preview

French Revolution

Satisfactory Essays
French Revolution

"Revolutions evolve in definite phases. At first they are moderate in scope, then they become radical to excess and finally they are brought to abrupt conclusions by the emergence of a strong man to restore order." Discuss this statement with specific references to the French Revolution.

The French Revolution brought about great changes in the society and government of France. The revolution, which lasted from 1789 to 1799, also had far-reaching effects on the rest of Europe. "It introduced democratic ideals to France but did not make the nation a democracy. However, it ended supreme rule by French kings and strengthened the middle class." (Durant, 12) After the revolution began, no European kings, nobles, or other members of the aristocracy could take their powers for granted or ignore the ideals of liberty and equality.

The revolution began with a government financial crisis but quickly became a movement of reform and violent change. In one of the early events, a crowd in Paris captured the Bastille, a royal fortress and hated symbol of oppression. A series of elected legislatures then took control of the government. King Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, were executed. Thousands of others met the same fate in a period known as the Reign of Terror. The revolution ended when Napoleon Bonaparte, a French general, took over the government.

At the beginning of the revolution, events seemed minor and proceeded in a logical fashion. One of the reasons the revolution originated was the discontent among the lower and middle classes in France. By law, society was divided in to three groups called estates. The first estate was made of up clergy, nobles comprised the second and the rest of the citizens, the third estate.

The third estate resented certain advantages of the first two estates. The clergy and nobles did not have to pay most taxes. The third estate, especially the peasants, had to provide almost all the country's tax revenue. Many members of the middle class were also worried by their social status. They were among the most important people in French society but were not recognized as such because they belonged to the third estate.

"Financial crisis developed because the nation had gone deeply into debt to finance the Seven Years War (1756-1763) and the Revolutionary War (1775-1783)." (Durant, 22) The Parliament of Paris insisted that King Louis XVI could borrow more money or raise taxes only by calling a meeting of the States-General.
Get Access