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From Causes of the French Revolution through the Moderate Phase: Best Study Notes

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The Causes of the French Revolution The causes of the French Revolution are complicated, so complicated that a debate still rages among historians regarding origins, causes and results. In general, t... he real causes of the Revolution must be located in the rigid social structure of French society during the ancien regime. The First Estate: The Clergy The Clergy From the outset, the clergy was established as a privileged Estate. The French Catholic Church maintained a wide scope of powers - it literally constituted a state within a state and it had sustained this position for more than 800 years. The Second Estate: The Nobility Like the clergy, the nobility represented another privileged Estate. The nobility held the highest positions in the Church, the army and the government. The Third Estate This estate ostensibly consisted of every one who was not a member of either the First or Second Estates. Totaling approximately 25 million people, the Third Estate was composed of the bourgeoisie, the peasantry and the urban artisans. Royal Absolutism Eighteenth century France was, in theory, an absolute monarchy. By the early 18th century, French kings had nearly succeeded in wresting all power from the nobility. Law There were thirteen distinct regions in France before 1789 and each was under the jurisdiction of a Parlement. Each Parlement contained between fifty and 130 members. They were the local judges and legal elites. Finances By 1789, France was bankrupt. The country could no longer pay its debts, debts that were all the result of war. One example says a great deal about this situation. The Enlightenment The effect of the Enlightenment on the French Revolution has created a debate which will not soon be resolved. The American Revolution Lastly, the American Revolution and the formation of a North American republic in the 1780s served as a profound example to all European observers. The Moderate Stage of the Revolution, 1789-1792 For centuries, Frenchmen had met in local electoral assemblies in order to elect deputies for the Estates General. This was, in theory, a representative institution. However, the Estates General had not been called into session since 1614. From the Estates General to the National Assembly As the Estates General prepared to meet, there was a general consensus of high hope amongst all concerned Frenchmen. Developments in the Countryside The initial stages of the French Revolution occurred in Paris alone. Something very different took place in the countryside. The Flight to Varennes Louis accepted neither the decrees of August 4 nor the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen. However, on October 5, 1789, several hundred Parisian men and women Increasing Radicalism after 1791 With this in mind, there was a sizeable faction within the National Assembly who were so satisfied that they claimed the Revolution to be at an end, since its primary aims had been achieved. But, revolutionary times are unpredictable. [Show More]

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