Causes of the French Revolution France in 1789 was one of the richest and most powerful nations in Europe. Only in Great Britain
and the Netherlands did the common people have more freedom and less chance of arbitrary punishment. Nonetheless, a popular rebellion would bring the regime of King Louis XVI of France under the control of a constitution, then it would depose, imprison, try, and execute the king and, later, his wife Marie Antoinette. Many factors led to the revolution; to some extent the old order succumbed to its own rigidity in the face of a changing world; to some extent, it fell to the ambitions of a rising bourgeoisie, allied with aggrieved peasants and wage-earners and with individuals of all classes who were influenced by the ideas of the Enlightenment. As the revolution proceeded and as power devolved from the monarchy to legislative bodies, the conflicting interests of these initially allied groups would become the source of conflict and bloodshed. Certainly, all of the following must be counted among the causes of the revolution: Resentment of royal absolutism. Resentment of the seigneurial system by peasants, wage-earners, and a rising bourgeoisie. The rise of enlightenment ideals. An unmanageable national debt, both caused by and exacerbating the burden of a grossly inequitable system of taxation. Food scarcity in the years immediately before the revolution.
Absolutism and privilege
France in 1789 was, at least in theory, an absolute monarchy, an increasingly unpopular form of government at the time. In practice, the king's ability to act on his theoretically absolute power was hemmed in by the (equally resented) power and prerogatives of the nobility and the clergy, the remnants of feudalism. Similarly, the peasants covetously eyed the relatively greater prerogatives of the townspeople. The large and growing middle class -- and some of the nobility and of the working class -- had absorbed the ideology of equality and freedom...