Revolutionary Contagion

60 Pages Posted: 11 Apr 2023 Last revised: 3 Oct 2023

See all articles by Saumitra Jha

Saumitra Jha

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Steven Wilkinson

Yale University

Date Written: September 31, 2023


We compare political mobilization and support for democratic values during the French Revolution among the home bailliages and among individual members of French regiments sent with the Comte de Rochambeau to fight alongside American revolutionaries (1781-83), to others also assigned there who failed to arrive due to logistical failures and British blockade. We provide evidence for revolutionary contagion: bailliages with 10% more Rochambeau veterans were 6.13% more likely to submit grievances to the King that were "Most Strongly Democratic" in 1789. They mobilize political clubs earlier, are more likely to engage in revolt and as individuals were more likely to show loyalty to moderate democratic revolutionary reforms both within the army and the National Assembly. Other veterans mobilize too, but less so and not for democratic principles. Similarly, exposure to Enlightenment ideas has limited effects absent American veterans. We interpret these results as reflecting the complementarity between exposure to democratic ideas and organizational skills of veterans in generating contagion between two of the world's great revolutions.

Keywords: revolution, democratic values, conflict

JEL Classification: N10,O10,Z13

Suggested Citation

Jha, Saumitra and Wilkinson, Steven, Revolutionary Contagion (September 31, 2023). Stanford University Graduate School of Business Research Paper No. 4084, Available at SSRN: or

Saumitra Jha (Contact Author)

Stanford Graduate School of Business ( email )

655 Knight Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5015
United States

Steven Wilkinson

Yale University ( email )

493 College St
New Haven, CT CT 06520
United States

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