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(ăs`ĭgnăts, äsēnyä`), paper currency issued during the French RevolutionFrench Revolution,
political upheaval of world importance in France that began in 1789. Origins of the Revolution

Historians disagree in evaluating the factors that brought about the Revolution.
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. To redeem the huge public debt and to counterbalance the growing deficit, the revolutionary constituent assembly issued (Dec., 1789) treasury notes, called assignats, to the amount of 400 million livres at 5% interest. These were intended as short-term obligations pending the sale of confiscated crown and church land. They were made legal tender in Apr., 1790, and subsequent issues bore no interest. The currency rapidly became inflated. The strigent financial measures during the Reign of TerrorReign of Terror,
1793–94, period of the French Revolution characterized by a wave of executions of presumed enemies of the state. Directed by the Committee of Public Safety, the Revolutionary government's Terror was essentially a war dictatorship, instituted to rule the
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 temporarily stabilized the valued of the assignat at one-third of its face value. However by early 1796 the assignats in circulation amounted to less than 1% of their original value; their value did not even cover the cost of printing them. Mandats territoriaux [land notes], adopted in 1796 as a new currency also based on confiscated lands, were also soon depreciated. Inflation stopped only when all paper currency was demonetized and redeemed at the rate of 3,000 livres in assignats or 100 francs in land notes to one franc in gold. On May 21, 1797, all unredeemed assignats were declared void.


See study by S. E. Harris (1930, repr. 1969).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



paper money from the period of the Great French Revolution. Assignats were first issued in 1789 in large notes (10,000 livres), with a total sum of 400 million livres. They were issued as interest-bearing state bonds with an annual interest rate of 3–5 percent, and they were supposed to mature in 1–5 years. These assignats were to be guaranteed by confiscated property, primarily by the lands of royal and ecclesiastical domains. The second issue took place in 1790 (800 million livres), with no interest specified. Assignats were declared to be legal tender, and they began to be issued in various small denominations equivalent to metal coins. The output of assignats, by means of which the evergrowing state expenses were covered, rapidly increased, and this led to catastrophic inflation. In February 17% the issuance of assignats was stopped, and in 1797 a law was adopted that declared all assignats to be voided.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Obrok was set at ten assignat rubles per male soul in 1800.
Even if the expenses had been listed for the case, the devaluation of the assignats would have made the figures difficult to interpret.
An example often cited in the 19th century was the assignat experience in revolutionary France before Napoleon restored the gold standard (White [1876] 1933).
In the aftermath of the French Revolution and Napoleon, France was heavily in debt, and the revolutionary regimes had discredited themselves through paper-currency (assignat) inflation.
I, 4, (OPh, II, 67): "Utrum differentia, quam assignat Aristoteles inter litteras et voces et passiones et res, sit conveniens".
(59) The disorder of invasion and civil war was not the bookseller's only worry: there were food shortages; (60) and the government's paper currency, the assignat, had fallen to less than half its face value.
In August of that year, additionally, greater strain on reserves precipitated with the French restoration of its gold standard following the hyperinflation of the assignat. Any specie that flowed inward during the reign of the assignat flowed back to France as financial confidence in France returned.