French Revolution

Background Info on the French Revolution

The French Revolution began in 1789 was fulled by the ideas of Enlightenment thinkers. The Enlightenment decreased the authority of the King and people began to understand logic and reasoning instead of traditions. Religion played a key part in the role with the decline in the church credibility. While the philosophies appreciated the value of religion in encouraging social and moral order, the Church itself was condemned for its power and influence. The ideas gave France desire for ordinary people to have more power. The people were inspired by the American Revolution which demonstrated the Enlightenment Ideas. They could see America had created a government with power in the people. In England, the Glorious Revolution was also an attempt to establish Democratic principals of government. The citizens wanted popular sovereignty and inalienable rights for themselves as well. The French Revolution enormously changed France in both long term and short term effects. The monarchy was removed from power, the king and queen executed, and new forms of government struggled for stability in power. The ideas of socialism and social equality grew in popularity.

Declaration of the Rights of Man

The declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen of 1793 was set in place by the National Constitutional Assembly. This document helped protect the citizens rights and had a major influence on the development of the liberty and democracy in Europe as well as worldwide.

Important Players in the French Revolution

Louis XVI- French king; was forced to accept August Decrees and Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen when angry mob of women stormed Versailles in 1789

Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès- Supporter of the Third Estate, author of pamphlet “What is the Third Estate”, primary leaders of the Third Estate’s effort at political and economic reform in France

Jacques Necker- Director general of finance sacked by Louis XVI in 1789; public outrage prompted his reinstatement

Marquis de Layfayette- Nobleman who sided with National Assembly and created French National Guard

Maximilien de Robespierre- Elected as president of Jacobin political faction, helped in writing the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, on Committee of Public Safety, popular for defending the poorest of society.  

First Estate

These were the highest up on the social ladder and not required to pay taxes. These people possessed lots of power and made up about .5% of France's population. They also owned 10% of France's land. (Clergy refers to the Church, priests, etc.)

Second Estate

The Nobles made up about 1.5% of the population and were the richest. They held jobs in the government, armies, courts.

Third Estate

The third estate made up 98% of France's population and was broken down into 3 branches.

Top- Made up of merchants, lawyers, doctors, journalists and professors. They were required to pay taxes

Middle- These were peasants

Bottom- City Workers, that were overworked and underpaid. Also known as the Sans Culottes

Impacts of Napoleon

Phases of Government

Causes of the French Revolution

1. Ideas of the enlightenment and the ease of distributing the written word.

2. Development of a middle class which lacked political power

3. A large gap in wealth between rich and poor.

4. An irresponsible aristocracy; a legacy of the reign of Louis XIV

5. Depression in the 1789, shortages of food, soaring food prices, unemployment in Paris, and overpopulation in Paris

6. Financial crisis at the top, due to the refusal of a privileged aristocracy to shoulder a

share of the financial burden

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