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The War on Medieval Europe

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Beginning in the 1300s, France experienced social tensions and economic instability that lasted into the nineteenth century. Starting with the Hundred Years’ War and progressing through the American Revolution, France experienced mounting war debts. The monarchy’s common solution was to tax the lower classes, angering the peasants to occasional revolt. Years of a negligent government led to peasants’ anger and resentment toward the French monarchy. On the eve of the French Revolution, famine and economic depression spread across the country. The long-term and immediate instability of France, coupled with the ideals of Enlightenment thinkers, sparked the revolution that French lower classes had desired for centuries.
The predominant causes of peasant revolt in France were the crippling taxes imposed on the Third Estate. Before the French Revolution, the Estate System dominated social status in France. The first two estates, the clergy and nobility, represented only about one-percent of the French population. Combined, they owned about a third of all private property, paid the least in taxes, and held the greatest power in government next to the monarch.
Meanwhile, the Third Estate held all of France’s peasantry and middle class. Despite these citizens being at the low end of the wealth distribution, they paid the most in taxes. The peasantry frequently called for relief, sometimes revolting against the monarchy, but always being stifled before any progress was made. The Jacquerie revolt of 1358 set the tone for future peasant revolts in France. The peasants, rising up against the already oppressive taxes of the time, were crushed by the nobility. With the exception of the monarchy ignoring the revolts, this pattern of oppression l...

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...he revolution. They gave peasants the direction and leadership they needed. France was on the brink of revolution for centuries. The Enlightenment was the final factor necessary for it to move forward.
While the French Revolution may seem as if it was a war between the monarchy and the peasants, it was much more than that. It was secular powers against the domineering Catholic Church, freedom against absolutism, reason against tradition and, most importantly, medieval Europe against modern Europe. The French Revolution was an attack on not just the Old Regime, but more broadly on the oppressive, rigid, religion-centered way of life that existed throughout early modern Europe. Introducing to all of European society the ideas of balance-of-power politics, alliances, total war and secularism, the revolution was the fuel that Europe needed to advance into the modern age.
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