Be it the ICSE or CBSE class 9 syllabus, there are scores of topics which you will study in the Social Studies subject. Divided into Economics, Geography, Political Science, and History, its syllabus is exhaustive in nature. Amongst all, History, in particular, the French Revolution is considered the trickiest due to its vast timelines and the numerous events that unfolded in that phase. So, in this blog, we have collated the French Revolution notes in a clear and concise way to provide you with a better understanding of the topic.
This Blog Includes:
- French Revolution Notes: Some Important Dates and Events
- What is the French Revolution?
- French Society during the late 18th Century
- What Were the Causes of the French Revolution?
- The Role of Middle Class
- Phases of the French Revolution
- The Outbreak of the French Revolution
- The Rise and Fall of Napoleon Bonaparte
- Global Impact of the French Revolution
- Significance of the French Revolution
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French Revolution Notes: Some Important Dates and Events
|1774||Louis XVI becomes king in the most unstable time for the economy, and discontent rises, which leads to the French Revolution.|
|1789||Convection of Estate Generals, rejection and revolt at the National Assembly, the storming of the Bastille and revolts in the countryside.|
|1791||The Constitution is drafted and used to limit the Monarch’s powers and guarantee rights for everyone.|
|1793-94||France becomes Republic, Guillotine of the King, the Jacobin republic gets squashed, and a Directory starts ruling France.|
|1804-1815||Bonaparte rises as a military dictator annexing kingdoms finally to be defeated at Waterloo.|
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What is the French Revolution?
The French Revolution started in 1789, and dethroned the then-existing political institutions, removed the French Monarchy, and cemented a just, responsible government. The siege of the Bastille on 14 July 1789 led to the France revolution. It ended with Napoleon Bonaparte’s rise to power.
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French Society during the late 18th Century
Right after the war in 1774, with Louis XVI ascending the throne, these were the main traits shaping up French Society during the 18th century.
- Upholding traditional and hierarchical values, French society was divided into three estates. The first and the highest form of estates consisted of Clergymen, the second was the Nobles, and the third consisted of common people including peasants.
- Almost 60% of French land was owned by a small group of clergymen and nobles. On the other hand, the peasants who were 90% of the entire French population hardly owned any causing a very distinct difference in the living standards of these three societies.
- Although the clergymen and nobles sowed 60% of French land, they were exempted from paying taxes by the king. Only one-third of the entire French population which comprised the peasant class was required to pay taxes.
- Other than paying land tax to the King, the peasant community also had to pay feudal dues to the higher classes which added an extra burden to their financial situation and many ended up selling their lands to the feudal class.
- The church, which was the highest institution after the King, also levied religious taxes called ‘tithe’ on the French population. Other than that, the third estate was also charged with direct taxes called ‘taille’ and indirect taxes on tobacco, salt, and other such essential commodities.
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What Were the Causes of the French Revolution?
When it comes to the French Revolution notes, the very first step is to understand the reason that led to the revolt. Enlisted are the major reasons for the start of the revolution.
French society was divided into 3 states:
- The first estate consisted of the clergy class. These people were exempted from paying any taxes.
- The second estate consisted of the nobilities. On top of being exempted from taxes, they also enjoyed favourable feudal laws and privileges. One of those privileges was feudal dues extracted from the peasants.
- The third estate consisted of the majority of the population. It comprised big businessmen, merchants, lawyers, peasants, servants, and laborers. The third estate was oppressed with Taille taxes levied on essential daily items like salt and tobacco.
- An overbearing population rise in France was one of the major causes of the French Revolution. The population grew from 23 million to 28 million in 1789. The increment in daily essentials was not met, breaking society.
- The labour class was employed on fixed wages, which remained the same through the inflation of prices. On top of it, the third estate had to meet three different taxes and feudal dues.
- All of this led to a subsistence crisis (people couldn’t meet the necessities of living).
Other than a failing political administration that focused on levying numerous taxes, these were the main political causes behind the French Revolution:
- 1774 saw the appointment of Louis XVI as the monarch king of France, also known as the puppet king. He faced an empty treasury, drained through years of wars. He was manipulated by the queen- Marie Antoniette.
- He was helping his overseas allies gain victory over Britain, their common enemy. But this drained their resources in an unprecedented manner.
- The heightened money demand to keep up necessities from the government caused a significant increment in taxes.
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The Role of Middle Class
The French Revolution was in major parts due to the rise of another social stratum, the middle class. The 18th century saw the rise of educated men who had the means to bring about large-scale changes and get their voices heard. The middle class consisted of overseas tradesmen, manufacturers, and large-scale business owners. They actively worked on spreading freedom philosophy and ideas against oppression. In the French Revolution notes, many political figures have been mentioned. Some of them have been listed below:
- Charles Montesquieu – A nobleman by birth, he was outspoken against oppressive policies. He was a lawyer and fought for the division of power inside the government, against the absolute power of the government.
- Jean Jacques Rousseau – He is also known as the architect of the French Revolution. He proposed a social contract between people and their representatives, and if the government is found in violation of this contract, they had the right to take action against them.
- John Locke – A political thinker that refuted the divine doctrine and worked to empower the people.
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Phases of the French Revolution
The Outbreak of the French Revolution
Now that you have understood the primary reasons for the revolt, let us now, through the concise French Revolution notes go through the events that unfolded.
The Struggle to Survive (1780-90)
Right after the war, these were the proceedings that led to outrage in the French population.
- There was a sudden increase in the French population which led to rapid demand for food consumption. This started to cause food scarcity in society.
- The production amount of essential grains was comparatively less than the growing population required. Due to this, there were sudden hikes in food prices and the peasant class could hardly afford it.
- Natural calamities such as drought or hail were also major factors that affected an already submerging food production level of France.
- As labourers and peasants were getting paid very low wages during that time, the standard of living gap between the rich and the poor widened.
A Growing Middle Class Envisages an End to Privileges
Due to the ongoing problems, this is how the middle class started adapting to the problems in a distraught society.
- With access to education and new ideas, the third estate became aware of their rights and started participating in revolts against taxes and food scarcity.
- The emergence of new social groups that acted as the pressurizing factors to the monarchy started to earn a significant amount of wealth through overseas trading.
- This emerging middle class mostly consisted of lawyers and administrative officials as social positions started to be categorised through a person’s merit.
- These middle-class societies believed in meritious achievements and not in any form of privilege by birth.
- With philosophers and political thinkers such as Rosseau and Montesquieu proposing ideas on social contracts and a new type of government, France started inclining towards a future that looked less monarchical.
The Outbreak of the Revolution
The beginning of French Revolution started as mentioned below:
- On 5 May 1789, Louis XVI held an assembly to pass proposals for a new form of taxes which was boycotted by the third estate.
- They found the voting system unfair and swore not to attend any assembly unless a constitution is drafted limiting the power of the monarchy.
- On the other hand, rumours started spreading amongst the peasant community that the nobility was hiring bands of brigades to destroy ripe crops in order to increase the shortage of food production in the market.
- The peasants retaliated by looting stored grains and burning down records of mortgage payments while the nobilities fled.
- Louis XVI had to accord recognition to the National Assembly to bring an end to these uprisings
- On 14th August 1789, the National Assembly passed the decree abolishing the feudal system and unequal tax system.
France Becomes a Constitutional Monarchy
After the National Assembly gained recognition and power, the administrative system in France started to change as follows:
- 1791 was when the national assembly drafted the constitution. It divided the powers to the judiciary, executive, and legislature, taking away powers from just one institution.
- An indirect election was used as the method to make laws in the national assembly.
- Citizens above 25 years of age and tax payees of at least three days of labourer’s wage were termed active citizens allowed to vote.
- Basic rights were ingrained in the constitution. Freedom of speech, freedom of opinion, equality of law, etc. were some of those rights.
France abolished Monarchy and becomes a Republic (1792)
Other than France going on a war with Prussia and Austria initiated by the National Assembly, these were the main proceedings while abolishing the monarchy.
- Louis XVI started secret negotiations with the king of Prussia.
- Neighbouring countries wanted to seize the opportunities of the events ongoing due to the French Revolution. The National assembly declares war on Prussia and Austria.
- The 1791 constitution gave political rights to the rich section of the public. This led to a revolt in Paris against the people. Later, the Royal families were imprisoned and elections were held.
- The newly elected assembly was termed the Convection. It abolished the Monarchy in 1792 and made France a republic.
The Reign of Terror
- From 1793 to 1794, Robespierre Convection used strict policies and brutal punishment to gain effective control.
- All opposers were shut down, imprisoned, or incarcerated.
- If found guilty, they were mercilessly guillotined in public settings to send a message.
- Meat and bread were rationed, and peasants suffered losses due to selling at fixed prices set by the government.
Directory Rules France
- A new constitution abolished voting on non-propertied sections of society.
- It introduced a directory that was elected by two legislative councils.
- The clashing of the directory with the legislative paved the way for the rise of the Military dictator, Napoleon Bonaparte.
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The Rise and Fall of Napoleon Bonaparte
- In 1804, Napoleon seized the reins of France and declared himself Emperor. He started conquering neighbouring nations and established his dominance by making kingdoms ruling through his family members.
- The feudal system was abolished. Bonaparte saw himself as a modernizer and introduced private property protection laws and equal weight & measure systems in decimals.
- Initially hailed as a liberator, his military tactics were soon termed crude, invading, and violent.
- The battle of Waterloo in 1815 saw his defeat.
Global Impact of the French Revolution
The French Revolution irrevocably altered contemporary history, and many nations drew inspiration from the philosophies it spawned. The oppressive monarchies were being challenged by the people everywhere. The French military disseminated the concepts of liberty and equality all throughout the world over the years. The French were the dominant force to be reckoned with as they radicalised the 18th-century political and social systems. The French Revolution put an end to feudalism and paved the way for future improvements in individual liberties, democratic values, and life equality.
Significance of the French Revolution
Despite its flaws, the French Revolution is often considered a watershed moment in modern history, heralding the growth of new concepts rooted in liberalism, enlightenment, and democracy. These ideas were transmitted throughout Europe by French forces that fought numerous wars to ensure the Republic’s survival. It sparked a wave of revolutionary fervour among European commoners against their monarchs. Although most were violently suppressed, the revolutions would continue until the early years of the nineteenth century, resulting in the fall of numerous absolute monarchies throughout Europe. Above all, the French Revolution ended feudalism and paved the way for subsequent improvements in broadly defined individual liberties.
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The causes can be narrowed to five main factors: the Estate System, Absolutism, ideas stemming from the Enlightenment, food shortages, and The American Revolution.
Criticism of the Existing Regime
Transfer of Power
Reign Of Terror
The French Revolution ran from 1789 to 1794. King Louis XVI needed more money, but when he called a gathering of the Estates General, he failed to raise extra taxes. Instead, this became a protest against the conditions in France.
Hopefully, through these French Revolution notes, you have now understood the important events and timelines that led to the revolt. Want to connect with a mentor who followed a career path which you are also interested in? Then reach out to the experts at Leverage Edu who will help you take a step towards a rewarding career after the 12th!