World History 1792

About the history of the world in 1792, Pinel rethinks psychiatry, Mary Wollstonecraft publishes the feminist manifesto, more trouble in France.

TWO CENTURIES OF WORLD HISTORY: 1778-1978

1792

* Mary Wollstonecraft, ex-governess, published her Vindication of the Rights of Women, the original feminist manifesto. At a time when women, having about the same civil status as American slaves, were given superficial educations aimed at making them useful and pleasing to men, Wollstonecraft advocated providing them with serious education. She ascribed their "follies" to "the natural effects of ignorance." Although she did not question the traditional belief that most women belonged inside the home, she urged opening new areas of employment to them so that they need never be driven to marry for economic reasons. Unlike modern feminists, Mary had no conception of organizing women to gain concessions which men could not be persuaded to grant. Her life was scandalously "liberated," with a career in journalism, two lovers, an illegitimate child, and a suicide attempt. She died at 38,10 days after the birth of her second daughter, Mary Godwin (later Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein).

* Philippe Pinel, psychiatric pioneer, became chief physician at the Paris insane asylum for men, where he risked his life to test humanitarian treatment. Called mad himself, he unchained 53 mental patients, many of whom had been restrained for form 30 to 40 years. Soon 10 additional hospitals based on Pinel's theories were established in France, which became the leading nation in enlightened treatment of the mentally ill.

* Still under house arrest, Louis XVI signed a directive for a survey to ascertain the actual length of the meter. Two years earlier, the French Academy, in response to the Assembly's demand for a rational system of measurement, had recommended a new decimal linear unit equal to one ten-millionth of the distance from the North Pole to the equator along the Paris meridian. The meter's actual length was now to be based on a survey by engineers Jean Delambre and Pierre Mechain of the portion of this meridional distance between Barcelona, Spain, and Dunquerque, France. With delivery of their war-delayed report to the Assembly in June, 1799, the metric system became standard for France, adopted with the motto, "For all people, for all time."

* A young officer of the engineers, Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle, wrote the national hymn of France, "La Marseillaise," so called because it was sung by a party of revolutionaries from Marseilles as they entered Paris.

Apr. 20 King Louis was forced to declare war on Austria and Prussia, which stood ready to intervene against the revolutionaries. Louis actually hoped for enemy victories to save his monarchy. With only two brief interruptions, war between revolutionary France and coalitions of European monarchies would last 23 years, 17 of which would be dominated by Napoleon.

Aug. 10 The invasion of France by Prussian and Austrian troops caused rioting in Paris. In the Assembly, Louis XVI was officially deposed and ordered imprisoned with his family in the Temple, a grim stone structure once headquarters of the medieval Knights Templar. The radicals had taken over the government. In a few days a temporary executive council of six ministers, headed by Georges Jacques Danton, would replace the king.

Aug. 19 The Marquis de Lafayette, accused of being an enemy of the revolution because of his efforts to retain the constitutional monarchy, emigrated and was taken prisoner by the Austrians. Released after Napoleon's victories in 1797, he served France for many more years. He died in 1834 at 76, his Paris grave covered with earth from Bunker Hill.

Sept. 22 The new French National Convention (which replaced the Assembly after the insurrection of Aug.10) declared France to be a republic. A revolutionary calendar went into effect: 1792 was the year 1. The 7-day week was abandoned in favor of periods of 10 days, and the months were given poetic names appropriate to their seasons: Brumaire ("fog"), Frimaire ("sleet"), Nivose ("snow"), Floreal ("blossom"), Thermidor ("heat"),etc. In 1805 Napoleon, needing to expedite communication abroad, reinstated the Gregorian calendar.

Dec. 11 Louis XVI went to trial on 33 counts, including giving aid to the enemies of France and spilling the blood of Frenchmen. He was found guilty and sentenced to death by a vote of 387 to 334.

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