History of French Revolution – Its Causes, Effects & Estates

History of French Revolution – what is French Revolution? Causes of French Revolution Political Social Economic Intellectual King Louis XIV King Louis XV King Louis XVI Structure of French Society Estate General Legislative Assembly National Convention Reign of Terror Directory Rule History of French Revolution Citizenship of Man and Woman Society and Structure Status Effects Impacts Changes The Directory Rule Legacy Conclusion Absolute Monarchy Constitutional Monarchy Republic

History of French Revolution

By Sweety Singh

What is French revolution?

  • A 10 years period of events in France from 1789 to 1799 that led to wide-ranging political and social change and has a huge impact on the modern world.
  • A revolution abolished the monarchy, made France a republic and ended in the dictatorship of napoleon.

Causes of French revolution:

  • Political
  • Social
  • Economic
  • Intellectual

Political cause: The Bourbon despotsHistory of French Revolution

Louis XIV (1643-1715)

  • Absolute despot
  • Centralization of power
  • Many wars- France in debt

Louis XV (1715-1774)

  • Debt increased due to defeat in 7 years
  • Not a good administrator
Louis XVI (1774-1792)
  • Well-intentioned but could not bring bold reforms
  • Backtracked from decisions easily
  • His wife was Austrian- Marie Antoinette ( bad advisor)
  • American war of independence – French help ruined itself for no gains

Social causes:

Division of French society- ancient regime

First estate Second estate Third estate
Clergy (church)

Leaders

Nobility

(nobles)

Farmers, artisans, factory workers, traders, lawyers, public officials

Approx. 1 lakh

10% of the land

Approx. 4 lakhs

25% of the land

Approx. 2.7 crore

95% of the land

  • There was no tax on 1st and 2nd estate, only 3rd estate has to pay the pay
  • No proper taxation system was there
  • There was a lavish lifestyle of 2nd estate called nobles, just opposite of 3rd estate as they were common people sp they are poor
  • The 18th century was known as the high point of French culture
  • The 3rd estate was drowning in various taxes
  • Educated middle-class people like lawyers, public officials, clergy, etc. was known as the the – BOURGEOISIE (French word)
  • The people of Urban workers were in very poor conditions

Economic cause: (triggering cause)

  • Rising population
    • 1700 – approx. 2 crores
    • 1789 – approx. 2.8 crore (an increase of approx. 30%)
  • High debt of war lead to large interest payments – half of the total national budget went to debt repayments
  • Harsh winter causes crop failure which causes an increase in food prices which lead to famine
  • The peasants and common people get angry

Intellectual cause:

  • Also known as the age of enlightenment
  • The printing press was discovered
  • Intellectuals started to questions the king’s right to rule, his mandate from God, the role of the catholic church
  • These ideas spread via newspaper, books and salon discussions
  • Development of science and philosophy, rational thinking famous thinkers and philosophers.

The famous philosophers of that time:-

John Locke (29 August 1632 – 28 October 1704)

  • Father of liberalism
  • Talks about intellectual development

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (28 June 1712 – 2 July 1778)

  •  Talks about people’s sovereignty

Immanuel Kant (22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804)

  • He was a german philosopher

Montesquieu (18 January 1689 – 10 February 1755)

  • He gave the theory of separation of powers
  • Talks about the separation of church and state

Voltaire (21 November 1694 – 30 May 1778)

  •  Talks about freedom of speech and expression

Timeline of the French Revolution:

  • Estate general – 1789
  • National assembly – 1789 to 1791
  • Legislative assembly – 1791 to 1792
  • National convention (reign of terror) – 1792 to 1795
  • Directory rule – 1795 to 1798
  • Coup d’état by Napoleon – 1799

Estate general: [ 5th May 1789]

  • It as a super parliament with a representative from all estate
  • The first meeting was held after 175 years on 5th May 1789 because the financial condition of France was getting very poor
  • The finance minister of the king (necker) gave an idea to increase the tax, so the estate general came
  • Agenda – manage the financial crises [raise tax]
  • Delegates:
  • 300 people of 1st estate
  • 300 people of 2nd estate
  • 600 people of 3rd estate
  • The deadlock was taken place over voting rights: in previous time there was only 1 vote of each estate so the 1st and 2nd estate was always get together so they get 2 votes….. so, the 3rd estate says that all the 600 people should give their individual vote
  • So the 3rd estate declares itself as the national assembly
  • Louis XVI locked out the ‘national assembly’ from the main hall
  • They take the ‘TENNIS COURT OATH’ in Tennis Court aimed at – not to disband until a constitution is in place
  • Some clergy also joins the national assembly

June:

  • All over France, peasants revolt against their local feudal lords – loot granaries and chateaus, burn land records (the great fear)
  • Riots in Paris in support of assembly and against king’s action
  • Breakdown of law and order; revolutionary spirit takes over
  • Louis XVI orders military to assemble in Paris and outside Versailles

July:

  • STORMING OF THE BASTILLE FORT ON 14 JULY 1789
  • Fort used as a prison
  • Symbol of royal oppression
  • Bastille prison looted and torn down by rioters
  • Mainly to get weapons
  • ‘bastille day celebrations’
  • National assembly ( later become national constituent assembly ) ordered abolition of feudalism and levied uniform taxes for all
  • Many nobles fled to neighboring countries in Europe
  • Clergy reduced by 1/3rd – made civil officers
  • Pope gets very angry

ABSOLUTE MONARCHY

TO

CONSTITUTIONAL MONARCHY

 

The national assembly do a declaration of the rights of man and of the citizen:

  • A statement of intent for the constitution (17 articles was there)
  • Based on ideas of the enlightenment
  • Human and civil rights – liberty property security
  • One of the most documents of the world along with Magna carta, US bill of rights
  • The concept of liberty, equality, and fraternity were enshrined in this declaration
  • ‘’man are born and remain free and equal in rights’’
  • Women and slaves – no rights as citizens! They called the passive citizens and the other called the active citizens

October:

  • October 1789
  • Harsh economic conditions and food shortages ( inflation )
  • Rumors of the party in Versailles while Parisians were struggling for bread
  • 7000 women assembled and marched to the palace
  • Asked the royal family to move to PARIS

In 1790:

  • Political groups/parties emerged
  • Constitution was being written down
  • Many clubs formed having their own thoughts/ideas about the change / revolutionary process.
  • Example:-

Jacobins – radical revolutionaries

Girondins – liberals

Society of revolutionaries republican women

Jacobin club:

  • Composed of people from mainly poor classes – artisians, daily workers
  • They believed that power had been consolidated by upper / prosperous middle class and wealthy traders
  • Their leader was Maximilien de Robespierre
  • ‘sans culottes’ – blow knee pants
  • Wear red cap
  • Flag – blue, white and red

 In 1791:

  • king Louis tried to escape to Austria from France but was caught
  • this led to demands for ‘republic’ from people ( jacobins )
  • the constituent assembly was in favour of constitutional monarchy like Britain
  • people protested – national guards sent to suppress them – protesters massacred

legislative assembly:

  • September 1791
  • New constitution
  • King restored as head of state
  • The system failed within a year because of the different demands of various parties and groups (mainly Girondins and Jacobins ).
  • Also, Louis secretly tried to get help from other kings
  • Veto power is in the hand of the king
  • Neighboring monarchies were getting scared of all the anarchy and revolutionary fever spreading in France
  • Austria and Prussia declared support for French monarchy ( declaration of piillintz)
  • France attacked Austria + Prussia in April 1792

Late 1792:

  • August – king and family attacked by radicals in paris
  • Monarchy suspended – the king had tried to help Prussia Austria
  • Legislative assembly suspended itself
  • Republican constitution to be made, elections announced
  • King louis put to trial and sentenced to death ( January 1793 )
  • British, Dutch and Spain joined Austria and Prussia in the ‘coalition’ against France after Louis’ execution—

‘’ THE WAR OF THE FIRST COALITION’’

La marseillaise:

  • French national anthem
  • Written by claude de lisle
  • Revolutionary song to rally people to fight against Austria and other invaders
  • Sung by soldiers marching from ‘marseille’

CONSTITUTIONAL MONARCHY

TO

REPUBLIC

The national convention:

  • September 1792 – October 1795
  • Third government of the revolution
  • Elected by extending suffrage – all 21+ male
  • Monarchy abolished – true republic
  • A small group ‘committee of public safety’ created which took all control / major decisions
  • This committee was dominated by Jacobins

The reign of terror:

  • June 1793 – July 1794
  • Maximilien Robespierre
  • 16000 ‘enemies of the revolution’ guillotined ( executed )
  • Marie Antoinette executed
  • Churches destroyed and closed down\
  • Slavery abolished ( napoleon re-instated it )
  • New calendar – 10 hour, 100 minutes an hour, 10 days a week
  • Food shortages due to war – food from rural to urban areas
  • Regulation of prices
  • Finally, people got sick of Jacobins
  • Jacobins were banned and Robespierre himself was executed

The directory 1795 – 1799

  • A new constitution in 1795
  • Affluent middle class took control
  • No property – no right to vote
  • Bi-cameral legislature
  • An executive body established with 5 directors (to avoid dictatorship like Robespierre)
  • Napoleon led French victories in Italy and Austria – ending the war of 1st coalition

The consulate: 1799 – 1804

  • 30 years old military general Napoleon Bonaparte did a coup against the directory rule and established the ‘consulate’
  • 3 consuls
  • Napoleon himself as the FIRST CONSUL of France
  • In 1804, he declared himself as the ‘’ EMPEROR OF FRANCE’’
Did the revolution change much?
  • Absolute monarchy to military monarchy
  • Church restored by Napolean
  • Nobility returned back to France
  • Even bourbon monarchy restored in 1815
  • Condition of women and slaves – no change
  • Farmers and workers conditions – not much changed

Legacy:

  • Constitutional monarchy – powers of king limited
  • Power of nobility / remaining feudalism gone forever
  • Church’s power highly diminished – an era of religious tolerance
  • Power transferred from nobility to people, especially bourgeoisie ( middle class )
  • Ideas of rights of man were long-lasting – laws apply equally to everyone ……LIBERTY, EQUALITY, AND FRATERNITY
  • Rise of humanitarian movements
  • The Spread of nationalism in Europe
  • Women – education, marriage, freedom to start business and trade

Conclusion: (History of French Revolution)

At last, as we can conclude it by saying that the French revolution ended in 1799 with a coup of the military by Napoleon Bonaparte, as he established himself as France’s first consul. The victory of napoleon over the supposed conquerors re-established the military prowess of France.


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