Niti pro Accuritas in Omnia

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History vs Les Mis via Fashion

OK, Internet, it’s time to set things straight, before the movie comes out and more people get confused.  I shall explain through the medium of historical costume.

Les Miserables is not about the French Revolution.

At least, not THE French Revolution.  You know, this one:


You may notice that while there are songs about people rising, there are none about Madame Guillotine, and the mob fails to join in the fun.  These are Clues.

That revolution, the famous one, the best of times and worst of times, with Marie Antoinette and mobs and à mort les aristos and all that … that kicked off for real in 1789.  That is why the people in this picture:


… are dressed sorta like the people in this picture:


(which, if you’ve escaped American cultural hegemony, is a painting of prominent figures in the American revolution, c.1776-83.)

Notice long waistcoats, knee breeches and leggings, long jackets with buttons down them, frilly collars, and wigs.

The famous painting which people tend to associate with revolutionary France, Liberty Leading the People


… commemorates a subsequent revolution in 1830, in which some unhappy people, after years of Napoleon and the monarchy that came after him, got together and said ‘Hey remember that revolution we had?  Whatever happened to that?’ and overthrew the king, then replaced the monarchy with … a constitutional monarchy.


The ‘revolution’ in Les Miserables is the June Rebellion, which happened in 1832, as a result of frustration with the inconclusive results of the 1830 one (and other simmering discontent).  That is why the students singing on the barricade …


… in their high-waisted waistcoats, upturned collars with cravats, short-fronted tailcoats, and full-length trousers, are dressed more like Joseph Smith


… than George Washington.


Got it?  Okay.  Let’s have no more French teachers telling their class that Les Miserables was all mixed up with the Bastille and the Reign of Terror, and instead use exciting narrative to explore history we don’t learn about in school.  FUN!

Filed under July revolution costume disambiguation french revolution history june rebellion les mis les miserables fashion is good for something

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    Boom. History.
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    Take notes, Internet
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    Two of my favorite things: historical costume and facts.
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