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The French Revolution

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The French Revolution was a period of time from 1789 to 1799 in France where there was political instability. It officially began on the 14th of July, 1789, when the Bastille, which was a symbol of the King’s harsh policies, was stormed. The King, Louis XVI, the Queen, Marie-Antoinette and about 40,000 people were all brutally murdered. But there was also a positive side, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen was formally adopted on August 1789 and feudalism was abolished. This essay will address the issues of the three estates system, food shortages and the fiscal crisis. It will also be argued that the most significant cause of the French Revolution was the social inequality that stemmed from the three estates system.

Firstly, the three estates system's labelling of social inequality was the most significant cause of the French Revolution. Pre-revolutionary France was split up into three different “estates”. The first estate, consisted of the clergy and made up of 2% of the population. Most of the first estate were rich, such as the bishops and abbots who owned most of the country’s land; however, the parish priests lived just like peasants (Hetherton). The second estate consisted of the nobles and occupied 1% of the population. These were the people who were born into aristocracy, but like the first estate some of them were poor (Hetherton). The third estate was the poorest of the estates. It included the peasants, bourgeoisie and urban workers. However, there were some professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, who earned a good living and were in fact richer than some in the first and second estates (Hetherton). The first and second estates paid no taxes at all and the entirety of the country’s economic burden wa...

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...lthough the King and Queen knew about the economic situation, they continued to spend exorbitant amounts of money on their “wants” rather than the country’s “needs”, which, again, further deepened the people’s hatred towards the monarchial rule. Because of its financial and social effects, the fiscal crisis was an important cause of the French revolution.

In conclusion, social inequality, the food prices and shortages and the fiscal crisis were extremely important in the lead-up to the French Revolution. Social inequality meant that the third estate received unjust treatment, such as hefty taxation, unfair representation, and the majority of physical labour. This led to the third estate storming the Bastille, the trigger of the Revolution. Therefore, the social inequality that developed from the three estates system was the ultimate cause of the French revolution.
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