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Communards Wall in Birmingham

One of the ugliest events to occur at Pere-Lachaise (or in any cemetery, for that matter) was the massacre of the Communards on May 28, 1871. Starting with the First French Revolution (17 89-1799), nineteenth-century France was peppered with a series of revolutions, uprisings and general social unrest. It seems that every uprising separated the classes more and more. Even Pere-Lachaise Cemetery, which was supposed to be for all, became an eternal sanctuary for the well to do. By the mid-nineteenth century Marxism was on the rise within the working class. The disastrous Franco-Prussian War (mid-July 1870-May 1871) strained France’s economy and the division of the classes even more. It all came to a head in an uprising known as the Paris Commune. An uneasy alliance formed between the socialists and the Marxists, and they actually took control of the government for two and a half months during the spring of 1871. The Commune formed an armed citizens’ militia called the National Guard as the regular French army retreated from Paris to regroup.

The army reassembled, helped in large part by the French POWs who were released by the Prussians. The French army engaged in its first skirmish with the National Guard in early April 1871. As the days and weeks ticked on, the French army made more and more inroads into breaking up the National Guard and the Commune. By the end of May the Paris Commune was essentially defeated. During that week, known as La Semaine Sanglante (The Bloody Week), somewhere between 10,000 and 50,000 Communards were killed in battle or executed.

By May 28 the last of the combatants entrenched themselves in Pere-Lachaise Cemetery, but despite intense fighting, they were soon overpowered by the French army. Rather than take the remaining combatants prisoner, the army lined up 147 of them against the cemetery wall and executed them Then, without any ceremony, threw the bodies into an open pit.

Country Moral Economy and Rioting The most common form of rioting in British North Country evolved out of what historians have termed the traditional moral economy. In England and other parts of Europe, the traditional social structure created contractual obligations between the various groups. Birmingham Metro Map While the lower class accepted the power of the upper, the upper reciprocated by working to ensure the stability of the lower. This meant that in times of crisis be it famine, plague or war the two classes were interdependent and supported one another. Thus, in times of famine, the upper class set the price of food to a level that ensured the survival of the poor. The vast majority of riots that occurred in the colonies did so in the context of this moral economy, as the local population reacted to any adverse changes. As the colonies were brought into the larger market economy of the Atlantic world, these riots became common, bringing about changes that challenged the stability of the colonists’ lives. Shortages of food also led to food riots, sometimes called bread riots, which occurred in both Europe and British North Country. The interdependence of the rich and the poor, however, led to the concept of a just price that would ensure the survival of all.

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