The Directory was the government that ruled France after the overthrow of the Committee of Public Safety, which had ruled under the "Reign of Terror." This period is sometimes known as the "Thermidorian Reaction" after the month in the French revolutionary calendar in which the Committee was overthrown. That it was called a "reaction" suggests much about the purpose of the new government--it was intended to roll back some of the radical reforms that had taken place after the outbreak of war in Europe. The Directory governed France from 1794 to 1799. It was composed of a bicameral legislature as well as a five man "directory" that served as the executive. These men were chosen by an electoral college not unlike that in the United States, and most were ex-nobles. The purpose of the Directory was to enforce the laws and supervise a number of reforms, including the re-legalization of the Catholic Church and the easing of many wartime measures deemed too radical. As for its influence, the Directory was generally ineffectual. It faced opposition from royalists on the right and Jacobins on the left, and, under extreme economic stress, it was overthrown by a coup d'etat led by general and war hero Napoleon Bonaparte in 1799.
The Directory was the successor government after the collapse of the Committee on Public Safety which had been controlled by Maximilien Robespierre. The National Assembly wrote a new constitution by which the populace were to vote for a series of Electors, all of whom were wealthy men of influence. The electors then voted for a five man committee known as the Directors. These five men constituted the Directory. Their function was to run the Country and prevent yet another Revolution. It was no more successful than the previous governments. A number of demonstrations and protests led to an attempt by the Royalists to regain control. That attempt was ended by Napoleon's "whiff of grapeshot" and was telltale evidence that the army--under Napoleon--would ultimately control the government.