Gabe Paris Revolution 1830 2.png
Gabe Paris Revolution 1830 2.png


According to the French historians Mireille Huchon and Eric Hazan, the word 'barricade' made its first appearance in French in the Commentaries of Blaise de Monluc in the 1570s. On 13 May 1588, barricades were used in Paris for the first time after the King had summoned troops into the city, in violation of the city's privilege of not receiving soldiers within its walls (and these were mainly Swiss Guards, and thus foreign troops and doubly offensive!). So extensively were the streets blocked that the King was forced to leave the city and the troops ignominiously withdrew. Mark Traugott has, however, shown that there is evidence of earlier use, and a complex relationship between barricades and the more common (and earlier) practice of stretching metal chains across streets to prevent the passage of horses and carriages. That relationship is complicated because a chain is not a barricade, and the practices were not described using the same terminology. Nonetheless, the chain came to be used in a way that prefigures the barricade - appearing when citizens attempted to control movement in the city, especially in relation to royal attempts to impose authority - so much so that the city was deprived of its chains in the 1380s, and they returned in a bid to win popular support only after 1415.

The barricade did not contribute much to the French Revolution, since there was little fighting in the streets of the city, at least until the fall of Robespierre and the rise of protest from the poorer areas about the the price of provisions (and the abandonment of the principles of the Revolution). In May 1795, the faubourgs of St Antoine and Marceau rose in revolt and invaded the National Convention on 20 May/4 prairial. When the government regained control, they sent troops to suppress the insurgents in St Antoine. As government troops entered the faubourg, the people set up barricades to prevent their retreat, and the military responded by forcing their way through and seizing the cannons of the insurgents - thirty six of whom were arrested and condemned to death.

The barricade did not reappear in Paris until November 1827, when the rue St Denis was blocked, unblocked, and re-blocked over two days, in protest at a series of decrees strengthening the increasingly unpopular government and the King. Although short-lived, the events served as a model for citizen action against the crown in the Revolution of 1830.

'Entassement de matériaux et d'objets divers servant à interdire le passage et à se mettre à couvert de l'adversaire dans un combat de rues.' 
That is:
The stacking of various materials and objects
to block the passage of people and to take
cover from opponents in a street fight: - or
an improvised barrier erected across a street or other thoroughfare to prevent or delay the movement of opposing forces.   

The foremost historian of the 'barricade', Mark Traugott, defines a barricade as: 'an improvised structure, built and defended by civilian insurgents as a means of laying claim to urban space and mobilizing against military or police forces representing the constituted authorities. In the clearest examples, contemporary observers and/or the insurgents themselves will explicitly label such a structure a barricade, though their reversion to recognizable patterns of behaviour long associated with barricade construction may also be sufficient to confirm the attribution.' 

Mark Traugott, The Insurgent Barricade (University of California Press, 2010)

Mireille Huchon, 'Petit Historie du mot barricade' in Alain Corbin, Jean-Marie Mayeur (dir.), La barricade. (Paris, Éditions de la Sorbonne, 1997)

Eric Hazan, A Hidtory of the Barricade (Paris, 20143; London, 2015)