The French Revolution was a time of political and social rebellion in France that began in 1789. Because of the inequalities that existed between the rich and poor. The French Revolution began on July 14th, 1789 when the people of France stormed the Bastille in Paris – a royal fort that had been converted to a prison. The revolution lasted until 1799. Resulting in the abolition of the French royal family, a change in government, further armed conflicts with other countries in Europe, the execution of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, and the beginning of Napoleon Bonaparte’s reign in France.
Some of the interesting facts of the Revolution (categorically) are as follows:
- The French Revolution is regarded as a pivotal event in world history. Caused primarily due to a financial crisis.
- The French Revolution was a revolutionary event which ended in the late 1790s when Napoleon Bonaparte ascended into power.
- The upheaval was caused by widespread discontent with the French monarchy and the poor economic policies of King Louis XVI.
- The revolution and the reign of terror that ensued, led by Robespierre, have caused thousands of casualties. Over 18,000 people were beheaded in all, although some historians estimate the deaths to go as far as 40,000.
- Prior to the French Revolution, it was illegal to worship as a Protestant or as a Jew. These religions were illegal. After the Revolution people were free to follow these religions.
- The event that is commonly known as marking the beginning of the French Revolution is the storming of the Bastille prison. (The details are coming later in the article).
Facts related to the Social impact of the French Revolution:
- France and Britain were rivals. So France helped the Americans during their own Revolution. This greatly impacted France’s already-depleted coffers and increased tension in the country.
- French resigned their political landscape, abolishing an absolute monarch and their feudal system.
- The French Revolution resulted in the freeing of 10,000 African slaves.
- During the French Revolution, many people were sent to The Guillotine to be beheaded. Many more were beheaded in the years following the French Revolution as well – in an era known as the ‘Reign of Terror.’
- It is estimated that as many as 40,000 people were executed at The Guillotine during the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror that followed.
The Royals, The feudalism, and The Third state’s impact on the French Revolution:
- On July 11, 1789, finance minister Jacques Necker, who was already not in good standing with the King, was fired for suggesting that the royal family go on a budget to help conserve funds.
- On July 14, 1789, members of the Third Estate (people of the poorer class) stormed the Bastille. A political prison in Paris, in search of gunpowder.
- The Bastille, though only housing seven prisoners, was a symbol of government tyranny at the time. The assault on the Bastille is now considered a flashpoint of the Revolution and is still celebrated today in France.
- Peasants looted and burned homes of tax collectors and landlords in what became known as “The Great Fear.”
- Many nobles fled France at this time, fearful of the rebellion. This inspired the end of feudalism, which was officially abolished on August 4, 1789.
- Later, the Women’s March on Versailles took place on October 5, 1789. With mainly working women coming together to demand better economic situations. And for the king and his family to move to Paris from Versailles. The King did so the very next day.
- The humanist ideals of the Enlightenment, which were represented in such french philosophers as Voltaire and Rousseau and which argued for the rights of all men, helped foment the Revolution.
- On the same day, Feudalism was abolished.
- The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was created, building off of Enlightenment ideals and seeking to create a government that had equal representation and free speech.
- Both King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette were beheaded during the Revolution.
- When things really heated up in France, Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette, and the family, afraid for their safety, tried to escape the country.
- But they were caught right at the border. For people who didn’t live in Versailles, it was difficult to know what the royal family looked like. There were no pictures, no paintings available to the working classes. But there was still one direct “contact” between the French and the King: the coins!
- The king was beheaded on January 12, 1793. Marie Antoinette followed her husband to “The National Razor” on October 16, 1793.
The French Revolution’s Economic Facts:
- Before the start of the revolution, France was facing a financial crisis.
- This was caused primarily by French involvement in a series of expensive wars.
- Prior to the beginning of the French Revolution peasants were so poor and the cost of food so high that many starved to death. A loaf of bread was equal to a week’s wages.
- The rich were born rich – and vice versa. A person could not work to become wealthy – it could only happen by birth.
- While the poor in France were starving the wealthy lived a life of extravagance.
- France almost became bankrupt because King Louis XVI and those who ascended the throne before him were involved in lavish spending at the cost of commoners’ taxes.
- While the Kings were busy with lavish spending, common people (especially urban poor and peasants had to face several problems like Poor harvest, Cattle disease, Drought, Poor harvest of cereals, Ever-increasing bread prices, Age-old monarchy, and blood-sucking feudalism.
- The absence of bourgeois class (common people such as professionals, merchants and manufacturers, farmers and others) from a political platform.
- Moreover, Excessive population was one the many reasons too. France had 26 million people in 1789.
- France has divided into three Estates: the First was the clergy, the Second was the nobility, and the Third was the rest, which comprised around 98% of the French population.
- As the first two estates had many privileges including exemption from tax, the burden of this financial crisis was placed on the Third Estate and the common people were hungry, unemployed and angry.
- The poor had to pay taxes to the king while the rich did not. This imbalance caused extreme resentment and anger.
Post-Revolution Social Facts:
- The French Revolution changed this dismal fate for France’s citizens.
- The revolution by the common folks gave other countries commoners a new breath of life and they too started trying for their own independence.
- The Enlightenment philosophy made people realize how they were being oppressed by the Catholic Church and promoted a new society based on reason instead of traditions.
- On November 9, 1799, Bonaparte staged a coup d’état that abolished the Directory, the government in power at the time; he then pronounced himself as “first consul” of France. This event ended the French Revolution proper and began the Napoleonic era in France.
- In the end, the French Revolution would lead to a century full of instability, with two more Revolutions taking place. The country would be governed like a dictatorship, republic, constitutional monarchy, and two different empires before reaching equilibrium.
Although it failed to achieve all of its goals and at times degenerated into a chaotic bloodbath, the French Revolution played a critical role in shaping modern nations by showing the world the power inherent in the will of the people.
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