France and The French Revolution


A watershed event in modern European history, the French Revolution began in 1789 and ended in the late 1790s with the ascent of Napoleon Bonaparte. During this period, French citizens razed and redesigned their country’s political landscape, uprooting centuries-old institutions such as absolute monarchy and the feudal system. Like the American Revolution before it, the French Revolution was influenced by Enlightenment ideals, particularly the concepts of popular sovereignty and inalienable rights. Although it failed to achieve all of its goals and at times degenerated into a chaotic bloodbath, the movement played a critical role in shaping modern nations by showing the world the power inherent in the will of the people.

Since the 20th century until the 1970s, the French Revolution was most commonly described as the result of the growing economic and social importance of the bourgeoisie or middle class. The bourgeoisie was believed to overthrow the Old Regime. This was because the Regime handed powers and privileges to other classes, the nobility and clergy who prevented the bourgeoisie from advancing socially and politically. Economic recession could be said to have frustrated some bourgeoisie in their rise for power and wealth, and the rising bread prices just before the revolution certainly increased discontent among workers and peasants who couldn’t afford such increase. It is now commonly believed that the revolutionary process started with the crisis in the French state. The French Revolution brought about a major transformation in The French Republic. Amongst this transformation is a temporary movement from an absolute monarchy, where the King exercised monopolized power, to a republic of theoretically free and equal citizens. The effects of the French Revolution were a widespread, that is, it affected both inside and outside of France. The Revolution ranks as one of the most important events in the history of Europe.

During the ten years of the Revolution, France first transformed and then dismantled the Old Regime, the political and social system that existed in France before 1789, and replaced it with series of government. Although none of these governments lasted more than four years, the many initiatives they enacted permanently altered France’s political system. These initiatives included the drafting of bills of rights and constitutions, the establishment of legal equality among all citizens, experiments with representative democracy, and the incorporation of the church into the state, and the reconstruction of state administration and the law code. Many of these changes were adopted elsewhere in Europe as well. Change was a matter of choice in some places, but in others it was imposed by the French army during the French Revolutionary Wars, that occurred within 1792-1797 and the Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815). To later generations of Europeans and non-Europeans who sought to overturn their political and social systems, the French Revolution provided the most influential model of popular insurrection until the Russian Revolution of 1917.

”Deteriorating system of government, economic conditions and popular resentment against the complicated system of privileges granted the nobility and clerics were among the principal causes of the French Revolution (1789-1794)”


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