and Industry are created by the 1799-1804 Consulate that replaces the Directorate.


April 12 A law is passed regulating work in factories and workshops and at the same time renewing the illegality of workers’ combinations.

December 1 The workers’ passbook (livret ouvrier) is introduced. It is a kind of identify passport that allows the police and employers to know the exact situation of each worker. Any worker travelling without their passbook is declared to be a vagabond and can be treated as such.


March 21 The Civil Code (article 1781) states that in the case of a dispute about a worker’s salary the word of the master takes precedence over the worker’s statements in front of a tribunal. This article is only abolished in 1866. The Code provides for divorce, but within a marriage the wife is treated as a minor, and her property is given to her husband. On his death the property is divided equally between the children, abolishing the right of the oldest male child to inherit all the property.

December 2 Napoléon is crowned Emperor at Notre-Dame Cathedral by Pope Pius VII.


March 18 Establishment of the first industrial tribunals called Conseils de prud’hommes (Wise Men Councils) to arbitrate where there were disputes between employers and their skilled workers. The first one appeared in Lyon.


June 11 Decree passed to finalisie the 1806 Industrial Tribunal law.


February 10, 22 A decree outlining a new Penal Code was passed into law. It codified all the penal laws passed between 1791 and 1800. Its articles 291, 292, 414, 415 and 416 required all associations of 20 or more people to secure government approval for their existence and confirmed the illegality of all combinations of workers aiming to stop work or modify wages.


March 2 Hunger riots in Caen; an order is passed organising the distribution of 2 million soups.


January 3 A decree fixes the minimum age a child can go down a mine to ten.


March 31 Coalition armies enter Paris. Napoleon abdicates at Fontainebleau on April 5 in favour of his son, and then unconditionally on April 11.

May 3 Louis XVIII enters Paris.

June 4 Louis XVIII issues a Constitutional Charter providing for a parliamentary system with a house of lords nominated by the King and an elected chamber of deputies.

October Saint-Simon and his then secretary, Augustin Thierry publish De la réorganisation de la société européenne. It proposes the extension of English parliamentary rule under a constitutional monarch to every European state with a European parliament above them. It escapes the restoration censor, unlike its second edition.


February 25 Napoléon Bonaparte leaves Elba for France.

June 18 Napoléon defeated at the Battle of Waterloo.

June 24 Napoléon leaves Paris.

July 8 Louis XVIII returns to Paris.

July 15 Napoléon surrenders to the English on the Bellerophon that sails for Plymouth

August 7 The Northumberland leaves for Saint-Helena with Napoléon on board. It arrives there on October 16.

November Pierre-Jean Béranger published his first book of songs, Chansons morales et autres in which he celebrated the victories of the Revolution and the Empire, attacked the ancien regime and the supremacy of the clergy.

December 7 Marshal Ney is executed in the Luxembourg Garden for having supported Napoléon during the 100 Days.

PLACES 1795-1815


Orléans monarchy, republicans, socialists and feminists

The cartoon above of Louis-Philippe blowing soap bubbles of the broken promises of the 1830 July Revolution led to its creator’s arrest and trial for ‘insulting the king’ in May 1831

On August 7 1830 Louis-Philippe issued a new Constitutional Charter. This promised freedom of the press and declared that censorship would never be reestablished. Within weeks there was an explosion of papers with political cartoons.

On November 4 1830 Charles Philipon launched a weekly newspaper, La Caricature, whose four pages of text were accompanied by two of lithographs.

Within weeks the government reacted. On December 4 1830 it restored the stamp duty tax on newspapers and re-introduced censorship. Philipon’s response in the Foam of July cartoon above showed Louis-Philippe blowing bubbles of many of the unfulfilled promises in the Charter: popular elections, mayoral elections, an end to ‘jobs for the boys’.

Philipon was acquitted for this cartoon but was arrested again. On November 14 1831 he first drew Louis-Philippe as an image transformed into a pear. He was jailed for a year in January 1832 at Sainte-Pelagie prison, where he was joined by Daumier for his cartoon, Gargantua.

Daumier’s 1831 cartoon showing Louis-Philippe demanding ever more in taxes while excreting increasingly authoritarian laws earned the artist six months in prison

The Orléans monarchy deceived those who had hoped the relatively bloodless July Revolution would lead to a constitutional monarchy and deeply angered the Republicans who had been sceptical from the outset. At the same time, industrialisation was beginning to transform small bits of France, particularly its major towns and Paris. The scene was being set for the re-emergence of French radical republicanism and its more edgy components, socialist and feminist thought and organisation.

Rue Cambacérès / Rue de la Ville l’Évêque

Arrondissements 8

Number 26

Originally this was the principal road through the farm belonging to the Bishop of Paris, annexed to Paris in 1722, and the section called rue Cambacérès was named differently from the rest of the street in 1865.

It was another street renamed under Louis-Napoléon’s search for greater legitimacy in the eyes of both republicans, Bonapartists and freemasons.

Jean-Jacques-Régis de Cambacérès (1753-1824) was an aristocrat who supported the French Revolution and became president of the Convention and the Committee of Public Safety in 1794. In 1796 he was elected president of the Committee of 500, the lower chamber under the Directorate. In 1799 he became minister of Justice and supported Bonaparte’s coup d’état of the 18 Brumaire (1 November 1799).

Three French Consuls from 10 November 1799 to 18 May 1804, Cambacérès replaces the Republican Sieyès on January 1 1800 after which this painting of him (on the left) Bonaparte and
Charles-François Lebrun.

Cambacérès’ next promotion saw Napoléon Bonaparte name him Second Consul in 1800. He is a major editor of the March 1804 French Civil Code, known as the Code napoléonien.

President of the Senate on 18 May 1804 he presented its confirmation that Bonaparte is Emperor of the French. The same day he becomes the ‘Archi-chancellor’ of France, number two after the Emperor.

In 1806 he became the Supreme Chief of the ‘Modern French Rites’ of freemasonry and is Grand Master of the Grand Orient of France from 1806 to 1814.

At the Restoration he is stripped of his royal title of Duke of Parma, but instead calls himself Duke of Cambacérès.

Back in the days in 1795 when the whole street was still called rue de la Ville l’Évêque the young Philippe Buonarroti came to meetings at No. 54 (now 26 rue Cambacérès) of the Lycée politique, the future Conspiracy of Equals (Conjuration des Égaux) with Gracchus Babeuf. This was the home of André Amar, a former member of the French Revolution’s Committee of General Safety (Comité de sûreté générale).


Rue Clovis

Arrondissement 5

Number 23

In June 1848 Rue Clovis was the site of one of the dozens of workers’ barricades defending the national workshops that were attacked by troops

The Lycée Henri-IV  at No. 23 stands on the site of the  Abbaye-Sainte-Geneviève canteen, cellar and garden hut which, after the fall of Robespierre in 1794, became home to the  Panthéon Club. This was established on 17 November 1795 as a broad assembly of those who wished to carry forward the revolutionary spirit. Babeuf and Buonarroti were among those who took part.

On February 28 1796 the club was closed down by the authorities, with General Bonaparte personally supervising the operation. Babeuf and Buonarroti then pursued the struggle through less legal channels.

The Abbey became the Lycée Napoléon from 1804 to 1815 and again from 1848 to 1870. During the Commune it became a workshop for making uniforms for the National Guard that was defending Paris.

The Abbey finally took its present name in 1873. Among Henri-IV’s alumni are Jean-Paul Sartre, Michel Foucault, André Gide, Léon Blum, Simone Weil, Baron Haussmann and Emmanuel Macron.

Plus d’informations


Rue de la Harpe

Arrondissement 5

Numbers 6, 11, (63, 85, 89)

During his final years Paul Verlaine lived in the Hotel de la Harpe at No 6, shown here as the mauve building on the right.

Before the construction of the boulevards Saint-Germain and Saint-Michel, the 13th century narrow road went all the way to the southern gates of Paris (today’s Place Edmond-Rostand). It was named after a café sign of a harp.

Towards the end of his life the poet elected ‘Prince of Poets’ by the French literary world, Paul Verlaine (1844-1896), lived in poverty at the Hôtel de la Harpe at No. 6.

In the remaining old part of the street at No. 11, Philippe Buonarroti often visited his editor in 1830 as they prepared the publication of Babeuf’s political legacy.

No 11 was a very old bookshop and printworks, where Philippe Buonarroti printed his influential works on Babeuf in 1830. Blanqui lived at No. 85 rue de la Harpe while fighting in the 1830 Revolution. Much earlier, in 1746, another printworks, Le Breton, at No. 16, printed the first volume of Diderot’s Encyclopedia.

Gustave Courbet‘s first Paris studio was at No. 89 in 1842, and was where he became friendly with Proudhon.

The 1848 Jacobin club used to meet at 63 rue de la Harpe during the 1848 revolution.


Avenue Rachel / Montmartre Cemetery

Arrondissement 18

Montmartre Cemetery

Montmartre cemetery from where Louise Michel, a member of the 61st Foot Montmartre battalion of the National Guard, witnessed some of her comrades being executed on May 23 1871. The Babeuvist Philippe Buonarotti is also buried here as was, temporarily, Emile Zola before his body was transferred to the Pantheon.

The Montmartre Cemetery was opened in 1825. Like the two larger Parisian cemeteries, Père Lachaise (1804) in the east and Montparnasse (1824) in the South, it was located just outside the Paris Farmers-General Wall after laws were passed banning the burying of corpses within the city.

The cemetery was laid out in an abandoned gypsum quarry that had been used as a mass grave for the bodies of the Swiss Guards killed when the Tuileries Palace was stormed in 1792.  Its official name is Cimitière du Nord. 

A little obelisk remembering the communist insurrectionist Buonarroti has had two bronze medallions stolen: one depicting Buonarroti, the other Charles-Antoine Teste

Philippe Buonarroti (1761-1837), the Italian revolutionary who resurrected Babeuf’s communist and insurrectionist politics in France from 1830 onwards, is buried here.

Tomb of Henri Murger behind which Louise Michel sheltered during shelling by the Versaillais troops on May 23 1871.

This is also where on May 23 1871 Louise Michel sheltered behind the tombstone of Henri Murger as the Versaillais troops shelled the Communards. From there she made her way to top of the Montmartre Hill, to the National Guard post at the corner of the old Rue des Rosiers and Rue de la Bonne, now 36 rue du Chevalier de la Barre, to exchange herself for her mother as a prisoner.

Émile Zola (1840-1902) was one of the many other radicals who was buried in Montmartre Cemetery. His, however, was, only a temporary burial. Six years later his remains were moved to the Panthéon. During the ceremony, Alfred Dreyfus (who had been pardoned two years earlier) was shot twice and wounded in the arm by a nationalist who was later acquitted on the grounds that it was ‘a natural nationalist act’.

Zola was asphyxiated (possibly murdered) a few hundred metres from his first resting place in the Montmartre Cemetery before being moved to the Pantheon. His tomb is still here.

His wonderful art nouveau tomb designed by Frantz Jourdain and sculpted by one of Zola’s oldest friends, Philippe Solari, can still be seen near the entrance to the cemetery.


Rue Saint-Jacques

Arrondissement 5

Numbers: 2, 10, 44-46, 54, 115-123, 158, 176, 216, 241, 260, 272, 277, 278

One of Paris’ oldest streets the road was the main north-south route through Paris under the Romans, who paved it and widened it (to half its present 20 metre width).

Use of St Jacques in the road’s name dates from the 1218 founding of a monastery of Dominican ‘brother preachers’ with a Saint-Jacques chapel. The location of the Jacobin brothers’ monastery was approximately around No. 158. It was closed in 1790 and its building gradually demolished over the first half ot the 19th century. In the early 17th century a second monastery for ‘reformed Jacobins’ was built on the Rue Saint-Honoré.

Pre-revolutonary Paris showing the Rue St Jacques from left to right with the College de Plessis, the Sorbonne University and the Jacobin monastery

The road was definitively named the Rue Saint-Jacques in 1806 and variously widened and extended out to the Boulevard de Port Royal in the 1860s and 1900s.

No. 2 used to stand with other houses and shops in front of the Saint-Sevérin church was finally pulled down in 1907 for the last road-widening.

Saint Sevérin church with about-to-be demolished houses and shops in front of it in 1907 before the road’s definitive widening at its northern end close to the Seine (and the tourists).

But on June 23 1848 workers resisting the closure of the world’s first workshops for the unemployed took shelter in the novelty shop No. 2 (not unlike the one I photographed in 2017 in the Rue des Petits Ponts a few metres away and shown here). The bourgeois armed guard entered the shop after them and massacred all of them.

A small narrow shop like this one a few metres to the north of the Rue St Jacques was the scene of a summary execution of those fighting to defend the first ever unemployment pay system.

The Saint-Sevérin church itself at No. 10 witnessed the summary execution of Communard supporters within the Church’s domed apse on May 24 1871. Many had been defending the barricade across the street at No 54 that was helping protect the Versaillais troops from attacking the Panthéon further up the hill.

Another barricade across the road at No. 195 was bypassed by the Versaillais troops and all its defenders killed on that same day during the ‘bloody week’ of the Commune.

The first student demonstration against the German occupation took place on 8 November 1940, when students gathered at the cross roads of the Rue des Écoles and Nos. 44-46 Rue St Jacques to protest against the arrest of Paul Langevin.

The Jesuit-origin Lycée Louis-le-Grand  at No 123 has helped train French ruling elites since the 17th century now includes the site of the old Collège du Plessis at No. 115.

From 1792 to 1799 the Collège de Louis-le-Grand was renamed the Collège de l’Égalité. Its alumini included Danton, Desmoulins and Robespierre, but also before the Revolution, Moliere, Voltaire, Sade and after Victor Hugo, Delacroix and Marc Bloch.

Part of the Plessis college was used as a prison, initially keeping those sent to Paris to be tried or executed by provincial towns lacking a guillotine, and then as an overflow. It was here that Babeuf met and influenced Buonarroti, Joseph Bodson (or William Bodson), Claude Fiquet, Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Lefranc, Morel, Claude Menessier, Jean-Baptiste Cazin, Guillaume Massart and Mathurin Bouin and other future members of Babeuf’s “conspiracy”. They were rounded up as Robespierre’s supporters in the summer of 1794 but used the months together to develop a more radical, communistic revolutionary politics.

The Academie d’ Absinthe café used by Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine was situated at No. 176. Absinthe was banned in 1914 in France but it remained the only European country not to allow the name to be used when it was approved by the European Union in 1988.

In 1888 Verlaine restarted his Wednesday literary meetings at the Grand Hôtel des Nations at No 216 where he was living. Later, in 1891, he lived at the dancer Eugénie Krantz’s flat at No 272 before moving to No. 187, which was where in 1893 he asked her to come and live with him.

When she came back to France in October 1910, the Bolshevik Inessa Armand first lived at No. 241 before moving to a flat next to Lenin’s in the Rue Marie-Rose.

Half a century earlier, No. 241 had also been one of the addresses where the teenage Emile Zola had stayed in 1859-1860 soon after arriving in Paris.

Zola moved to the sixth floor of No. 278 in 1864-1865 when he was 24 and worked in a bookshop. This was where his first novel, Contes à Ninon (Stories for Ninon), was published.

The school for deaf children founded by Charles-Michel de L’Épée at No 254 became a centre for revolutionary republican clubs in 1848. Those based here included: the Club des Intérêts du Peuple, the Club démocratique Ibérique and the Comité électoral démocratique du 11ème arrondissement.

The plaque at No 254 recalls the Institute’s history of welcoming pilgrims on their way to St Jacques de Compostelle in the Middle Ages, but not its revolutionary credentials in 1848.

Further south down the street is a plaque outside No 260/262. This honours Emile Durkheim, the ‘founder of sociology’, who lived there from 1902 to 1912.

The military hospital, Val de Grâce, at 277bis, now houses an interesting museum. During the First World War Apollinaire was a patient there, while Louis Aragon and André Breton first met when they were stationed there.

In 1979 the military teaching hospital in the old abbey was moved to a new building with an entrance in the Boulevard de Port-Royal. It was finally closed in 2016, after having treated people like Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy and the Algerian president from 1999 to 2019, Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Marc Blondel died there in 2014.

Today outside the Val de Grace hospital the authorities have hung a copy of De Gaulle’s 18 June 1940 proclamation calling for the French to fight together to ‘Save France’.

Plus d’informations


Place Vendôme

Arrondissement 1

Numbers: 1-2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 11-13, 23-26

On May 16 1871 Gustave Courbet endorsed the proposal by Félix Pyat to demolish the column in the centre of the Vendome Square and to melt down the bronze to use in making canon.

The statue of Napoleon had become the symbol of Napoleonic imperialism. It was first put up on August 15 1810 and was then taken down in 1814, replaced in 1831, thrown into the Seine in 1848 and finally restored by Napoleon III.

The column had been decorated in bronze melted down from the canons captured at the battle of Austerlitz. Its crowning figure, Napoleon, had not survived the Bourbon restorations of 1814-1815. Louis XVIII replaced it with the white Bourbon flag and then with the Fleur de Lys. He melted down Napoleon’s statue on top of the column to create the horse-backed Henry IV, founder of the Bourbon dynasty, on the Pont Neuf where it crosses the Island of the Cité.

Citizen Courbet pushing over the Vendome column as seen at the time by the latest version of the revolutionary satirical paper Le Pere Duchesne

During the defence of the Paris Commune in May 1871 a barricade defending the Headquarters of the National Guard at Nos. 11-17 was put up from No. 1 to No. 2 and across the Rue St. Honoré. The Versaillais troops took the barricades from the back by getting through the Hotel du Rhin at No. 4.

Félix Lepeletier, an aristocratic revolutionary, lived at No. 6 and allowed Babeuf, Buonarroti and others involved in leading the Conspiracy of Equals to meet there in March 1796. Félix’s older brother, Louis-Michel Lepeletier de Saint-Fargeau, had cast the deciding vote on the execution of Louis XVI, and that same evening, 20 January 1793, he was stabbed with a sword by one of the king’s former bodyguards.

Louis-Michel Le Peletier died soon after at his family house at No. 8 Place Vendôme. and his body was then draped over the pedestal of Louis XIV’s statue that had been pulled down in 1792. Louis XVI was guillotined the following morning.

The Jacobin painter, Jacques-Louis David, painted LePeletier on his death bed, and one of his students then produced this lithograph print of it. The sword pierces a piece of paper on which is written “I vote the death of the tyrant”, and as a tribute at the bottom right of the picture David placed the inscription “David to Le Peletier. 20 January 1793′

On 18 March 1871, when the Versaillais troops tried and failed to capture the canons stored on the Montmartre and Belleville hills, four battalions of National Guardsmen from Batignolles and Montmartre marched on the National Guard Headquarters at No. 7 and threw out the commanding officer put in place there on March 5, and installed their own commanders.

Jaroslaw Dombrowski, the Polish commanding National Guard General at its headquarters in the Ministry of Justice in Nos. 11-13, was mortally wounded on May 23 1871, when all the defenders were summarily killed.

One of the only 18 Paris barricades in May 1871 that was fortified with canons crossed from Nos. 23 to 26, the Barricade of the Rue de la Paix. It was defended by the 88th, 113th and 182nd National Guard battalions. Very few of the more than one thousand defenders survived the battle.

Chopin, the former lover of George Sand, died in his first floor flat overlooking the court at No. 12 in 1849.

The Ritz Hotel at No. 15, the former Hôtel de Gramont, was colonised by senior Germans and Vichy collaborators under the Occupation and its bar was famously liberated by Ernest Hemingway on August 26 1944, when he gave some American rifles to the arriving FTP. This was also where Princess Diana and Dodi Al-Fayed had their last meal together on August 31 1997.