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7.6 Points To Remember

Causes of the French Revolution

  • France reached its zenith of glory under King Louis IV. But he was involved in wasteful wars which drained the national treasury.

  • Louis V was even worse as he indulged in wars only to please his mistresses. Further, he enforced strict censorship on any criticism of the monarchy in France.

  • Louis VI was well-meaning but lacking in resolve. And he was influenced by the insensitive Queen Marie Antoinette.

  • There were three social classes in France: the First, Second and the Third Estate.

  • Members of the first and second Estate enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle and were completely exempt from taxes. But members of the third Estate (the common men) had to bear the burden of taxation and did not even enjoy the privileges granted to the first and second Estates.

  • Whereas the peasants and workers were starving for lack of means, the nobility and the clergy lived lavishly.

  • Besides, the national treasury was emptied thanks to a lack of a regular budget or planning. The "philosophy of borrowing" first by Nacker and then by Claonne emptied the national treasury.

  • French thinkers brought in the international awakening in France.

  • Through his work, Montesquieu introduced the idea of a government branched into a separate legislature, executive and judiciary. He demonstrated how a lack of this would bring about tyranny.

  • Voltaire, a famous writer, attacked conventional institutions like the church and the state in his work.

  • Rousseau’s ‘social contract’ theory pointed out the offense of the French monarchs.

  • Encyclopaedists also contributed in speaking against slavery, unjust laws and incompetence of the government.

  • Religious intolerance (revoking of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV) was an important factor.

  • The glorious revolution in England encouraged French philosophers to think of economic and political reforms.

  • Though the Americans had overthrown a government of a mother country, the revolution inspired the French to revolt against a tyrannical rule.

Course of the Revolution
  • The third Estate demands to sit with the other Estates for the General assembly. Their request is refused.

  • The members of the third Estate take the famous ‘Tennis Court Oath’ and resolve to remain united until a constitution is established.

  • Thanks to the influential message of Count Mirabeau, all the three Estates could sit together in a ‘National Assembly’ and vote ‘by head’.

  • There were riots in Paris followed by the ‘Fall of the Bastille’ i.e. the triumph of liberty.

  • The Royal palace was invaded by the people and the royal family was moved to Versailles and the National Assembly was shifted from Versailles to Paris.

  • The National Assembly did noteworthy work: it abolished slavery, nationalized the church and came up with a Declaration of Rights of man and of a citizen.

  • A written Constitution was drawn up in 1791; it allowed for a limited monarchy and a separation of powers.

  • Louis XVI took an oath to support the Constitution and the National Assembly was dissolved and finally a Legislative Assembly was established in its place.

  • The Legislative Assembly suspended the king after he spoke against its matters.

  • The National Convention declared the First French Republic in 1792.

  • Louis XVI was guillotined by the National Convention.

  • A coalition of England, Holland, Spain, Sardinia, Austria and Prussia was formed against the First French Republic but the French army defeated it under the leadership of Carnot.

  • A ‘reign of terror’ was unleashed during which the Royalists were executed.

  • A new constitution called the Constitution of the Year third was established by the National Assembly.

  • A decline in the state of domestic affairs led to Napoleon Bonaparte gaining supreme control over the country.

Napoleon Bonaparte

  • Napoleon began his career as an artillery officer but rose to the post of a Brigadier general.

  • He became the first consul after overthrowing the Directory and thus enjoyed dictatorial powers.

  • He led a series of conquests and was badly defeated by the Russians.

  • He centralized the whole of the administration of France.

  • Napoleon introduced a number of economic and educational reforms.

  • A significant religious reform he introduced was the Concordat which ensured freedom of religion to all.

  • He brought in the Code of Napoleon.

Consequences of the Revolution

  • It announced the destruction of the ancient regime and a ‘Declaration of the Rights of man’ was introduced.

  • The fundamentals of "Liberty, Equality and Fraternity" were secured for the people.

  • From therein emerged the child of the Revolution Napoleon Bonaparte.

  • Various economic and social reforms were brought about.

  • Thanks to Napoleon, the ideals of patriotism, democracy and nationalism spread throughout Europe.


[next chapter]


7.0 Introduction
7.1 Causes of the French Revolution
7.2 Course of the Revolution
7.3 Napoleon Bonaparte

7.4 Consequences of the Revolution
7.5 Dates & Events
7.6 Points to Remember

Chapter 8


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