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Was Les Misérables by Victor Hugo Set During the French Revolution?

It's a common misconception that Victor Hugo set Les Misérables during the French Revolution. After all, there's fighting! Championing of the people! The battle against oppression!

June rebellion

Is Les Mis set during the French Revolution?

The films and musicals often play up the revolution portion of Les Misérables, so it's only natural that people associate it with one of France's most widely known historical events. However, Les Misérables is actually set 43 years after the French Revolution took place, during an uprising known as the June Rebellion.

What is Bastille Day?

Bastille Day commemorates the storming of the Bastille—where many political prisoners were held—on July 14, 1789. This sparked the beginning of the six-year French Revolution.

Les Miserables book poster

When is Les Misérables set, if not during the French Revolution?

Victor Hugo was born in 1802, 13 years after the storming of the Bastille. When he began writing Les Misérables in 1845, he immediately thought to incorporate some events he'd witnessed years before as a young man. The inspiration for the later portion of his novel, where the crux of many important character arcs also takes place, is drawn from events Hugo witnessed in the summer of 1832 during the June Rebellion.

What is the June Rebellion of 1832?

The June Rebellion was an anti-monarchist uprising which took place in Paris. The trigger was the death of former Army commander Jean Lamarque—critic of the monarchy and champion of the poor. Enraged by the general disdain of the monarchy toward the people, and the ever-widening wealth gap, thousands of protestors gathered in the streets of Paris.

Les Miserables book poster

Did anything change?

Unfortunately, not much changed in the aftermath of the June Rebellion. Rioters were put on trial and punished, and the King continued to wield regime-like power. The road to the French Republic was long and arduous, and many catalysts like the French Revolution and the June Rebellion made the country what it is today.

Have you read Les Misérables? Seen the film? Watched the musical?

Tell us in the comments below which is your favorite version!

If you're a fan of Les Mis, you'll love our Les Misérables poster,

created using the actual text from Victor Hugo's book.

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1 Comment

May 25, 2023

Les Mis is my all time favorite musical! There is absolutely nothing better!

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