(TIME) — How did “left” and “right” acquire their political meanings?
How did such seemingly benign descriptions come to define the political spectrum?
One of the main issues the assembly debated was how much power the king should have, says David A. Bell, a professor of early modern France at Princeton University. Would he have the right to an absolute veto? As the debate continued, those who thought the king should have an absolute veto sat on the right of the president of the assembly, and those who thought he should not — the more radical view — sat on the left of the president of the assembly. In other words, those who wanted to hew closer to tradition were on the right, and those who wanted more change were on the left.