The "Great Fear"

The "Great Fear" (French: la Grande Peur) occurred from July 20 to August 5, 1789 in France at the start of the French Revolution.

Rural unrest had been present in France since the worsening grain shortage of the spring, and the grain supplies were now guarded by local militias as bands of vagrants roamed the countryside. Rumors spread among the peasantry that nobles had hired these vagrants to prey on villages and protect the new harvest from the peasants.

In response, fearful peasants armed themselves in self-defense against the imaginary marauders by robbing the jail Bastille and attacked manor houses. Aristocratic property was ransacked, and documentation recording feudal obligations was destroyed. There were isolated incidents of violence against the aristocrats, but the peasants mostly wanted to destroy the records in which the feudal dues were recorded. Grain supplies were attacked and merchants suffered serious losses as peasants helped themselves to much needed supplies. The revolt spread across the country but gradually burned itself out as militias imposed law and order.