NCERT Class 9 History Chapter 1 “The French Revolution” Notes (Free PDF)

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NCERT Class 9 History Chapter 1 The French Revolution Notes

Welcome to the NCERT Class 9 History Chapter 1 ¨The French Revolution ” Notes. This chapter explores the transformative impact of the French Revolution on society, highlighting the key events and lasting legacies. 

The revolution reshaped everyday life in France, from the abolition of censorship to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. It paved the way for greater freedom of expression and public engagement, setting the stage for significant cultural and political changes.

Overall, the NCERT Class 9 History Chapter 1 ¨The French Revolution¨ Notes dives into the aftermath of the French Revolution as Napoleon Bonaparte ascends to power and introduces sweeping reforms. Peers can dive into how the rule of Napoleon brought about changes such as the production of private property and a standard system of weights and measures. 

Further, the students can also explore the profound legacy of the revolution, from its ideals of liberty and equality to its influence on movements for independence and self-determination worldwide.

Download NCERT Class 9 History Chapter 1 ¨ The French Revolution” Notes (Free PDF)
Download NCERT Solutions For Class 9 History Social Science Chapter 1 ¨French Revolution¨

Also Read: CBSE Notes Class 8 History


The French Revolution, which began in 1789, was a significant period in history marked by widespread unrest and dramatic changes in French society. The revolution led to the fall of the monarchy and the rise of a new political and social order.

Key Events of the French Revolution

Key Events of the French Revolution:

1. Early morning in 1789, Paris was in a state of alarm.
2. Rumours spread that the King would fire upon the citizens.
3. People gathered and broke into government buildings to find arms.
4. The commander of the Bastille was killed in an armed fight.
5. Prisoners in the Bastille were released.
6. The Bastille was hated by the people as it symbolized the king’s despotic power.
7. Citizens protested against the high price of bread.
8. These events triggered a chain reaction that eventually led to the execution of the King.

French Society During the Late Eighteenth Century

During the late eighteenth century, French society was characterized by a rigid hierarchical structure and severe economic strains. The reign of Louis XVI saw increased financial burdens and social inequalities, which contributed to the conditions leading up to the French Revolution.

Key Aspects of French Society in the Late Eighteenth Century:

1. Louis XVI’s Reign (1774): Ascended the throne amid a financially drained France due to wars.
American War of Independence: France supported the thirteen American colonies against Britain, further straining its finances.

2. Increased Taxes: Taxes were raised to cover regular expenses, including army maintenance, court operations, and running government offices and universities.

3. Three Estates of the Federal System:
First Estate: Clergy, enjoyed privileges by birth and were exempt from taxes.
– Second Estate: Nobility, also enjoyed birth privileges and tax exemptions.
– Third Estate: Commoners, including peasants, artisans, and merchants, who bore the tax burden.
– Feudal System: Dominated society, with roots dating back to the Middle Ages.

4. Ownership of the Land:
Peasants made up 90% of the population but owned very little land.
Nobles, the Church, and wealthier members of the third estate owned 60% of the land.

5. Tax Burden on Third Estate: Included a direct tax called taille and various indirect taxes on everyday items like salt and tobacco.

The Struggle to Survive

The late eighteenth century in France was marked by a struggle to survive for many citizens. Rapid population growth and economic challenges created significant hardships, especially for the lower classes.

Key Factors in the Struggle to Survive:

1. Population Increase: This led to a higher demand for food grains.
2. Insufficient Grain Production: Could not meet the rising demand, causing bread prices to soar.
3. Low Wages: Laborers received low wages, widening the gap between the rich and the poor.
4. Natural Disasters: Droughts and hailstorms further reduced harvests, exacerbating the situation.

A Growing Middle Class Envisages an End to Privileges

In the eighteenth century, a growing middle class in France began to challenge the entrenched privileges of the upper classes. This shift was driven by education, economic changes, and new political ideas.

1. Challenges and Entrenched Privileges of the Upper Classes:
Peasant Revolts: Peasants frequently revolted against taxes and food scarcity.
Prosperity of the Third Estate: Members of the Third Estate gained wealth and access to education and new ideas.

2. Emergence of the Middle Class:
Wealth was earned through expanding overseas trade and manufacturing woollen and silk textiles.
Including professionals like lawyers and administrative officials.

3. Merit-Based Social Position:
Social status was increasingly viewed as dependent on individual merit rather than birth. 
Educated members of society believed no group should have privileges by birth.

4. New Political Ideas:
Rousseau proposed a government based on a social contract between people and their representatives.
Montesquieu suggested a division of power within the government among the legislative, executive, and judiciary.
This model of government was implemented in the USA.

5. Fiscal Policies: 
Louis XVI planned to impose further taxes to meet state expenses.

The Outbreak of the Revolution

The outbreak of the French Revolution marked a pivotal moment in history, as the existing social and political order faced unprecedented challenges. This period was characterized by intense political activity, widespread unrest, and significant reforms.

Key Events Leading to the Outbreak of the Revolution:

1. Taxation and the Estates-General:
The monarch lacked the power to impose taxes without approval.
Louis XVI called a meeting of the Estates-General on 5 May 1789 to pass new tax proposals.

2. Representation Dispute:
The first and second estates had one vote each, as did the third estate. 
The third estate demanded that each member have one vote, a demand that was rejected. 
In protest, the third estate representatives walked out and vowed not to disperse until a constitution was drafted to limit the monarch’s power.

3. Economic Hardships: 
A severe winter led to rising bread prices and long queues for food. 
Rumours spread that the lords hired brigands to destroy ripe crops.

4. Peasant Revolts:
Peasants looted hoarded grain and burned documents of manorial dues. 
Nobles fled their homes amid the chaos.

5. Formation of the National Assembly:
Louis XVI recognized the National Assembly and agreed to a constitution that limited his powers.
On 4 August 1789, the Assembly abolished the feudal system of obligations and taxes.
Tithes were abolished, and Church lands were confiscated.

France Becomes a Constitutional Monarchy

In 1791, France transitioned from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy, fundamentally altering the structure of its government. The National Assembly drafted a constitution that aimed to limit the monarch’s power and establish a new political order.

Key Features of France Becoming a Constitutional Monarchy:

1. Drafting the Constitution (1791):  
The National Assembly completed the draft to limit the monarch’s powers.  
Powers were divided among the legislature, executive, and judiciary.

2. Voting System: 
Citizens voted for electors, who then chose the Assembly members. 
Voting rights were restricted to men over 25 who paid taxes equivalent to at least three days of a laborer’s wage.

3. Declaration of Rights:
– The Constitution began with the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen.
– Established rights included the right to life, freedom of speech, freedom of opinion, and equality before the law.
– These rights were considered “natural and inalienable,” meaning they belonged to every person by birth and could not be taken away.

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France Abolishes Monarchy and Becomes a Republic

In 1792, the French Revolution took a decisive turn as the monarchy was abolished and France was declared a republic. This period was marked by internal and external conflicts and significant social and political changes.

Key Events Leading to France Becoming a Republic:

1. War Against Prussia and Austria (April 1792):
The National Assembly voted for war. 
“La Marseillaise” became the national anthem.

2. Role of Women:
While men fought, women took care of their families.

3. Demand for Further Revolution:
The 1791 Constitution gave political rights only to the wealthy, prompting calls for broader change.

4. Formation of Political Clubs:
Many political clubs formed, with the Jacobins being the most successful.  
Jacobin members included small shopkeepers, artisans, servants, and daily-wage workers.

5. Sans-culottes:
Jacobins wore long striped trousers, earning the name sans-culottes (“those without knee breeches”).

6. Storming of the Palace (August 10, 1792):
Jacobins stormed the Palace of the Tuileries and held the king hostage.

7. Abolition of the Monarchy:
Elections allowed all men aged 21 and above to vote.  On 21 September 1792, the monarchy was abolished, and France was declared a republic.  Louis XVI was sentenced to death for treason.

The Reign of Terror

The Reign of Terror, lasting from 1793 to 1794, was a period of extreme political repression and violence during the French Revolution. Led by Robespierre, it aimed to eliminate perceived enemies of the republic through harsh measures.

Key Events and Policies of the Reign of Terror:

1. Identification of Enemies:
Robespierre targeted those he saw as enemies of the republic. 
Suspected individuals were arrested, imprisoned, and tried by a revolutionary tribunal.

2. Use of the Guillotine:
The guillotine, a device for beheading, was widely used for executions.  
Named after Dr. Guillotin, it became a symbol of the Reign of Terror.

3. Economic Measures:  
Laws set maximum ceilings on wages and prices.  
Meat and bread were rationed, and the use of expensive white flour was forbidden.

4. Promotion of Equality:
Equality was enforced through language; everyone was addressed as Citoyen (Citizen) or Citoyenne (Citizen).

5. The downfall of Robespierre:
In July 1794, Robespierre was arrested, tried, and executed by guillotine.

A Directory Rules France

Following the fall of the Jacobin government, France entered a period of rule by the Directory, which marked a shift in power to the wealthier middle classes. This period was characterized by political instability and eventually led to the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte.

1. Shift in Power:  Wealthier middle classes seized power after the Jacobins’ fall.
2. New Constitution:  Denied voting rights to non-propertied sections of society.  Established two elected legislative councils.
3. Formation of the Directory: The government appointed a Directory consisting of five executive members.
4. Political Instability:  Persistent instability in governance.  The turmoil created conditions for the rise of a military dictator, Napoleon Bonaparte.

Did Women Have a Revolution?

From the onset of the events that reshaped French society, women actively participated, hoping to influence the revolutionary government to enact reforms benefiting them. 

Primarily belonging to the third estate, many women worked various jobs, often facing low wages and limited access to education. Despite their challenges, they formed their own political clubs and demanded equal rights.

Did Women Have a Revolution?

Key Contributions and Challenges Faced by Women:

1. Work and Education:
Women from the third estate often had to work for a living and lacked access to education and job training.
Daughters of nobles from the third estate could study at convents.

2. Family Responsibilities: 
Working women also had to balance their work with caring for their families. 
Despite their contributions, women’s wages were typically lower than men’s.

3. Political Engagement:
Women formed their political clubs and newspapers, such as the Society of Revolutionary and Republican Women.
They demanded equal political rights, including the right to vote and hold political office.

4. Government Reforms:
The revolutionary government introduced laws to improve the lives of women, including compulsory schooling, the legalization of divorce, and the ability to run small businesses.

5. Repression During the Reign of Terror:
Women’s clubs and political activities were banned during the Reign of Terror, leading to government repression.

6. Achievement of Suffrage:
Despite challenges, women in France eventually won the right to vote in 1946 after years of struggle.

The Abolition of Slavery

One of the most revolutionary social reforms during the Jacobin regime was the abolition of slavery in the French colonies. This significant change marked a departure from centuries of entrenched exploitation and oppression.

1. European reluctance to work in distant colonies led to a reliance on the triangular slave trade between Europe, Africa, and the Americas to meet labour demands in the Caribbean colonies.

2. French merchants engaged in the slave trade, purchasing slaves from African chieftains and transporting them in appalling conditions across the Atlantic to work on plantations.

3. The profitability of the slave trade fueled the economic prosperity of port cities like Bordeaux and Nantes throughout the 17th and 18th centuries.

4. Despite the growing criticism of slavery elsewhere, there was little opposition to it in France until the Jacobin regime.

5. The National Assembly debated extending the rights of man to all French subjects, including those in the colonies but refrained from passing any laws due to opposition from businessmen reliant on the slave trade.

6. In 1794, the Convention finally passed legislation to free all slaves in French overseas possessions, but this was short-lived as Napoleon reintroduced slavery ten years later, favouring economic interests over human rights.

7. Slavery was ultimately abolished in French colonies in 1848, marking the end of a long struggle for freedom and equality.

The Revolution and Everyday Life

The years following 1789 in France witnessed significant changes in people’s lives, including their clothing, language, and reading habits, driven by the revolutionary efforts of the government to enact laws reflecting the ideals of liberty and equality.

The Revolution and Everyday Life
1. One notable change was the abolition of censorship, enacted soon after the storming of the Bastille in 1789. Under the Old Regime, all cultural activities and written materials had to be approved by royal censors before publication or performance.

2. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen declared freedom of speech and expression as natural rights, leading to the proliferation of newspapers, pamphlets, books, and printed pictures across France.

3. These materials spread rapidly from towns to the countryside, describing and discussing the ongoing events and changes in France, allowing for the expression of diverse viewpoints.

4. The freedom of the press enabled the dissemination of opposing views, with different factions using print media to persuade others of their positions.

5. Cultural activities like plays, songs, and festive processions also played a crucial role in conveying ideas such as liberty and justice to a broader audience. It allowed people to identify with these concepts beyond the reach of written texts accessible only to the educated elite.


The paragraph discusses Napoleon Bonaparte’s rise to power, his conquests, and the spread of revolutionary ideas across Europe in the 19th century.

The French Revolution
1. In 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte crowned himself Emperor of France, initiating a period of conquest across neighboring European countries.

2. Napoleon aimed to modernize Europe by introducing laws such as the protection of private property and establishing a uniform system of weights and measures.

3. Initially seen as a liberator, Napoleon’s armies were later viewed as invaders by many, leading to his defeat at Waterloo in 1815.

4. Despite his downfall, Napoleon’s measures continued to impact Europe long after his reign, spreading revolutionary ideas of liberty and democratic rights.

5. The legacy of the French Revolution extended beyond France, influencing the abolition of feudal systems throughout Europe and inspiring movements for national sovereignty among colonized peoples.

6. Figures like Tipu Sultan and Rammohan Roy responded to the revolutionary ideals, contributing to the broader struggle for freedom and self-determination.

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10 Important Dates and Events of the Chapter NCERT Class 9 History Chapter 1 “The French Revolution” Notes

Let us delve into the important days and events of the chapter ¨The French Revolution¨ from the following breakdown:

1. Storming of the Bastille (July 14, 1789): A pivotal event symbolising the start of the French Revolution, where Parisians stormed the Bastille prison, a symbol of royal tyranny, to obtain weapons and release prisoners.   

2. Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (August 26, 1789): The National Assembly adopted this declaration, asserting fundamental rights and principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity, influencing revolutionary movements worldwide.

3. Execution of Louis XVI (January 21, 1793): The French king, Louis XVI, was executed by guillotine, marking the end of the monarchy and intensifying revolutionary fervour.

4. Reign of Terror (1793-1794): A period of extreme violence and political repression led by Maximilien Robespierre and the Committee of Public Safety, resulting in mass executions of perceived enemies of the revolution.

5. Abolition of Slavery in French Colonies (1794): The Convention passed legislation abolishing slavery in French overseas possessions, a significant social reform driven by revolutionary ideals of liberty and equality.

6. Coup d’État of 18 Brumaire (November 9-10, 1799): Napoleon Bonaparte staged a coup, overthrowing the Directory and establishing himself as First Consul of France, laying the foundation for his rise to power as Emperor.

7. Napoleon Crowned Emperor (December 2, 1804): Napoleon Bonaparte crowned himself Emperor of the French, consolidating his authority and embarking on a series of military conquests across Europe.

8. Congress of Vienna (1814-1815): European powers convened to redraw the map of Europe after Napoleon’s defeat, aiming to restore stability and balance of power following the Napoleonic Wars.

9. Waterloo (June 18, 1815): Napoleon defeated the British and Prussian forces led by the Duke of Wellington and Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, marking the end of his rule and the Napoleonic era.

10. Abolition of Feudalism and Serfdom (August 4, 1789): The National Assembly abolished feudal privileges and serfdom, signalling the end of the feudal system and promoting social and economic reforms during the early stages of the revolution.

Also Read: NCERT Solutions For Class 8 History Chapter 6 Civilising the “Native, Educating the Nation” (Free PDF)


Q.1. What is the French Revolution all about?

Ans: The French Revolution was a thundering period in late 18th century France marked by radical social, political, and economic changes. It saw the overthrow of the monarchy, the rise of democracy, and profound shifts in French society.

Q.2. What are some important dates for the French Revolution for Class notes?

Ans: Important dates for the French Revolution include July 14, 1789 (Storming of the Bastille), August 26, 1789 (Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen), and September 21, 1792 (Abolition of Monarchy).

Q.3. Why is it called the French Revolution?

Ans: The French Revolution is called the French Revolution because it occurred primarily in France and resulted in significant upheaval and transformation of French society and government structures.

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