The events leading to the French Revolution are quite obvious. 30 million people living in France, most living in small, rural villages while less than a million people lived in Paris. The population was growing rapidly but the economy was not. The previous king had spent too much money fighting wars and the national debt was staggering. There was an obvious rift between classes; peasants were starving while the noble class continued to live opulent lifestyles.
At the beginning of the Revolution, after the storming of the Bastille, the French monarch attempted to clean up their finances and a representative government was created, complete with a Declaration of Rights. This phase was led by the Third Estate of the Estates General. A legislative assembly was formed, and war was declared on Austria and Prussia. It was at the end of this phase in 1792 when King Louis XVI was forced to flee the throne. The second phase of the Revolution is known as the National Convention.
After the death of the king in the beginning of 1793,the economy did not improve. This led to riots and counter-revolutionary activities which led to“The Reign of Terror “, run by Maximilen Robespierre. A committee for public safety was created, which arrested people for committing crimes, sometimes as small as stealing food, and sent them to the guillotine. Almost 17,000 people were be-headed during this time. In 1795, after the execution of Robespierre, a new constitution was created along with a new legislature.
The French were tired of fighting and suffering, so despite distrusting the new legislature, called the Directory, most were willing to accept these changes. The Revolution ended in 1799, thanks to the military direction of Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military leader who eventually became the Emperor of France. He spent the first years of the Revolution fighting on the French island of Corsica. When he came to mainland France, he continued to fight for the Republicans. His military career, along with his popularity, had many ups and downs.
He led military campaigns in Italy, Egypt and other countries and often had differences with higher ranking military officials. Napoleon became Emperor of France in 1804, five years after the revolution ended, essentially reinstating a type French monarchy. Over the course of ten years, he led more battles across Europe, divorced and re-married, and had the Pope imprisoned when he attempted to ex-communicate Bonaparte. Napoleon abdicated the throne in 1814 to his son, and was sent into exile, which he later escaped and was finally defeated at Waterloo in 1815. He died in 1821 under British surveillance.
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