French Revolution

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03 French Revolution

Causes of the French Revolution:

1. Social Causes

  • The 18th century French society was divided into three estates where only the people of the third estate were expected to pay taxes.

2. Economic Causes

  • Long years of war had drained the country’s financial resources.
  • Maintenance of the Palace of Versailles involved a great deal of expenses.
  • The rapid increase in the population of France led to an increase in the demand for foodgrains.

Role of the Middle Class:

  • The eighteenth century witnessed the emergence of the middle class who earned their wealth through overseas trade and manufacture of goods such as woollen and silk textiles.
  • The third estate also included lawyers or administrative officials who were educated and believed that no group in society should be privileged by birth.

The Outbreak of the Revolution:

  • The Estates General was convened on 5th May 1789 at Versailles.
  • On 20th June 1789, the members of the third estate gathered in Versailles and declared themselves as the National Assembly.
  • On August 4th 1789, King Louis recognized the National Assembly and agreed to abide by their framework.

France becomes a Constitutional Monarchy:

  • In 1791, France became a constitutional monarchy with the King having to share power with the legislature and the Judiciary.
  • All women and children, and men who did not fall into the category of active citizens, were denied the right to vote.
  • Rights such as the rights to life, the freedom of speech, the freedom of opinion and equality before the law were included.

France becomes a Republic:

  • In the summer of 1792 the Jacobins planned an insurrection of a large number of Parisians who were angered by the short supplies and high prices of food.
  • On the morning of August 10 they stormed the Palace of the Tuileries, massacred the king’s guards and held the king as hostage for several hours.
  • From then on all men of 21 years and above got the right to vote.
  • On 21 September 1792, the newly elected assembly abolished the monarchy and declared France a republic.
  • Charged of treason, on 21 January 1793 Louis XVI was executed publicly at the Place de la Concorde. The queen Marie Antoinette met with the same fate shortly after.

The Reign of Terror:

  • The period from 1793 to 1794 was referred to as the Reign of Terror due to Robespierre’s policy of severe control and punishment.
  • Robespierre pursued his policies so relentlessly that even his supporters began to demand moderation.
  • In July 1794, he was arrested and on the next day sent to the guillotine.

Women and revolution:

  • In order to discuss and voice their interests, women started their own political clubs and newspapers.
  • They demanded the right to vote, to be elected to the Assembly and to hold political office.

The Abolition of Slavery:

  • The National Convention voted to abolish slavery in all the French colonies on February 4, 1794 which was reintroduced in the French colonies by Napoleon Bonaparte.
  • Slavery was finally abolished in 1848 by the French Second Republic.

The Rise of Napoleon Bonaparte:

  • In 1804 Napoleon Bonaparte made himself the emperor of France.
  • On attaining power, he conquered all neighbouring European countries, dispossessed dynasties and created kingdoms for the members of his family.
  • He introduced many laws such as the protection of private property and a uniform system of weights and measures provided by the decimal system.
  • He was defeated at Waterloo in 1815.

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