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The French Revolution

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The French Revolution

The years before the French Revolution (which started in 1789 AD.) were ones of vast, unexpected change and confusion. One of the changes was the decline of the power of the nobles, which had a severe impact on the loyalty of some of the nobles to King Louis XVI. Another change was the increasing power of the newly established middle class, which would result in the monarchy becoming obsolete. The angry and easily manipulated peasants, who were used by the bourgeoisie for their own benefit were another significant change, and finally the decline of the traditional monarchy, that for so long had ruled, were all factors to the main point that the French Revolution was caused by a political base, with social disorder and economic instability contributing to the upheaval. All of the sub-factors relate with one-another, but are separate in their own ways.

For centuries, the French noble was well set in society. He found prosperity and security in the old regime, and all he had to do was pay homage to the king, and provide the king with his services. This all came to a gradual stop, however beginning with the loss of the noble's power over their own land at the hands of Louis XIV.1 This was the foundation of the revolte nobiliaire in the fact that it formed a basis of mistrust, and anger for the monarch.2 In that time the feudal system was still being practiced, so social status was based on the amount of land you could attain. With no land, the nobles saw themselves to be as common as the common folk. Even in their arrogance they saw that they were losing power. The next blow to the pride of the nobles came from
Louis XV, who passed a bill to let wealthy commoners purchase prominent spots in political and social positions. This event shows how corrupt and money hungry the government had become, by letting anyone get high up in the political chain just by feeding the gluttonous king. The next king, Louis XVI saw that the majority of France (75%) was peasants and serfs. Consequently, to try to ensure their happiness (and prevent the Revolution), he had the Estates-General abolish the feudal system, in which they held no ranking.4 This made the nobility extremely unhappy. With no feudal system, they no longer were much higher up politicly than the commoners. The next noble atrocity came with Louis
XVI making the nobles pay taxes. Ever since...

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...hat the monarch was untouchable. Seeing as how Louis was to get his head chopped off, that resolution may not have been a good idea. To make things even more equal and just, the commoners had one of the three votes his Estates-General. This meant fair representation, but it also meant that the nobles were upset with their decline of power and the commoners wanted more of their new-found power. All of these ideas seem to be good ones, but ones that would, and did harm his position. One evidently bad move was to heavily tax everyone. The peasants were already heavily taxed, so they were then brought to famine, the nobles were never taxed before and consequently disgruntled and the middle class just did not like it. If Louis XVI were alive today he would probably be a good politician-too bad the people were not ready for him in 1789.

Historians have argued for centuries over what started the French
Revolution: some say economics, some say politics some say the change of social structure. The only logical answer, then is that it was a little (or a lot) of all three, resulting in the decline of nobility, the rise of the middle class, the anger of the peasants and the fall of monarchy.
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