“To the barricades!” The cry conjures images of angry citizens, turmoil in the streets, and skirmishes fought behind hastily improvised cover. This definitive history of the barricade charts the origins, development, and diffusion of a uniquely European revolutionary tradition. Mark Traugott traces the barricade from its beginnings in the sixteenth century, to its refinement in the insurrectionary struggles of the long nineteenth century, on through its emergence as an icon of an international culture of revolution. Exploring the most compelling moments of its history, Traugott finds that the barricade is more than a physical structure; it is part of a continuous insurrectionary lineage that features spontaneous collaboration even as it relies on recurrent patterns of self-conscious collective action. A case study in how techniques of protest originate and evolve, The Insurgent Barricade tells how the French perfected a repertoire of revolution over three centuries, and how students, exiles, and itinerant workers helped it spread across Europe.
The Insurgent Barricade
The Insurgent Barricade
Barricade: Type of entrenchment that is usually made with barrels filled with earth for the purpose of defending oneself or finding cover from the enemy.
Dictionnaire de l'Académie française (1694)
In the early morning hours of June 5, 1832, crowds of workers, students, militants, and a scattering of political refugees began to gather in the streets of Paris.1 The intent of most participants was to express displeasure with the Orléanist July monarchy, which had been installed just two years earlier, though the occasion for their protest was provided by the death of General Jean Maximilien Lamarque. Once a stalwart of the First Empire, this military hero had undergone a political rebirth as an opposition leader in the Chamber of Deputies during the last years of the Bourbon Restoration and the first years of the July Monarchy. Parisians critical of the new government sought to honor this service by accompanying the general's mortal remains on a last tour of their city before the hearse departed for Lamarque's native province in the southwest of France.
There was nothing novel in thus taking advantage of the death of a public figure to make a political statement. The earliest precedents, associated with the state funerals of kings and princes, went back centuries into the Old Regime, but the revolutionaries of the 1790s had been quick to devise republican variants on this venerable practice for the processions honoring Mirabeau, Voltaire, and Marat before their induction into the Panthéon. More recently, funerary rites had been used by the political opposition to galvanize support in 1825 (for General Foy), 1827 (for Jacques Manuel), and late in 1830 (for Benjamin Constant). Thus, by 1832, events of this kind followed a pattern that was both long established and freshly imprinted in people's minds.2
In the spring of 1832, France was struck by a deadly cholera epidemic, which compounded an economic crisis so severe that it had precipitated the previous fall's insurrection by Lyon silk workers. This combination raised the level of tensions within the Parisian working class to fever pitch. By June 2, when the popular Lamarque was struck down by the disease, fear and resentment over the threats to the population's physical and economic well-being had reached a critical stage. They built upon simmering political discontents, especially strong among republicans, who felt that they had spilled their blood on the 1830 barricades only to have their revolution "stolen" by a coterie of opportunists, who managed to get Louis-Philippe crowned king. Leftists were struggling to form their own alliance of convenience. Their partners included both Bonapartists, who claimed Lamarque as one of their own, and Legitimists, who were willing to lend their financial and logistical support to any initiative that, by overthrowing the upstart junior branch of the House of Bourbon, might rekindle hope for the restoration of the senior line of descent.3 This convergence of political forces explains why the cortège that accompanied Lamarque's casket attracted a crowd numbering in the tens of thousands.
Anatomy of a Barricade Event
The coffin's route across Paris on Tuesday, June 5, has been traced on map 1. The procession departed at 10 A.M. from the general's house in the rue Saint-Honoré, not far from the place de la Concorde. Its intended trajectory would have followed the grands boulevards across the northern periphery of Paris to the obligatory stop in the place de la Bastille. Soon after setting out, however, militants diverted the hearse to make a symbolic tour of the column in the place Vendôme, in homage to Lamarque's close ties to Napoléon. This was followed by a second unplanned stop, this time in the boulevard Montmartre, where the horses were cut from the traces and replaced by students, military veterans, and decorated heroes of the July revolution, who vied for the honor of pulling the hearse. Clearly, the crowd-which, by some accounts, had swelled to more than 100,000-was not allowing its enthusiasm to be dampened by the heavy rains that fell intermittently on this and the following day.[Map 1 here]
Once arrived at the place de la Bastille, militants tried to convince the column of marchers that Lamarque's body should find its final resting place, not in his ancestral home in the Landes near Mont-de-Marsans, but instead in the Panthéon, in the heart of Paris. Others argued in favor of proceeding directly to the Hôtel de Ville to proclaim a new French Republic.4 On the esplanade at the north end of the pont d'Austerlitz, a series of speeches, delivered from a podium draped in black, further inflamed the crowd. After listening to the words of the marquis de Lafayette, Maréchal Clausel, and representatives of the Polish and Italian expatriate communities, participants became aware of a spectral figure, towering above the crowd on a black stallion. Tall and gaunt, with a long, cadaverous face and flowing mustache, he was dressed entirely in black. Still as a ghost, he held aloft a red flag embroidered with a black border and the words "Liberty or Death!" This apparition had an electrifying effect on the crowd, almost as if "... the holy spirit had descended upon them prematurely; they began to utter the strangest prophecies as the sight of the red flag, acting like a magic charm, caused them to take leave of their senses."5
The tense standoff between protesters and a corps of dragoons, under strict orders to refrain from the use of deadly force, was suddenly ended when a shot rang out from an unknown quarter.6 Members of the crowd began throwing stones at soldiers and municipal guardsmen and, for the first time that day, the time-honored cry "To the barricades!" echoed through the streets of Paris.7 The sound of the tocsin-the rapid ringing of church bells that served as both an alarm and a call to arms-soon pervaded the city, drowning out all casual conversation. Insurgents began uprooting the saplings planted to replace the larger trees cut down during the July Days. They also scavenged planks and beams from nearby construction sites and improvised tools for prying up paving stones.8 These classic raw materials were natural choices because they added mass, helped knit the structure together, and were usually found in abundance right at the site of barricade construction. Between 5 P.M., when the first sporadic gunfire was exchanged, and 6:30, when pitched battles were initially reported, dozens of barricades had been completed on both the right and left banks of the Seine. Individual structures took as little as fifteen minutes to erect.
Even as the first barricades were going up, a frantic search for arms began. Some rebels had to be content with sabers, staffs, or scythes, but rifles were the weapons of choice, and bands of insurgents boldly seized them from small patrols of soldiers encountered in the streets. Others joined in pillaging the premises of Lepage frères, the largest of the several Paris gunsmiths whose establishments were looted. (Figure 25 on p. 000 shows the same establishment being attacked during the revolution of 1830.)9 Still others assaulted a Municipal Guard post in the place de la Bastille, a barracks near the Jardin des Plantes, and a lightly guarded magazine, from which they made off with several barrels of powder.10 Soon small-arms and rifle fire was being directed against the mounted infantrymen who had been dispatched to hot spots on both banks of the Seine to prevent the unrest from spreading. Insurgents tried to fraternize with the troops, but their scattered initial success proved to be short-lived. Worse yet, only 500 to 1,000 of the original demonstrators arrived ready to fight, and their pleas for their fellow marchers to join them generally fell on deaf ears.11
By early evening, the first deadly clash broke out near the porte Saint-Denis, where a number of barricades had been erected. It soon spread to traditional sites of resistance in the quartier Saint-Martin and further east in the faubourg Saint-Antoine. The affected area included the rues Aubry-le-boucher, Beaubourg, and Transnonain and the entire neighborhood surrounding the Eglise Saint-Merri-territory that would also lie at the heart of another celebrated insurrection in April 1834.
Informed of the initial scope of the unrest, Louis-Philippe immediately returned from Saint-Cloud to rally his forces. He conducted a review of the troops on the place du Carrousel around nine or ten o'clock on the evening of June 5 and was received with enthusiasm. Troop strength was rapidly augmented thanks to the arrival of National Guard forces from the suburbs and the deployment of additional army units from garrisons in the Paris basin. The army was prepared to make use of every weapon in its arsenal. The newspaper Le temps reported that dragoons had even built a "barricade" of their own and forced the inhabitants of nearby houses to place lighted candles in upper-story windows as a sign of support.12 More critical to the victory of the forces of order was the military's willingness to bring cannon to bear against the insurgents' best-entrenched positions. The thunder of artillery barrages could be heard throughout that night.13
By the morning of June 6, the last pockets of resistance on the left bank had already been contained and the insurrection confined to the three right-bank neighborhoods marked as centers of combat on map 1. Counting all units of the National and Municipal Guards in addition to the larger complement of soldiers from the regular army, the forces at the government's disposal now approached 60,000 men. Given the lack of popular response to the insurgents' appeals, the outcome could no longer be in doubt. At noon on the second day of fighting, the king again reviewed the troops on the place de la Concorde before setting out on an intrepid (and still quite perilous) horseback tour that took him across the city to the place de la Bastille via the grands boulevards and back again through the faubourg Saint-Antoine and along the quays.
Despite their fading chances of victory, militants continued the struggle through the daylight hours of Wednesday in isolated locations like the Marché des Innocents and, as evening approached, staged a desperate last stand in and around the Eglise Saint-Merri (fig. 1). The rebels, led by army veterans and commanded by a decorated hero of the July Days, had taken over the café Leclerc and the rest of the building located at 30, rue Saint-Martin, where they established their "headquarters, fortress, and first-aid station."14 This complex was flanked on either side by a huge barricade, whose defenders were protected by snipers posted at the windows of the adjoining buildings. About one hundred of the most committed insurgents-predominantly the young, but joined by a few elderly veterans of previous revolutionary conflicts-had resolved to die with arms in their hands.[Figure 1 here]
With all other districts of the capital pacified and the opposition press muzzled, the full weight of the repression could be concentrated on this last remaining stronghold of rebellion. Successive attacks by the Parisian National Guard, the National Guard of the suburbs, and the Municipal Guard were repulsed, but a final assault by regular army units, supported by four large cannon, reduced the last pair of barricades to rubble. The last guns were silenced barely twenty-four hours after hostilities had begun. The casualty toll among the insurgents, mounting as high as 800 dead and wounded, was particularly heavy because the people of Paris withheld their support, leaving most of the committed insurgents of June 1832 to pay for their rebellion with their lives.15
What Is an Insurgent Barricade?
Though it culminated in a spectacular armed confrontation, the 1832 revolt was in many respects unremarkable. Gauged in terms of numbers of participants, it was of no more than average size. It never seriously imperiled the regime in power and had no lasting political impact. Indeed, it would doubtless have been dismissed as just one more unsuccessful nineteenth-century insurrection had Victor Hugo not chosen it as the setting for the climactic scene of his epic novel, Les misérables.16 Like that other classic of the literature on barricades, Gustave Flaubert's Sentimental Education, Hugo's actually dates from the 1860s and illustrates the heights to which insurrectionary consciousness had vaulted by the second half of the nineteenth century, when, for Europeans, the very word "barricade" had become all but synonymous with the concept of revolution.
Though barricades had by then been an established element in Parisian insurrections for nearly two and a half centuries, the uprising of June 5-6 has inevitably been measured against the standard set by the successful revolutions of 1830 and 1848. However different in scale and outcome, the disturbances associated with General Lamarque's funeral shared with these far more consequential events a number of remarkable similarities, starting with the patchwork of Parisian neighborhoods most affected and extending even to the physical location of individual barricades.
Although no systematic inventory of the structures erected during the 1832 insurrection has survived, we do possess highly detailed maps that pinpoint the site of each such structure in both July 1830 and February 1848. If we focus on the Saint-Merri district, which was a principal locus of combat in both those conflicts (as it was on June 6, 1832), we come across an observation familiar to anyone who has studied the revolutionary struggles of that period. Maps 2A and 2B show precisely where each barricade was situated in each of the two major revolutionary conflicts of the mid-1800s. Map 2C transposes this information onto a single map and uses small dark circles to highlight instances where barricades reappeared in the exact same location in the two uprisings. In quantitative terms, 72 of 140 specific sites within this one, arbitrarily defined quarter where barricades were built in 1848 had been occupied, eighteen years earlier, by similar structures.17[Map 2a-c here]
Barricades as Material Structures
The 1832 uprising makes a useful backdrop against which to explore the question of what should count as a barricade. The challenge lies in arriving at a definition that can be applied regardless of the size, objectives, social base, outcome, or other characteristics of the event in question, but that nonetheless delimits a coherent and recognizable category, the contents of which can be understood in common terms.
If one were to take at face value the 1694 definition offered by the Académie française in the epigraph to this chapter, the essence of the barricade consisted in either the materials from which it was fashioned or the purpose it fulfilled. Yet, with the benefit of over 300 additional years of experience, we can see that neither of those considerations is determinative. Though specific components like barrels played a noteworthy role in the origin of the barricade, an incredible diversity of raw materials has been used in their construction over the centuries without ever rendering the resulting structure any less identifiably a barricade. And though the first barricades were built for protection, they have since shown that they are capable of performing a remarkable range of functions. Some of their most important uses defy straightforward classification as defensive or offensive and may in fact have little to do with military or practical objectives at all.
What is truly remarkable about the barricade is, not its physical form in any particular era, but rather the fact that, despite all its varied manifestations, it has retained its identity, making it possible to speak of the barricade as having a history of its own. The barricades of 1648, the barricades of 1795, and the barricades of 1832 shared common characteristics that allowed observers and participants alike to see them all as part of a single insurrectionary lineage. Allowing for differences in weaponry, ideology, and political context, the same sort of underlying continuity linked those who participated in the June Days of 1848 to the partisans of the Holy League in 1588.
Such continuity seems all the more noteworthy given the absence of preexisting organization that typified most barricade events. Participants came together more or less spontaneously, sometimes without ever having met those who fought shoulder-to-shoulder alongside them. At best, their experience might have been acquired in some earlier insurrection, which was likely to be just as lacking in coordination or planning. Yet when the call came to man the barricades, they knew just what to do, and managed to concert their actions with great efficiency, even without benefit of the most rudimentary of command structures. This uncanny convergence in the behavior of individuals thrown together by their common desire to protest presents us with a mystery that the study of the barricade can help explain by unraveling the logic that inheres in even the most unstructured and chaotic instances of civic rebellion.
It is the desire to understand the inner dynamic of the insurrectionary situation that explains my exclusive preoccupation with the insurgent barricade (as depicted, e.g., in fig. 2). Structures that were not constructed and defended by civilian insurgents, although perhaps identical in all other respects, are considered here only as a point of contrast with the revolutionary barricade proper. Even one and the same structure, built by insurgents but captured and turned to account by a military force attempting to quell their rebellion, will, from the moment it changes hands, cease to be treated as a barricade under the definition adopted in this study.18 After all, the ability of a military unit-adequately equipped, intelligently organized, incessantly drilled, and competently commanded-to create or exploit practical means of success in battle is hardly an enigma. Analyzing training manuals or observing the rigors of the socialization process to which soldiers are subjected is a more promising approach to explaining the advantage they enjoy over hastily recruited bands of street fighters. The fascination of the barricade lies instead in helping us to understand how the other side, despite its lack of organization, sometimes manages to hold its own, and may, on rare occasions, even triumph. So while all insurgent barricades must have a physical embodiment of some kind, differences in their size, composition, and outward aspect can be vast, and their material properties are at best a necessary but never a sufficient basis for determining whether they qualify for consideration here.[Figure 2 here]
These man-made objects, hurriedly but deliberately constructed by combatants, are also unlike fortuitously encountered and passively exploited features of the natural terrain. They are purposeful products of the ingenuity of insurgents who, appropriating found materials of every kind, adapt them to new political objectives (see fig. 3).19 For this reason, any definition that places primary emphasis on the intrinsic importance of specific raw materials runs the risk of abstracting the barricade from its historical and sociological context.[Figure 3 here]
Thus, by stipulating that barrels, carts, posts, chains, and paving stones were the standard elements consistently used to construct barricades, an 1887 Grande encyclopédie entry presents us with a dilemma.20 Barrels certainly deserve pride of place in any such list, not only because they were an ever-present component of early structures of this kind but also because they gave rise to the word barricade itself. Old French used many words to designate different shapes and sizes of wooden casks, among them tonneau, muid, pipe, futaille, and barrique. By converting the last of these terms into a collective noun through the addition of the appropriate suffix, the French term barricade-literally, an assemblage of barrels-was derived.21
Barrels were, in fact, a ubiquitous element in urban commerce and daily life in the sixteenth century, and they continued to play a conspicuous role in barricade construction throughout the period covered by this study (as many of the illustrations accompanying later chapters will confirm). Their great advantage was that, when empty, they could be rolled into place with little effort. Once stood on end and filled with earth, gravel, mud, or manure, they instantly became solid barriers.
That same advantage applied to carts, the second item on the list of classic materials, and by extension to wagons, coaches, carriages, cabs, brewers' drays, omnibuses, and all the other forms of wheeled vehicles that turn up with some regularity in historical accounts of barricade construction. Indeed, in one exceptional case, which certainly proves the adage about many hands making light work, a crowd in the rue Saint-Denis was reported to have retrieved a locomotive from the Cavé ironworks to make a barricade in June 1848.22 What recommended these objects to insurgents was the ability to control how easily they could be moved. The point is illustrated by a carriage mentioned in the government inquiry into the Lyon insurrection of 1834 as having done double duty. It was originally commandeered and hauled to a site where it could be overturned and used to block off an intersection. But when it was subsequently needed elsewhere, insurgents righted the vehicle and rolled it to a new location, where it could again serve as the foundation for a barricade.23
G. Richardet, a correspondent for the Paris newspaper Le national, reported that when he tried to engage a carriage to take him to the faubourg du Temple on the evening of February 8, 1870, the driver refused out of concern that his vehicle would be seized for use in constructing a barricade. Instead, the reporter took an omnibus. His account suggests that the driver's fears were entirely justified, for when his alternative conveyance arrived in the rue Saint-Maur, it was stopped by a crowd of 100 to 150 insurgents. Asked to get out, all but one of the passengers quickly complied. The lone holdout, described as an old man wearing his military decorations, refused to disembark until he had been reimbursed his thirty-centime fare. His request brought peels of laughter from the rioters, but they did not hesitate to take up a collection on behalf of the initially disgruntled passenger, who, thus compensated, agreed to step down.24
Of course, to be truly effective, a barricade had to accumulate a certain bulk. For this, insurgents had recourse to that other great staple of barricade construction, the pavé. Quarried paving stones were often used to fill barrels or to wall in an upended cart, but mostly they were just piled up in a dense, disorderly heap. Cobblestones were an ideal material, because they were available in unlimited quantity as the pavement beneath the insurgents' feet (figs. 1, 2, and 3 above). They could be transported individually without great difficulty yet, once loosely tied together-for example, with balustrades torn from stairways and balconies or wrought-iron gates pilfered from a neighborhood park-they became an almost immovable mass. Paving stones were so consistently employed for the purpose that the French term pavé became a common synonym for the barricade.
Additional materials used to build upon this solid foundation might come from anywhere. Houses in the process of construction or repair supplied beams, planks, and posts. A metal banister and enormous flagstones from a stairway landing were used in one 1851 barricade. In the 1839 insurrection, centered in a part of Paris bordering the market district known as les Halles, insurgents made use of vegetable baskets, egg crates, brooms, and counters from merchants' stalls. During the February Days of 1848, militants must have taken special pleasure in chasing a gendarme from the sentry box where he was stationed, before hoisting it on top of the barricade they had begun nearby, expressing in one succinct gesture the shift in who controlled the street.
Insurgents' standard practice was to scour the surrounding neighborhood in search of anything that might suit their needs. They were reported to have torn out public urinals, hauled away bales of wool from the display in front of a draper's shop, pulled down lampposts, and removed window shutters from the walls of adjoining buildings. They scavenged street benches, cut down the trees that provided the benches with shade, and returned to lug away the heavy metal grates that had protected the trees' roots.25 Mattresses "liberated" from nearby barracks and hospitals served not just to make the rebels' stony redoubt more comfortable but also to reduce the risk of ricocheting bullets. Home furnishings were offered by sympathetic residents (or simply confiscated if cooperation was withheld). Books, tables, chairs, beds, armoires, and chests of drawers were frequently mentioned, but the list of materials occasionally included more unusual items, such as pianos, bathtubs, a perambulator, commodes, dead horses, and, on one occasion, a blacksmith's anvil.
This variety betrays the fact that, while the barricade always implies some type of physical embodiment, a simple list of acceptable materials, no matter how comprehensive, can never capture its essence. The proof is that two formally equivalent structures built in 1871-one improvised by ragtag civilian insurgents, the other deliberately planned and executed by the Paris Commune's Commission of Barricades-differ profoundly in what they tell us about the nature of solidarity among those participating in their construction. The contrast is plainly visible if one compares figure 4, which depicts all segments of the population collaborating in the spontaneous construction of a neighborhood barricade, with figure 5, which shows the "Château Gaillard," the largest of the projects undertaken by Napoléon Gaillard, the Commune's "Director of Barricades," and the paid labor force he assembled for the purpose (here represented by the workmen in the left foreground).26 Everything about this structure marks it as what we might call a prefabricated or "industrial barricade": the uniform, rectilinear outlines of what amounts to a military fortification; the presence of uniformed members of the Parisian National Guard, pretending to be on the lookout for the enemy, who would not appear for several weeks; and even its location in one of the vast public squares of the French capital rather than a residential neighborhood with its own built-in complement of defenders.27 The stark difference between these structures and impromptu barricades extends even to their value in insurrectionary combat. During the "Bloody Week" of May 1871, the Versailles army had little difficulty capturing monumental showpieces like the one pictured in figure 5 (which Gaillard had pronounced "impregnable") by the simple expedient of detouring and capturing them from behind, often without firing a single shot. By contrast, many of the spontaneous barricades set up on the spot by unorganized insurgent forces put up a fanatical resistance and long held out against overwhelming odds.[Figure 4 here][Figure 5 here]
A Barricade by Any Other Name?
If physical form were all that mattered, then a rapid review of military history would undoubtedly establish that barricades are at least as old as the invention of projectile weapons. La grande encylopédie of 1887 seemed to credit this view in an article that cited examples harkening back to classical Greece and Rome. In 273 B.C.E., for instance, Pyrrhus, king of Epirus and Macedon, defeated the armies of Laconia and began his march on Sparta. The assault on that city was, however, initially turned back thanks to barriers constructed by that city's women. In 219 B.C.E., at the start of the Second Punic War, Hannibal's army was delayed for months before Saguntum, a Spanish seaport allied to Rome, due to the improvised ramparts raised by its desperate residents. And in 146 B.C.E., during the Roman conquest of Carthage, it took six days to reduce the citadel of Byrsa because of the implacable resistance of defenders who took up positions behind heaps of rubble consisting of the remains of their own houses.28
At the risk of being accused of misguided literalism, I would like to argue that these fortifications of the ancient world, which might seem perfectly analogous to those discussed and illustrated in the preceding section, should nonetheless be excluded from consideration as barricades. The simple reason is that no such concept yet existed, as evidenced by the absence of a consistently applied, dedicated term to express it. Suitable structures may have appeared from time to time, but until there was a category that participants could use to place them, both cognitively and linguistically, they would not have been thought of as a discrete phenomenon, and separate instances or episodes involving their construction would not readily be linked together. Under such circumstances, any notion of a history of the barricade was, in effect, unthinkable, and any effort to include these early artifacts as part of a coherent and self-conscious practice of barricade construction would require that we impose upon their creators' actions an externally derived meaning.
Until the sixteenth century, when the term barricade was coined, people described structures of this kind with a vocabulary borrowed from the architects of military fortifications. Thus, the Greeks and Romans would have designated the ancient precursors of the barricade as breastworks or ramparts, by analogy to their equivalents in siege warfare, just as inhabitants of the medieval or early-modern world might have spoken of bulwarks, mantelets, or abattis. An incident that took place in 1425 illustrates the significance of the linguistic distinction I have in mind.
England, which stands virtually alone among European nations in never having experienced a barricade event as defined in this study, was in 1425 a country nominally ruled by Henry VI, but in fact divided into warring factions led by the duke of Gloucester and Henry Beaufort, bishop of Winchester.29 When Gloucester was called to the Continent to oversee the invasion of Hainaut in 1425, Beaufort took advantage of his absence from London to concentrate a sizable force of men-at-arms and archers in Southwark, just across the Thames River. Gloucester's return set the stage for a fateful confrontation between the bishop's supporters, assembled at the south end of London Bridge, and angry Londoners, manning the city gates at the bridge's north end, but threatening at any time to pour across the river.
Between nine and ten on the morning of October 30, the bishop's men drew chains across the pillars (stulpes) at the south end of London bridge and proceeded to erect a structure that was a barricade in all but name. Contemporary accounts make mention of barrels (pipes) and barriers (hurdices) that would have given the resulting structure the unmistakable contours of a barricade.30 From the shelter of these improvised fortifications, Beaufort's forces launched their attack on Gloucester and his retinue.31 Thus, a century and a half before Parisians are reputed to have "invented" the barricade, Londoners, by stretching chains across a road and taking positions behind barrels and a palisade, were using similar materials in a similar way. Should we therefore draw the conclusion that the first barricades were English in origin?
Though such an inference might seem perfectly reasonable, it must ultimately be rejected. Though indistinguishable in physical terms from edifices that would later qualify, the structure as described by contemporary sources represented a "barricade" avant la lettre-before the very term existed. The English of that period had no word that specifically designated such an entity; their language lacked the means of differentiating it as a technique of urban insurrection or of connecting it to like practices employed either before or after that time. Observers managed to describe its component parts (chaynys, pypys, and hurdeyses) and apply to it preexisting terms (e.g., bulwerkes) borrowed from the idioms of warfare. If the English had continued to improvise this type of temporary fortification, and had they come to view it as a standard tactic worthy of note, they might have been expected to devise a new word to describe it or modify the meaning of one already in existence. In reality, though the conflict that gave rise to this hostile confrontation across the London bridge on October 30, 1425, lasted well into the following year, I have found no evidence to indicate that the protagonists made any further use of such structures, introduced a new term to refer to them, or conceived of their having a history of their own. They exhibited, in short, no barricade consciousness.
I have already argued that impromptu barricades built on the fly by civilian insurgents need to be distinguished from planned structures methodically erected by trained troops, corps of sappers and military engineers, or government commissions. But barricade construction is also different from the unthinking impulse that anyone might have when confronted by a mortal threat, to take shelter behind whatever protective cover happens to be available. Building a barricade implies collaboration in a witting act whose shared meaning is most clearly and straightforwardly conveyed by use of that particular label to designate it.
Tracing the etymology and early usage of that term will prove helpful in later chapters in establishing the origin and pattern of dissemination of the barricade itself. At present, I only hope to show that we are dealing with a unitary practice by pointing to the common origins of the words used in the European languages spoken in each city where at least one barricade event had occurred by the end of the nineteenth century. In every case, the local expression was either identical to the French original (for example, barricade in English and Flemish) or some close approximation (Barrikade in German, barricata in Italian, barricada in Spanish, barikáda in Czech, baricadă in Romanian, barikád in Hungarian, and barykada in Polish).32 The evidence suggests that the object, like the words used to signify it, was a product of diffusion rather than independent invention, and we need to consider the likelihood that this consistency in language is indicative of still more deeply rooted patterns of recurrence.
Repertoires and Routines of Collective Action
The concept of the "repertoire of collective action" was introduced into historical discourse by Charles Tilly in the 1970s.33 At its core lies the observation that any given population tends to choose from a fairly limited and well-established set of alternative methods for organizing its protest activities.34 Rather than invent techniques de novo, groups typically revert to one of a handful of familiar options, even when those might be less than ideally suited to achieving the desired outcome.35 For example, in the present-day American context, the demonstration and the sit-in are widely recognized techniques of contention. University students who wish to protest some institutional policy are likely to adopt these or similarly recognizable tactics as a way of making their point (even if a novel approach could be shown to hold promise of an improved likelihood of success). Regardless of size or level of sophistication, groups seeking to lodge claims or effect change in this society are inclined to favor familiar techniques of protest-for example, those previously employed by the Civil Rights, anti-war, feminist, environmental, and other highly visible movements known to participants.
The collection of all such methods in use at any given time and place constitutes a population's repertoire. Like its theatrical equivalent, the notion implies a group of actors capable of staging performances based on the availability of key resources (material, conceptual, organizational, etc.) as well as on the possession of culturally transmitted knowledge or, in some cases, prior experience.36 Noting that social protest can rarely be scripted down to its minutest details, Tilly has also likened it to a game involving a set of underlying rules, around which a considerable degree of extemporization is permitted, or to the improvisation of a jazz ensemble around a basic theme. Just as with a musical riff, the process implies a "paradoxical combination of ritual and flexibility," in which neither element is allowed to completely dominate the other, lest the performance lose either its trenchancy or its effectiveness.37
Tilly's extrapolation from the characteristics of theatrical repertoires formalized an insight that came naturally to observers of revolutionary upheaval in nineteenth-century France. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon was among those who interpreted the February Days in this light: "Carried away by the intoxication of our historical novels, we took part in a rehearsal based on August 10 [1792,] and July 29 . Without being aware of it, we all became the characters in a play."38 Almost identical observations were penned by Alexis de Tocqueville and Heinrich Heine, both present at the overthrow of the Orléanist monarchy.39 The simple truth that all of these authors were trying to convey concerned the remarkable continuities or rhythms of return that characterize even the most turbulent historical episodes. Tilly's concept of the repertoire of contention helped refocus attention on this underlying logic of collective action and contributed toward a more systematic and revealing examination of the powerful cultural currents that influence the choices people make even in moments of acute upheaval.
Obviously, barricade construction is just one component of such an all-inclusive repertoire. It corresponds to what I have called a "routine"-a sequence of loosely prescribed behaviors that help define the roles and constrain the actions of participants. To sustain the analogy to the theater, we might say that routines-being rooted in concrete situations that impose a unity of time and place-tend to resemble the acts of a classical play. This sort of repertoirial conduct is so striking because the actors appear to be working from a script, even though it is one that has never been written down; and because they are manifestly collaborating in a joint production for which there could never have been a formal rehearsal, not just because the authorities would bring down the curtain with brutal repression but also because most participants have never previously met.
The food riot was just such a routine. During the subsistence crises that periodically plagued European societies during the early modern period, an anxious crowd might gather outside a baker's shop, reacting in anger to the news of another jump in the price of bread or to the low quality of the goods on offer. Rather than lash out at random, participants, most of them women, were more likely to follow a set routine that involved seizing control of the establishment, chasing the proprietor from behind the counter, and proceeding to sell the remaining stock to the other customers at what they considered the "just price."40 Members of the general public were capable of reproducing stock elements of such routines with great fidelity, whether the historical setting was fourteenth-century England or eighteenth-century France.41 Whether the behavior in question involved the tax revolts or shaming ceremonies (charivaris) of the Old Regime-or, in more modern times, the strike, the demonstration, or even the "media event" of the present day-complex sequences of protest activities could be acted out with a bare minimum of formal organization. The construction of barricades, and the constellation of insurrectionary activities that typically accompanied the practice, became an accepted part of French contention.
Toward a Working Definition of the Barricade
What, then, constitutes a barricade and, by extension, a barricade event? Since nothing so simple as a list of prescribed materials can serve to rule specific structures into or out of consideration, we need to highlight the process whereby insurgents spontaneously joined in collective action, even as they interacted with the representatives of the social order they were seeking to overthrow.42 In the most straightforward examples, participants engaged in self-conscious acts of rebellion, often signaled by the repetition of seditious cries, political slogans, or demands for reform, but most succinctly communicated by their decision to build barricades, explicitly so named, as a method of challenging the authorities. To summarize these key considerations, let us adopt the following provisional definition:
A barricade is an improvised structure, built and defended by civilian insurgents as a means of laying claim to urban space and mobilizing against military or police forces representing the constituted authorities. In the clearest examples, contemporary observers and/or the insurgents themselves will explicitly label such a structure a barricade, though their reversion to recognizable patterns of behavior long associated with barricade construction may also be sufficient to confirm the attribution.
By extension, a "barricade event" is any insurrectionary episode that involves the construction, on one or more consecutive days, in a single or adjacent towns, of any number of barricades.
We are now equipped to go in search of the original barricade.