This chapter analyzes the meaning of lightning images during the French Revolution. The Revolution, particularly the declaration of the Republic, carried with it a host of new symbols, including tricolor cockades and Herculean representations of “the people.” However, revolutionaries also retained certain images from the Old Regime, especially lightning, long understood as a signifier of sovereignty. It is argued that the trope of lightning demonstrates the attempt of revolutionaries to align their work with the forces of nature, but it also provides a useful case study into the ways in which old symbols and metaphors were reworked and themselves regenerated. In the electrically charged atmosphere of revolutionary France, the lightning bolt allowed for justice and regeneration, wielded by the nation itself.
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