During the French Revolution, France underwent a period of profound political and social change. In the end, the French consulate was established in 1799. The various activities and deeds of the French Revolution are regarded as the fundamental principles of liberal democracy. For the UPSC Exam, read up on the French Revolution.
A significant nationalist movement in Europe, the French Revolution was an effort by the constitutional monarchy to usurp the absolute monarchy. On the other hand, some chosen individuals in France gained the undisputed authority to rule in a particular manner at this time, therefore it was a period that literally made the transfer of power.
French Revolution Causes
Social causes like individual inequality sparked the notion of revolution that eventually became the French Revolution. In both the civil and military spheres, the highest positions were reserved for the feudal. Since they constituted less than 1% of the population, 60% of the land was set aside for them, and the poor were made to perform limited labor on feudal grounds.
The next favored class was the Clergy, who controlled 1/5 of France’s land due to the influence of religion on both the populace and the King. They had no property taxes to pay. Then there were the ordinary people, who stood at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Four and five taxes were due from them. They were also slaves, obliged to work.
In the 18th century, some intellectuals influenced society by criticizing the monarchy in Montesquieu’s book Spirit of Law. As a result, it has gained widespread acceptance. It backed parliamentary democracy while also criticizing the monarchy. Free, a different proponent of economic reform backed the change by calling for changes in business, commerce, and agriculture. But after Voltaire, an atheist started challenging the Monarchy and religious corruption in society, the French Revolution turned against the clergy sector of society.
He propagated the idea that the Burbo must be removed and that there should be a limited monarchy. And his ideas left many speechless. All throughout, his ideas were honored and put into practice. Rousseau, a different political philosopher, condemned the hypocrisy and corruption of the clergy. He also advanced the ideas of liberty, popular sovereignty, the ability to enact laws, the social compact and creative transformation, among other ideas.
The clergy and the upper class were already detested. They had no constraints and had not paid any taxes. Clergy power over the lives of common people existed. This blatant inequality between the high and lower classes led to the French Revolution for outrageous reasons. Even the Roman Catholics and their monopoly became the target of a rebellion.
The government did nothing to try to improve the state’s farming industry. Farmers were instead taken advantage of, which caused them to rebel against the lords. Along with this, the disgruntled business owners were sick of paying ambiguous taxes. The cost of taxes was driving people into bankruptcy. It caused the society to become morally, socially, and economically stagnant.
It is a significant factor in the revolution that has erupted in France. The Bourbon dynasty ruled the country at the time. All social groups turned against the centralised power because of it. Along with this legal risk, a bad justice system, Imperial conquest, and economic strain fueled the aggression that gave rise to the uprising. Additionally, Louis XVI was in charge of the country in 1774, but during his reign, the financial situation deteriorated. Consequently, troops were dispatched to support the Americans in their struggle with Britain.
French Revolution Timeline
Year 1789: the Meeting of the Estate Generals
The Estates General Assembly served as the voice of the French middle class and nobility in 1789. In May 1789, Louis XVI called their representatives to debate the new tax laws. At this point, the French populace as a whole had amassed enough support to participate in the decision-making process. They were clamoring for the right to vote. People from the middle class backed this choice. They supported political and judicial changes.
The nobles may have opposed this demand because they did not want to give up their opulent privileges. As a result, the National Assembly was created by the third estate, or the common folk in society. In June 1789, the Assembly’s members took the Tennis Court oath. They committed to stay unbiased in all the implemented improvements. All three of the assemblies were incorporated into the new order as a result of the circumstances that emerged.
Year 1789-92: The revolution
The National Assemblies carried on operating at Versailles as such after the assemblies were combined into one. However, dread and violence swept the country at this time. This led to an uprising in France that, on July 14, 1789, captured the Bastille fortress. Following this, the French Revolution signaled its start.
The uprising spread a wave of revolutionary zeal across the countryside. The homes of the aristocracy were set on fire and exposed to the public, and the tax collectors forced the nobles to flee the area in large numbers. This time period was referred regarded as the Great Fear in the history of the French Revolution. The National Assembly was eventually converted to feudalism on August 4, 1789.
Year 1789: The Declaration of Rights of the Man
Following feudalism, the Assembly enacted the citizen and man’s rights. The Assembly’s charter was built upon democratic ideas. In addition, it is based on the political and intellectual theories of thinkers associated with the Enlightenment, such as Jena-Jacques Rosseau. The French Constitution, which limited the King’s authority, was enacted later in September 1791. However, it was insufficient for the more extreme assembly members.
Year 1793-95: The Reign of Terror
On August 10, 1792, a party of rebels assaulted the royal house in Paris and captured Louis XVI. Additionally, there were numerous massacres in Paris. Following this, the Legislative Assembly that had proclaimed the end of the monarchy and the founding of the French Republic was replaced by the National Convention. However, one significant occasion during this time was the passing of King Louis XVI on January 21, 1793.
But it didn’t come to this. Instead, after nine months, Marie Antoinette, the wife of King Louis XVI, was put to death. The Reign of Terror officially began as a result of this. It turned into one of the bloodiest and unrest-filled periods of the French Revolution. Controlling the National Convention, Robespierre was put to death for his counterrevolutionary actions and possible treason. After Robespierre’s execution on July 28, 1794, this phase was over.
Year 1795: Directory and the Rise of Napoleon
The new Constitution was approved by the National Convention in 1795. The bicameral legislature of France was established in accordance with this Constitution. The Directory is a five-person group that was created by the parliament. Additionally, under General Napoleon Bonaparte, an army was trained. Compared to the Directory, the army has many more powers. The “first consul” was Napoleon himself. Following this, the French Revolution was over, ushering in the start of the Napoleonic era.
French Revolution Significance
1. Closing the Social Gap
Prior to the French Revolution, social stratification existed. Nevertheless, the French Revolution outlawed social inequality and proclaimed universal equality. The eradication of socioeconomic inequality paved the way for the middle class’ ascent and subsequent societal transformation..
2. Political Parties
France became a multiparty state as a result of the French Revolution involving numerous nations with diverse political ideologies. It results in the freedom of association, spawning political organizations like the Cordeliers and Jacobins, among others. These parties are vying with one another for control. They monitor the government and criticize poor policies.
3. Declaration of Human Rights
The Constitutional Assembly’s documents granted political liberties such the freedom of speech, association, press, ownership of property, and religion..
4. End of Monarchy
The Bourbon Monarchy ruled France for more than 400 years. However, the Monarchy’s control came to an end in 1792 during the French Revolution. It was succeeded by the Republican system of governance. Nevertheless, as Napoleon’s reign failed, the regulation was reinstated. Due to the French Revolution’s weakening of the Monarchy, it may have continued until 1830.
5. Advent of Revolutionary Concepts
Fraternity, equality, and liberty were revolutionary concepts in France at the time of the French Revolution. France ended up being the country that started democracy. Later, the revolutionary principles spread to other nations, including as Germany and Italy, where they started to advance freedom, equality, democracy, and good government.
6. Rule of Law and the Constitution
There was no constitution to protect people’s freedom and rights prior to the French Revolution. But after the French Revolution was over, the Constitution established the rule of law in France. Separation of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government came about after the adoption of the Constitution.
7. Legislative Democracy
The French Revolution led to the revival of the parliament. For more than 175 years, France’s parliament was not in session, but the revolution brought back the democratically elected parliamentary system..
8. Land ownership
Prior to the French Revolution, the clergy and nobility ruled the country. However, there were numerous changes in France’s land ownership structure after the revolution. It also brought fresh improvements to French society in addition to this. As a result, the working classes are granted the right to own land.
9. National Guard
The protection of the Bourbon monarchy was under the purview of the royal guard. After the revolution, the National Guard, a revolutionary army, took its place. It was in charge of guarding the successes of the French Revolution.
French Revolution Role of Women
France’s treatment of women was comparable to that of other countries. They were forbidden from attending school or receiving any kind of instruction. The girls of wealthy individuals or social nobility, however, may enjoy the advantage of receiving an education.
The lower-class women had to work to support themselves, but they earned less money each day than males did. Additionally, the women of the day were in charge of running the entire household and looking after the kids. But during the war, the women of the society reversed the script and took an active role. They created one of the most well-known political organizations, the Society of Revolutionary and Republican Women.
Women were later classified as passive citizens in the French Constitution, which was adopted in 1791. They nevertheless campaigned for their rights and pushed for the opportunity to vote. At the conclusion of the revolution, they were able to successfully change their social status. For women, the government passed legislation. All girls were required to attend school, and special schools were set up. Additionally, the ladies legalized divorce and were not coerced into marriage. Additionally, women were given the freedom to own a modest business and practice their craft.
French Revolution Impacts
The values of “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity” were introduced to the world during the French revolution. A republic with people as its cornerstones was first conceived. The importance of the laborers, farmers, and peasants in the community was acknowledged. The Declaration of Rights served as a model that other countries were to adopt.
Slavery was abolished in French colonies. Additionally, as Spain and Portugal’s colonies were cut off from the continent and quickly attained independence, the occupation of Spain and Portugal was advantageous for South and Central America. The revolution was mostly supported by workers, and soon a new type of economic order that respected workers’ rights would emerge.
French Revolution Summary
The French Revolution in 1789 is where nationalism in Europe first emerged. The then-absolute monarchy of France was to be replaced by a republic and a constitutional monarchy as a result of the revolution. Despite being a wealthy minority, the French people suddenly had the power to rule. For UPSC preparation, this article provides comprehensive information about the French Revolution.
French Revolution FAQs
Q) What happened in the French Revolution and why?
Ans. It put an end to the French monarchy, feudalism, and took political power from the Catholic Church.
Q) What were the 3 main causes of the French Revolution?
Ans. The Estate System, Absolutism, and food shortages are the three main causes of the French Revolution.
Q) What caused the French Revolution?
Ans. The French Revolution began in 1789 and lasted until 1794. King Louis XVI needed more money, but had failed to raise more taxes when he had called a meeting of the Estates General.
Q) What was the French Revolution short summary?
Ans. The French Revolution was a watershed event in world history that began in 1789 and ended in the late 1790s with the ascent of Napoleon Bonaparte. During this period, French citizens radically altered their political landscape, uprooting centuries-old institutions such as the monarchy and the feudal system.
Q) What ended the French Revolution?
Ans. The French Revolution was a period of radical political and societal change in France that began with the Estates General of 1789 and ended with the formation of the French Consulate in November 1799.