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"Hello, and welcome to Revolutions."
—The introduction to every episode.
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Revolutions (2013-present) is the second history podcast by Mike Duncan. Unlike his previous podcast, Revolutions is not the history of one society or polity but rather a thematic series focusing on particular revolutions in the history of the modern world.

The podcast is divided into seasons, with each season focusing on a particular revolution. These are:

  • Season 1 (September 2013-January 2014; 16 episodes plus 7 supplementals): The English Civil War
  • Season 2 (February-May 2014; 15 episodes plus 2 supplementals): The American Revolution
  • Season 3 (July 2014-August 2015; 55 episodes plus 5 supplementals): The French Revolution
  • Season 4 (September 2015-April 2016; 19 episodes plus 1 supplemental): The Haitian Revolution
  • Season 5 (June 2016-February 2017; 27 episodes plus 1 supplemental): The South American wars of independence, with a particular focus on Simón Bolívar
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  • Season 6 (March-May 2017; 7 episodes plus 5 supplementals): The July Revolution of 1830. Because of the lightning-quick pace of events, Duncan took the opportunity to give a minute-by-minute blow-by-blow account of the revolution in the core four episodes (6.04 through 6.07) on the narrative of the "Three Glorious Days". Duncan also took the opportunity here to add some additional supplements on the Belgian Revolution, the June Rebellion of 1832 (made famous by Les Misérables), the Carbonari, and Metternich.
  • Season 7 (July 2017-March 2018; 32 episodes): The Revolutions of 1848.
  • Season 8 (April-June 2018; 8 episodes): The Paris Commune. Another "mini-season", but with a lot of buildup — the actual Commune doesn't show up until the fifth episode.
  • Season 9 (August 2018-March 2019, 27 episodes): The Mexican Revolution.
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  • Season 10 (May 2019-July 2022, 103 episodes): The Russian Revolution. Officially surpassed The French Revolution as the podcast's longest season in July 2021. Planned as the last "proper" season of the show. Duncan had to take an eight-month hiatus in the middle of the season to finish his book and then deal with a series of health problems.
  • Season 11 (Fall 2022): A planned epilogue season that will compare and contrast all the Revolutions from the 10 seasons while trying to give his own answer to the historical question of "what makes a Revolution?".

Tropes

  • Alas, Poor Scrappy: Invoked Trope. Duncan will often offer a short summary of the life and career of monarchs or other important figures when they leave the narrative (either as a result of death or exile), often including an appraisal of their role, their virtues and their shortcomings as well as a glimpse what their death might mean given the circumstances of the time it happened in. This is a holdover from The History of Rome, and has been copied by other narrative-history podcasts following in Duncan's footsteps.
    • For Charles I and Louis XVI, he ruthlessly lists all the reasons why they ended up executed by their (former) subjects, but also points out that they were neither tyrants nor inherently evil people. It's quite evident that he bemoans their fate, even though he clearly sees it as inevitable given their actions. He does something similar to Louis Philippe, even though he was merely exiled, not executed.
    • Averted in the Russian Revolution season, which seems to be heading this way with Duncan's initially sympathetic portrait of Nicholas II as a smart, kind, loving husband and father. But then Duncan spends many episodes laying out at great length the obstinate incompetence of Nicholas's regime, to the point where he drains away all of the initial sympathy the season might have had for Nicholas. Duncan even says "I shed few tears" for the execution of the entire Romanov family in 1918, while still acknowledging that it was a dumb decision with no benefit for the Soviet government.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: While it's clear he thinks Maximillian Robespierre had well and truly gone off the deep end by the end of the Reign of Terror, Duncan still manages to muster some sympathy for him and his fellow members of the Committee of Public Safety as they all manage to horribly (and not always fatally) injure themselves during the Thermidorian Reaction, then get guillotined without even a show trial, often in agonizing pain and denied all dignity.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: In every Revolutions fundraiser, Duncan offered the opportunity to choose which revolution he would cover in a forthcoming season. He was clear that he was totally sincere about the offer. The cost? $25,000. No one ever ponied up.
  • Backstory: Every season starts out with a series of episodes detailing the relevant immediate history of the nation in question to lay the groundwork for the coming political upheaval.
    • The 10th season, dedicated to the Russian Revolution, however deserves special mention and begins with kind of a staggering amount. The season starts with an eight-episode “prologue” focusing on Marx and Engels and, to a lesser extent, Bakunin, (Bakunin being important because he was the intellectual forefather of the Socialist Revolutionaries, the Left faction of whom were the junior-but-still-important partners in the merger of socialist parties that led to the establishment of the one, the only Communist Party of the Soviet Union) then launches into essentially a complete history of Russia (this being the first season where Russia is really in focus). It takes more than 20 episodes to even get to the year 1900. Duncan is not above lampshading this.
  • Better than a Bare Bulb: Mike frequently stops the narrative to discuss his storytelling techniques, explaining or justifying why he chose to introduce certain events and people in specific ways. It usually comes down to pacing reasons, and Mike's intent to keep the story focused and to make sure those who are hearing this history for the first time aren't confused.
  • Book Smart: This is how Duncan portrays the future czar Nicholas II when describing his childhood education. Nicholas was a good student with a great memory and spoke four languages fluently. Unfortunately, while Nicholas was good at learning and retaining things, he didn't have the abstract reasoning ability or critical thinking skills to go from knowing specific things to coming up with his own ideas based off those things. And it's not like the tutors or family members surrounding young Nicholas were interested in helping him hone those skills.
  • Bourgeois Bohemian: One reason Duncan is skeptical of revolutions is that he notes that most revolutionaries whether English, American or French, exaggerate their "oppression" and invoke fears of "slavery" to justify their revolution. In most cases, he notes that they start out as functionaries in the old order, some of them even being nobles, who basically bite the hand that fed them. They also were mostly well-off and slept in comfortable beds unlike the vast majority of the population. The one exception noted by Duncan, is the Haitian Revolution, where actual slaves and oppressed people revolt, against real and actual tyranny and are honest and free of exaggerations.
  • Breather Episode: Much like on his previous Podcast, Duncan does occasional episodes on a particular topic or person in depth - they are often interspersed at a point where a long break would otherwise have to be taken due to him being occupied by his travels or his private life.
  • Cadre of Foreign Bodyguards: The French King had one at the outset of the French Revolution (actual Swiss Guards to boot); Duncan points out that they were in anything but an enviable position.
    • The Swiss Guard show up again in the season on the July Revolution of 1830. Duncan pointed out that because sons tended to follow fathers in the job, the Swiss Guard protecting the king in 1830 were largely descendants of the men who were brutally killed by the crowds during the original French Revolution. They were well aware of what happened back then and wanted nothing to do with a repeat in 1830.
  • Call-Back: One to the The History of Rome in season 10, Duncan saying he has to go back to Didius Julianus after he bought the Emperorship in an auction to think of a government that had less political or popular support when looking at the Kerensky Russian government following the Kornilov Affair.
  • Catchphrase: During the French Revolution, Mike likes to note executions by guillotine with "Zip, thud, the end."
  • A Day in the Limelight: Duncan will include "supplemental" episodes on people and groups who might appear in the main narrative but whose full stories can't be fully integrated into it without disrupting the flow. These include the Diggers and the Earl of Clarendon (in Season 1) and Talleyrand and Philippe of Orléans/Égalité (in Season 3).
  • Determinator: How Duncan portrays Bolívar in Season 5. It's entirely accurate.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Most of Duncan's humor is delivered this way. When he was discussing the Thermidorians who brought down Robespierre and the Committee of public safety, he said "their principled opposition to the terror turned out to have been a principled opposition to being on the wrong side of the terror."
  • Double-Meaning Title: The tenth season episode "Anarchy in Ukraine" is a rare triple-meaning title: it refers to both the look at the Anarchist movement in Ukraine during the Russian Revolution under Nestor Makhno but also the general societal upheaval and conflicts brought upon Ukraine during the First World War and Russian Civil War. It's also a reference to the famous Sex Pistols song "Anarchy in the UK."
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The original plan was to keep each season to around 15 episodes apiece, and the first two seasons stuck to that pretty closely. Then came the French Revolution season, which exploded to 55 episodes, and the whole "15 episodes per season" idea went out the window.
  • Enemy Mine: France really, really, really did not like Austria, but when the "stately Quadrille" turned round and allying with Austria was the thing to do to give it to the English, ally with Austria they did. Duncan points out that this alliance (and the Seven Years' War that resulted from it) were very unpopular in France and sad unpopularity rubbed off on Marie Antoinette and at least in part explains the Girondin war fever (Austria was to be the main target) and the eagerness with which conspiracy theories about a royalist/Austrian conspiracy behind all evils befalling France were believed.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Talleyrand may be a sleazy, greedy crook whose loyalty to any given master went exactly as far as his own benefit and no further, but he was still a diplomat and believed his job was to ensure peace rather than a favorable position for the next war. When it became obvious that Emperor Napoleon was planning to conquer the world, or at least Europe, and would probably ultimately destroy France in the process of fulfilling his ambitions, Talleyrand started undermining the Emperor behind his back, advising Tsar Alexander II to reject the alliance he was meeting with the tsar to cement and ultimately getting France a seat at the table and surprisingly favorable terms at the Council of Vienna, because of how many times he'd stabbed Napoleon in the back.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Life as a slave in the sugar cane fields of Haiti was absolutely horrifying, even by the standards of, well, slavery. Part of the reason the slave revolt gained so much steam was that there's only so effective the threat of death can be when one's life is already a living death, and when the voodoo religion promised that death freed one's soul to return to Africa.
  • Formula-Breaking Episode: A snafu in the third season resulted in Duncan accidentally uploading a garbled version of the previous episode instead of a new episode. Some commenters on the podcast website used the comment thread for that episode to write an intentionally ridiculous story touching on Star Wars, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Babylon 5, Dune, Starship Troopers, Dr. Strangelove, some bits of actual history (including, of course, Roman history), and an imagined upbraiding of Duncan himself by none other than Napoleon Bonaparte. So Duncan recorded an episode where he just read the story as though it was a standard historical narrative (it was only a couple minutes long, fortunately).
  • For Want of a Nail:
    • The first three seasons are full of examples where military or political blunders turned what could have been a minor squabble or an easily suppressed revolt into the earth shattering revolutions they eventually turned out to be. In Season 3 there are several episodes that could all be titled "How and when did all this become inevitable" and Duncan's answer clearly lays some blame on less-than-inspired leadership and unwillingness and inability to reform.
    • Duncan from time to time dwells on the consequences of a particular decision or stroke of luck and what would have happened, had things gone the other way. For instance, he wonders what Napoleon could have done allying with the army of Toussaint L'Ouverture instead of fighting him.
    • He also points out that the French Revolution could have avoided going out of control entirely 1) Had they not put into effect the Civil Constitution of the Clergy which proved effective propaganda for the counter-revolution. He pointed out the Vendee uprising would not have occurred had this been cancelled or even modified to remove its most odious bits (like the requirement for priests to swear loyalty to the Nation above even the Pope instead of, say, having them simply swear to not preach against the Nation) 2) Had the Girondins not fomented war in 1791-92, at a time when there was no threat to France from external powers. Without War, there would have been no Reign of Terror and no Napoleon Bonaparte.
    • Simón Bolívar ends up on both sides of this. First, he loses a fortress, a city, and one war all because the officer in charge of a the fortress left to attend a wedding. His treacherous second-in-command then releases captured Royalist prisoners, who proceed to take over the fort and convince a large proportion of Bolívar's Republican soldiers to switch sides.
    • Bolívar's dispute with his landlady in Jamaica ends up saving his life when he moves out just before his servant's assassination attempt. The servant mistakes an old acquaintance sleeping in Bolívar's hammock for the man himself and kills him instead.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: Duncan points out that many of the kangaroo courts during the French Revolution actually had a case to make, but hurt their own credibility by making up ridiculous claims of supposed crimes that clearly did not exist. For example, the revolutionary tribunal could have focused on Marie Antoinette's undeniable efforts to escape France and come back with a foreign army to crush the revolution. Instead, it threw in some truly horrific and obviously false accusations that Antoinette had sexually abused her son, which appalled even observers who hated the former queen and wanted her killed.
  • Full-Circle Revolution: Well, obviously, but perhaps the most tragic and emphasized example is Haiti. Through multiple revolutions that killed huge chunks of the population, and even literal genocide, the lot of the black former slaves who had fought so bravely to attain their freedom just didn't change much. From the whips and drivers of the big whites to the clubs and foremen of the Loverturian Republic and Dessaline's empire, the cultivators were still forced to work on plantations for meager rewards under draconian labor laws.
  • Heroic BSoD: Duncan speculates that this happened to Robespierre in his final months. This theory has been advocated by biographers such as Peter McPhee and Timothy Tackett. He noted that until Robespierre's final months, he was generally pragmatic and balanced as a politician, even sparing some Girondins from joining the purge, supported Desmoulins' call for a Committee of Clemency, but he noted that at some point in 1794, after a period of absence where he collapsed from exhaustion, Robespierre became more erratic, fevered and paranoid, moving into a self-destructive spiral.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Duncan does on occasion weigh in on the common portrayal and appraisal of the historical figures he talks about. He's particularly fascinated by the different judgment Lafayette receives in the US (where he is widely regarded as a hero and a military genius) and France (where he is widely regarded as an inept moderate who badly misjudged his own ability and popularity). Duncan tends towards the American view of Lafayette and is happy to see some French opinions on him shift (he's even written a book about Lafayette and his role in the various revolutions).
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: It comes up so often, it's difficult to pinpoint individual instances. Especially prominent in the French Revolution. Just one example is the same mobs and public opinion that allowed the Parlements to pick a fight with the King over noble privileges and win leading to their own dissolution and the end of those same noble privileges when public opinion turned on them.
  • Last Stand: As Revolutions live and die on idealism, those happen sometimes, but the last episode of the 1848 series has four of them at once. With one exception (Hungary) the defenders get off surprisingly lightly, thanks in large part to the leniency of Marshal Radetzky (of military music fame).
  • Magnificent Bastard:invoked Duncan's opinion of Talleyrand (whom he considers highly fascinating), which he highlights both in the main narrative and in the supplemental episode dedicated to him. Duncan points out Talleyrand's rampant corruption (which, Duncan notes, basically started The Quasi War between France and the United States) and his willingness to sell out/betray almost any master he served as well and lists the number of different regimes Talleyrand thrived under.
  • Majored in Western Hypocrisy: Many leaders of the early phases of the Haitian Revolution (especially those belonging to the "free coloreds") were educated in France, which led to their indignation at the racist laws in Saint Domingue and (relatively) egalitarian views, as Duncan points out. (These leaders were mostly overtaken by Black former slaves in the final push to independence, though a few of them—most notably the Colored Alexandre Pétion—managed to break into that circle.)
  • Mission Creep: Duncan is fascinated by how revolutions start small and almost modestly but progressively become bigger and greater in scope, far beyond the intentions and purposes that its original authors envisioned.
    • As he notes, the English Parliamentarians and the American Revolutionaries were not really intending or seeking to upturn the social order. They were looking for modest concessions but circumstances made them take stands that they would otherwise not have taken. He notes that the Declaration of Independence was not as bold as its language would lead one to believe, that the Continental Congress came to it as an afterthought and improvised it along the way. The French Revolution began with an attempt to reform finances, summoned by the King but it brought out social tensions and the original Third Estate delegates upon convening became radicalized and set about writing a constitution that slowly overturned the social order.
    • invokedDuncan cites the 1792 Insurrection that was led by Georges Danton as a Genre Turning Point. He notes that while Bastille and earlier uprisings were spontaneous and unplanned events, the 1792 Insurrection was a planned revolution with a definite political program and that it would inspire and codify the revolutions of the 19th and 20th Century. He notes that Vladimir Lenin cited Danton as the great revolutionary strategist precisely because he wanted to use a chaotic situation to create a new form of government rather than improvise and radicalise in response to reactionary backlash.
    • In a more meta-sense, Duncan initially planned his seasons to have "about fifteen episodes", the very idea of "supplementals" grew out of his description of the armies in one of the first episodes on the English Civil War being too long (and hence getting its own episode) and he planned the "mini-series" on 1830 to be six episodes. Not that anybody is complaining... (Well maybe Mike's family, but if so he never mentioned it.)
  • Never My Fault: Stalin had a gift for blaming everyone else when something went wrong with one of his plans.
  • Nice to the Waiter: This is how Duncan portrays the young future Czar Nicholas II — yes, he was a spoiled rich kid, but he wasn't a Spoiled Brat. Nicholas liked hanging out and drinking with lower-ranking officials, especially the military servicemen he felt a particular fondness for.
  • Old Soldier: Joseph Radetzky von Radetz, Field Marshal of the Austrian Empire: Duncan takes pains to note that Radetzky really was an 81-year-old veteran of the French Revolutionary Wars and the The Napoleonic Wars when the First War of Italian Independence started in March 1848—and that Radetzky was one of the sharpest commanders and shrewdest political strategists the Austrians had in any theater of 1848.
  • Only Sane Man: The way Duncan assumes the two halfway competent Prime Ministers of Nicholas II, Sergei Witte (an economics expert who dragged Russia kicking and screaming into the Industrial Age) and Piotr Stolypin (a Magnificent Bastard who used every trick up his sleeve to bend Russia's political system to his will) saw themselves. Duncan mostly agrees with that assessment of their competence, even if he does not agree with their methods. Of course having a Pointy-Haired Boss like Nicholas II, their careers both ended badly.
  • Plot Detour: Episode 85 of season 10 puts a pause on the Russian Revolution narrative to discuss the then concurrent, and short-lived, German Revolution of 1918-19.
  • Plunder: When revolutionary France couldn't print its way out of its economic problems, but the levee en masse and a number of clever generals proved very adept at conquering other nations, the Republic started instead patching holes in its leaking economy by extracting every particle of wealth out of other nations, while letting soldiers keep loot and live off the land as an incentive to enlist and fight. This especially ramped up after the Thermidorian Reaction and led directly to the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte.
  • Pregnant Badass: Episode 16 of season 5 is devoted to Simon Bolivar's grueling trek through the mountains in the middle of winter. Duncan halts the narrative to bring up a woman who accompanied the army despite being nine months' pregnant, gave birth in the middle of the trek, and then kept up the pace baby-in-tow like it was nothing. In a show full of examples of daring revolutionary bravado, Duncan names it the single most badass moment he ever heard of.
  • Previously on…: Most episodes begin with a very short recap of the previous episode covered — usually just a couple sentences. Season 10, on the other hand, had an entire Previously on… episode recapping what the season covered before Duncan went on his extended hiatus. And later in the season, when discussing the origins of World War I, there was an episode running down everything relevant they had discussed throughout the entire run of the podcast to show how much of the background to that war the show had already covered.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: While Season 3 was already the longest season up to that point, Duncan's decision to take 18 Brumaire as the cutoff point (as opposed to the Bourbon restoration or Waterloo) has as much to do with the birth of Duncan's second child as it has with the narrative of the revolution. Napoleon fans would still get ample treatment of his exploits (albeit from unusual perspectives) first in the "retrospective" episode on the French Revolution and then in Seasons four and five which dealt extensively with the Leclerc Expedition and the "Spanish Ulcer" respectively, albeit from a Haitian / Spanish American perspective rather than from a European one. Duncan also discusses the Napoleonic Wars in Episode 10.11 ("War and Peace"), dealing with the war from a Russian perspective, and Episode 10.12 ("The Decembrists") shows the impact of the war on Russian society and politics.
  • Rebellious Rebel: Naturally, people change sides or rebel against the initial rebellion more than once. Duncan has a particular fascination with those that started out at the most radical and leading edge of a particular revolutionary wave only to be overtaken by events ultimately to be branded conservatives or even reactionaries, not because their own opinions had changed, but because the views which were considered "radical" had shifted so drastically so quickly.
  • Ridiculous Future Inflation: Seasons 2 and 3 both involved governments (the Continental Congress and the National Assembly/National Convention) who tried to print their way out of financial problems and ended up with this trope as a result. Also, at one point, Duncan auctioned off an actual French Revolutionary assignat, commenting on how worthless it had been as actual money.
  • Running Gag:
    • "Gentleman Johnny's Party Train" became standard reference for Gen. John Burgoyne's ill-fated Saratoga expedition in Season 2. They even made a T-shirt of it (illustrated by Kate Beaton, no less!)
    • Duncan, who used to be a fishmonger, also seems to have a thing for fishmongers, bringing them up as an example of a "random average citizen" more often than could be explained by mere chance.
    • Duncan's inability to pronounce foreign languages in general, and French in particular, is a repeat source of self-deprecating humor for him.
    • Whenever the matter of Poland is somehow tangential to the story (and it happens every other season, like when Prussia leaves France be to focus on its eastern flank during the French Revolution), Duncan cracks a joke that European history and/or French politics are really being all about Poland.
  • Self-Deprecation: Duncan sometimes turns his Deadpan Snarker tendencies on himself.
    • In the American Revolution season, he referred to a British admiral as being 86 years old. A few episodes later he issued a correction, acknowledging that the admiral was actually 68 years old, not 86, which he admitted made much more sense. In that same episode the admiral made another appearance, and Duncan straight-facedly referred to him as "the 137-year-old" admiral. This led to a humorous callback in Season 7, when Duncan felt it necessary to point out when introducing Marshal Radetzky that he really was 81 in 1848 and he was not making a mistake this time.
    • In the Russian Revolution(s) season, he joked it took him 8 episodes to even begin talking about Russia in the season about Russian history and then another 20 episodes to begin talking about an actual Russian Revolution.
  • Sequel Escalation: The podcast is one to Duncan's previous endeavor, going into the narratives of multiple revolutions and countries over the course nine years.
  • Single-Target Law: A bill of attainder, "the scariest thing you've never heard of" was ultimately used by Parliament to declare two of Charles I's ministers, Wentworth and Laud, guilty and sentenced to death when they couldn't assemble a good enough case against them, helping cement the division that would lead to the English civil wars. Duncan notes that bills of attainder are specifically prohibited in the U.S. Constitution twice.
  • Slavery Is a Special Kind of Evil: Duncan already made allusions to the hypocrisy of preaching liberty, equality and justice while holding slaves in Season 2, but he is particularly hard on slave-holders during season 4 when he talks about the Haitian Revolution. He even compares the founding fathers of the US to the Haitian "big whites", the slaveowners who profited most from the colonial class and race system.
  • Strawman Political: Generally averted but Duncan does have a very liberal perspective i.e. emphasis on reforms from within, focusing on Internal Reformist rather than popular movements from below, which does lead him occasionally to not give some factions and figures within various revolutions their due:
    • He is somewhat sympathetic towards the Levellers during the English Civil War, but argues that their egalitarian political proposals failed because they couldn't compromise and compared their stubbornness to Charles I himself, who was similarly convinced that God himself was on his side and so compromising was a sin.
    • In the case of the French Revolution, Duncan openly hates Jean-Paul Marat and describes him as the Psycho Party Member of the Revolution, which was indeed the common view of Marat by 19th and early 20th Century historians. He was and indeed remains more controversial than even Robespierre. More recent historians and writers have emphasized Marat's instances of moderation, such as when he opposed the Anglophobia common among Revolutions, defending English culture and arguing against narrow nationalismnote , the fact that he was the only Revolution who advocated colonial independence during the eventsnote , that he often intervened to save political opponents from attacksnote  and that most of his wild accusations in his papers (about Mirabeau's corruption, Dumouriez's defection, the war being a mistake) turned out to be accurate.
    • Duncan is also generally dismissive of Louis Antoine de Saint-Just, whom French leftists and other historians regard as the great tragic prodigy of the revolution but Duncan sees as a dilettante young man too arrogant for his own good, which was the view of Simon Schama, author of the widely divisive Citizens which Duncan cites in his Bibliography.
    • In general, "utopian" political ideologies like the Diggers during the English civil war or Robespierre's attempts to build his "Republic of Virtue" during the Great Terror get nothing but scorn from Duncan.
  • Take That!: Duncan makes a couple glancing and critical references to Thomas Carlyle's The French Revolution during the season on...well, you know. In one of them he calls the book "famously incomprehensible."
  • Velvet Revolution: Mostly averted for the revolutions covered in the series, which are almost all violent. In the case of the French Revolution, Duncan discusses the fact that later observers separated the so-called "good" revolution of 1789-1791 from the "bad" revolutions of 1792-1794. This remains a source of fierce contention among historians, a fact Duncan acknowledges and discusses.
    • The events of season 6 get as close as events Duncan describes can possibly get in this department and even then, there is some barricade fighting in Paris note  and a few dead or injured here or there.
  • Villainous Breakdown: General Leclerc of the ill-fated namesake expedition to retake Saint-Domingue goes, over the course of his military occupation of Haiti from an idealistic young army officer horrified by Toussaint Louverture's harsh labor laws and repulsed by the idea of going back on the revolution's ideals of liberty and equality, to a bungler incapable of securing the loyalties of the native population or retaining the affiliation of the American and British forces supplying him, to an embittered officer tacitly admitting that his replacement is going to reinstate slavery and that it was his job to prepare the colony for that, to a paranoiac shut up in his home base in primitive quarantine alternately begging Napoleon for reinforcements and to relieve him of command before the yellow fever ravaging his troops kills him too, to a dying man, wasting away from yellow fever himself, drafting plans to suppress the insurrection so genocidal that even his successor the vicomte de Rochambeau, himself a racist and twisted sadist, balked at implementing them after his death.
  • Warts and All: Mike generally sums up major figures after their deaths, and attempts to acknowledge their virtues and flaws.
    • He's actually somewhat lenient towards the Trope Namer, pointing out that while Oliver Cromwell did reign as an essential military dictator for much of his time in power, he never stopped trying to call up legislative bodies to serve as co-leaders in a constitutional government and was generally more stymied by venal figures outside his control than his own autocratic impulses.
    • He calls Toussaint Louverture nothing less than a political and military genius, one who only hasn't gotten his fair due because of his status as the face of a state formed from a slave insurrection that the other powers didn't like to acknowledge, but also points out that Loverture's first loyalty was always to himself and his own ambitions as much as to Haiti, that he repeatedly gave himself dictatorial powers and used them tyrannically to press the population into a state that barely differed from slavery, and that he lacked the imagination to see an economic future for Haiti beyond the cash crop plantation economy.


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