(asked by Larry from Australia)
Can you please tell us a little more of French attitudes towards Robespierre? Is he generally regarded as a bloodthirsty tyrant or a great liberator these days or is the answer more nuanced than that? There are surprisingly few books about him in English and not that many websites either, given his significance as a political figure. Those resources that do exist seem to give a very incomplete picture of him and it is hard to understand the man and his motivations: in other words, was he an idealist who believed passionately and, ultimately, fanatically, in Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, or a cynical, power-hungry opportunist? Some websites give the impression that he was very protective of his younger siblings growing up and this formed his attitude to the extent that he thought of all of the French citizens as his family and he wanted to “protect” and father them all, whereas other sites give the impression he was an extremely cold and ruthless human being, softly spoken (as opposed to a ranting, table-thumper like Hitler) but extremely dangerous to have as an opponent.
I think it is important to understand as he is the first in the long line of lawyers-turned-politicians that dominate our democratic parliaments today, so I would greatly appreciate in any insights or thoughts you have.