An Assessment Of The French Revolution

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The word Revolution means ‘the complete overthrow of a system of government together with its social, economic and cultural foundations’ and according to Historian Norman Davies, the French Revolution was the main event which created this definition. From the Absolute Monarchy of King Louis XVI to the military rule of Napoleon Bonaparte the French seen many changes to their culture, society and economy. The French Revolution took place from 1789 until 1799 however tension had been rising in France for many years before this. At this time, France was one of the largest European countries with approximately 26 million inhabitants. It had a well-developed industry and trade. The revolution played a vital role in how modern nations are shaped by showing how powerful the will of the people is. Its main causes were the changes that had taken place within the French society during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Like the American Revolution before it, ideals of Enlightenment played an influential part, like the concept of popular sovereignty and inalienable rights of man[1]. France previously had a very rigid social structure from during the ‘Ancien Regime’ and the French society started to be influenced by the idea of what the American Revolutionaries had achieved. French society was split into three estates: The Nobility, The Clergy and The Third Estate, this is everyone else in French society i.e. Bourgies and Peasants. There was growing discontent of the Third Estate, who criticized the privilege of the nobility and clergy and increasing government taxes. France was in huge financial difficulty following its involvement in the American Revolution as well as a food crisis which was crippling the economy. France suffered its worst harvest in forty years due to a hailstorm which destroyed crops in July 1788 followed by a severe winter. This created a food
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