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France Section 1770 - 1789 - Crisis in the old regime

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France Section 1770 - 1789 - Crisis in the old regime

The causes of tensions and conflicts generated in the old regime that contributed to the outbreak of revolution The composition of society was a major contributing factor to the tensions and conflicts generated under the old regime. Society was divided into Three Estates, the first Estate comprised of the clergy (1%), the nobility, and rest of the population was classified as the Third Estate. Not only was the Third Estate heterogeneous, comprising of the bourgeoise (lawyers, doctors, intellectuals, businessman, the traders, merchants, factory owners), peasants, and beggars, but all three Estates. Their were many distinguishing factors that set the three Estates apart. The first two Estates were associated with the monarchy and avoided or paid little taxes, whilst at the same time earning the most money. The Third Estate paid the highest taxes and earnt the least. Lefebvre saw the bourgeoisie as becoming stronger economically but still maintaining the same legal status as that of the poorest peasant. The bourgeois resented their nobles, who were simply 'born' into their position of wealth. They nobles believed that their noble birth' set them apart from the rest of society.' However, the nobility were also dissatisfied under the ancien regime, where they had little, yet still more then the bourgeois, influence in politics. Although the upper clergy enjoyed many privileges, including being exempt from paying taxes, owned about 10 per cent of the land, and received their wealth from the land they owned and the collection of the tithes. Yet, the lower clergy did not enjoy these same privileges, while the 'Bishop plays the great nobleman and spends scandalous sums on hounds, horses, furniture, servants, food and carriages, the parish priest does not have the wherewithal to buy himself a new cassock...the bishops treat their priests , not as honest footman, but as stable-boys.' It is clear that social unrest was felt by the whole population.

Prior to 1780s the people of France blindly accepted the foudations of the Ancien Regime. The period known as the Enlightenment or 'Age of Reason' saw philosophes such as Voltaire and Rousseau attack the Church, and the absolute power of the King and the inequitable social composition of society. For the first time people were questioning the society in which they lived. It became the fashionable conversation of the times, and this propoganda took place in salons, cafes and even educational institutions such as the museum of Paris.
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