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Where Did Sans-Culottes Originate from?

Where Did Sans-Culottes Originate from?

Sans-culottes formed a social movement and they were active participants of the French Revolution. The movement started at the end of 18th century. One may say that sans-culottes belonged to the first working class group. Nonetheless, they had a specific political ideology.

The group consisted of the proletariats, better known as the working class. Lewis (1972) described them as those who led a harmonious life, were not blinded by wealth, and had a modest residence. Some may look at this definition and arrive at the conclusion that these were the poor. In reality, most of the followers of this movement were from the middle class and together they fought for the societal change. They could be easily distinguished from the others due to their apparel. They wore long trousers unlike the rich, who used to wear culottes, which were knee-breeches. That is actually where the name of the whole movement came from. The word ‘san-culottes’ literary meant that they were not wearing any culottes, but long trousers instead. During the peak of the French Revolution, some of the officials adopted this outfit to show their support of the new French Republic.


At that time, culottes meant high social status. Sans-culottes believed that all people were equal and there should not be any stratification on the basis of outfit. Thus, the major goal of the struggle was the equality for everyone. Sans-culottes supported the idea of private property. They fought to abolish any privileges that monarchs or clergy had. Sans-culottes wanted equal distribution of food as well. Some of their ideas included imposing taxes for the rich and establishing set wages for workers. At that time, their ideas opposed the official ideology of the French government.

Some considered them militant savages, but others, like Hugo (1862), were sure that sans-culottes fought for equality. They opposed the oppressive authority and managed to organize a counter-movement to the ruling government.

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