Chapter 17: Revolution in France

September 20, 2009 | | Comments Off on Chapter 17: Revolution in France


Declaration of the Rights of Man

Declaration of the Rights of Man




Significant contributing events

-The Enlightenment  







Enlightenment ideology spreading through Europe, which emphasized freedom and equality. Philosophers including: Voltaire, Turgot. 


-Western Influence 



US Constitution

US Constitution



  • -With the success of the American Revolution, the idea of a revolution being plausible was renewed, sparking increased dissent among proponents of radical thought.
  • -Interaction between notable Americans and french philosophers, helped to foster new thought.

-Economic crisis


  • -Increasing amounts of debt in France, due to heavy spending of the crown, caused increased taxing of both the lower and upper economic classes.
  • -Funding of the colonists in the American Revolution, had severely depleted French reserves. 



  • -With a poor harvest of grain, the lower class was effectively on the edge of starvation. When the Little Ice Age struck, grain (the primary crop for the lower class) became non-existent. This caused a large influx into cities due to unemployment, increasing the shortage and resulting in disease. 


Important reading notes                       french_revolution_serment_du_jeu_de_paume_tennis_court_oath


  • -Louis XVI took the lead in a time of economic trouble.
  • -The French and Indian War had been made possible on bad loans by the government, which were only to be paid back if a victory occured.
  • -The aristocracy and noblesse de robe refused to pay taxes, due to their control of the government.
  • -The poor were heavily taxed, and once the American Revolution started, increases in dues were made again.
  • -Reform was made impossible, due to the Church not accepting reform on the rights of the clergy. 
  • -Louis XVI called a The Estates General meeting, which involved laborers, peasants, business people, lawyers, etc. 
  • -This council was one of the first times that common people were given the opportunity to influence government affairs.
  • -When the council met on May 1789, there were 300 delegates from the First and Second Estates (Nobles and Clergy), with 600 from the Third Estate.
  • -With first and second estates refusing to allow a fair voting process on issues, tensions rose.
  • -This caused the Third Estate to declare itself the National Assembly of France.
  • -This was in effect until a new constitution was drafted.
  • -The council caused a large media storm, which awakened the peasants to the issues at hand.
  • -Fall of the Bastille
  • -Louis XVI refused to acknowledge the presence of the National Assembly, and called for extra troops in a show power. 
  • -This was seen as a threat by the peasants who stormed the Bastille on July 14, 1789.
  • -The army of the Third Estate was formed, and was named the National Guard.
  • -With the battle of the Bastille, similar riots began to occur throughout the country.
  • -The suspension of the king by the Legislative Assembly resulted in eventual death by guillotine for he and Marie Antoniette. 
  • -Radical Jacobins assumed control of the convention, resulting in strong central control over government departments and emergency powers that were overseeing the economic and military crisis.
  • -The urban lower class supported radical policies, and arrested the moderate members of the convention.
  • -These moderate members (the Girondins), were executed.
  • -This led for limited opposition to the Jacobins, who took control over all departments. 
  • -The Jacobins took control of the 12 member Council of Public Safety, which they used as a tool to increase radical power.
  • -An army was built with numbers of 800,000, who fought for the ideals of the people (liberty and equality).
  • -This greatly helped the struggle against Austria and Prussia, whom the nation was at war with.
  • -The army succeeded in pushing back troops in Belgium and Rhineland, taking the offensive for the first time.
  • -Meanwhile, Maximilien Robespierre (1758-1794) was elected to lead the Jacobin Public Safety Council, which led a fight for financial equality, based on Republic of Virtue thought, which was created to ensure not extremes of wealth and power. A Law of the Maximum was made, to control the price of bread and flour. 
  • -Robespierre led riots and convictions against members of the convention who he deemed to be threats of the people, resulting in a killing spree, which ended after the convention itself rejected the Jacobins, and killed them by Guillotine. 
  • -The war on the domestic and international fronts were won, causing the convention to see its mission as complete. 
  • -A new constitution was drafted at the same time, which did not give the right to vote to nobles.
  • -A Directory was founded, which served as a temporary government.
  • -With the revolution complete, the changes were large: rejection of feudalism, ban on noble exemption, removal of the throne, and provisions against the church from influencing affairs of the state.


-Sources of interest


  –Timeline of Revolution 

  –List of revolutionary leaders













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