Social Science Class 9 – French Revolution Notes

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French Revolution Notes

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 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. 

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French Revolution Notes: Some Important Dates and Events

Timeline 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 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, 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 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 the French Society during the 18th century.

  • Upholding the traditional and hierarchical values, the French society was divided into three estates. The first and the highest form of estates consisted of Clergymen, the second were the Nobles, and the third consisted of common people including peasants.
  • Almost 60% of French land were owned by the small group of clergymen and nobles. On the other hand, the peasants who were the 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 noble sowed 60% of French land, they were exempted from paying taxes by the king. Only one-third of the entire French population which comprised of the peasant class were 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 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 were 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. 

Social Causes

The 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 favorable 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 laborer. The third estate was oppressed with Taille taxes levied on essential daily items like salt and tobacco.

Economic Cause 

  • 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 the society.
  • The labour class was employed on fixed wages, which remained the same through 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).

Political Causes

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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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 the outrage in the French population.

  • There was a sudden increase in the French population which led to a rapid demand in food consumption. This started to cause food scarcity in the society.
  • The production amount of essential grains were comapratively less than the growing population required. Due to this there were sudden hike in food prices and the peasant class could hardly afford it.
  • The 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 richh 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.
  • Emergence of new social groups that acted as the pressurizing factors to the monarchy started to earn a significant amount of wealth through overses trading.
  • This emerging middle class mostly consisted of lawyers and administrative officials as social positions were started to be categorised through a person’s merit.
  • These middle class society believed in meritious achievements and not in any form of priveleges by birth.
  • With philospohers and political thinkers such as Rosseau and Montesquieu proposing ideas on social contracts and a new type of governments, France started inclining towards a future that looked less monarchical.

The Outbreak of the Revolution

The beginning of the French Revolution started as mentioned below:

  • On 5 May, 1789, Louis XVI held an assemby to pass proposals for new form of taxes which was boycotted by the third estate.
  • They found the voting system unfair and swore not to atten dany assembly unless a constituion is drafted limiting the power of the monarchy.
  • On the other hand, rumours started spreading amongst the peasant community that the nobility were 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 Assemby to bring an end to these uprisings
  • On 14th August 1789, the National Assembly passed the decree of abolisihing the feudal system and unequal tax system.

France becomes a Constituional 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 the 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 payee 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 to the rise of 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 the 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.

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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!

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