The Days of the French Revolution by Christopher Hibbert
Marie Antoinette. Napoleon. Louis XVI. Robespierre, Danton, Mirabeau, Marat. Madame Rolands salon. A passionate throng of Parisian artisans storming the Bastille. A tide of ebullient social change through wars, riots, beheadings, betrayal, conspiracy, and murder.
CHRISTOPHER HIBBERT was born in Leicester in 1924 and educated at Radley and Oriel College, Oxford. Described by the New Statesman as a pearl of biographers, he has established himself as a leading popular historian whose works reflect meticulous scholarship and has written more than twenty-five histories and biographies. Married with three children, he lives in Oxfordshire.
The French Revolution was a revolution in France from to The result of the French Revolution was the end of the monarchy. King Louis XVI was executed in The revolution ended when Napoleon Bonaparte took power in November In , he became Emperor. Before , France was ruled by the nobles and the Catholic Church.
International: struggle for hegemony and Empire outstrips the fiscal resources of the state. Social antagonisms between two rising groups: the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie. Ineffective ruler: Louis XVI. Economic hardship, especially the agrarian crisis of generates popular discontent and disorders caused by food shortages. Dual or multiple sovereignty is the identifying feature of a revolutionary situation - the fragmentation of an existing polity into two or more blocs, each of which exercises control over some part of the government and lays claim to its exclusive control over the government. A revolutionary situation continues until a single, sovereign polity is reconstituted.
Beginning in , the French Revolution saw the French people overthrow their absolute monarchy and bring about a republic that was based on the principles of equality, liberty and fraternity. Before the French Revolution, French society was structured in the relics of feudalism , in a system known as the Estates System. Usually a person remained in one estate for his or her lifetime, and any movement from upwards in the estate system could take many generations. The first estate was the clergy, the second estate was the nobility and the third estate was the peasants. By , this began to cause anger amongst the peasant class, as many of them began to question the authority of their monarch, Louis XVI. Additionally, several other elements combined to cause the French Revolution to begin.
The French Revolution was a milestone episode in modern European history.
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Causes of the French Revolution
The Revolution overthrew the monarchy, established a republic, catalyzed violent periods of political turmoil, and finally culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon who brought many of its principles to areas he conquered in Western Europe and beyond. Inspired by liberal and radical ideas, the Revolution profoundly altered the course of modern history , triggering the global decline of absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and liberal democracies. Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in human history. The causes of the French Revolution are complex and are still debated among historians. It attempted to restore its financial status through unpopular taxation schemes, which were heavily regressive. Leading up to the Revolution, years of bad harvests worsened by deregulation of the grain industry and environmental problems also inflamed popular resentment of the privileges enjoyed by the aristocracy and the Catholic clergy of the established church. Some historians hold something similar to what Thomas Jefferson proclaimed: that France had "been awakened by our [American] Revolution.
No one factor was directly responsible for the French Revolution. Years of feudal oppression and fiscal mismanagement contributed to a French society that was ripe for revolt. Noting a downward economic spiral in the late s, King Louis XVI brought in a number of financial advisors to review the weakened French treasury. Each advisor reached the same conclusion—that France needed a radical change in the way it taxed the public—and each advisor was, in turn, kicked out. Finally, the king realized that this taxation problem really did need to be addressed, so he appointed a new controller general of finance, Charles de Calonne , in Calonne suggested that, among other things, France begin taxing the previously exempt nobility.
The French Revolution had general causes common to all the revolutions of the West at the end of the 18th century and particular causes that explain why it was by far the most violent and the most universally significant of these revolutions. The first of the general causes was the social structure of the West. The feudal regime had been weakened step-by-step and had already disappeared in parts of Europe. The increasingly numerous and prosperous elite of wealthy commoners—merchants, manufacturers, and professionals, often called the bourgeoisie —aspired to political power in those countries where it did not already possess it. The peasants , many of whom owned land, had attained an improved standard of living and education and wanted to get rid of the last vestiges of feudalism so as to acquire the full rights of landowners and to be free to increase their holdings.