The major causes of the French Revolution were the disputes and inequalities between the different types of social classes in French society, and the financial problems, facing the French government, during the year of 1779. The French Revolution of 1789-1799 was one of the most important events in the history of the world. The Revolution led to many changes in France, which at the time of the Revolution was the most powerful state in Europe. The Revolution led to the development of new political forces such as democracy and nationalism. “It questioned the authority of kings, priests, and nobles. The Revolution also gave new meanings and new ideas to the political ideas of the people” (“History Analysis of the French Revolution”).
The French Revolution was spread over the ten-year period between 1789 and 1799. “Revolutions evolve in definite phases. At first they are moderate in scope, then they become radical to excess and finally they are brought to abrupt conclusions by the emergence of a strong man to restore order” (“Extensive Analysis of the French Revolution”). Before the beginning of the Revolution, only moderate reforms were wanted by the people. At the beginning of the Revolution, events seemed minor and proceeded in a logical fashion. One of the reasons the Revolution originated was the discontent among the lower and middle classes in France. “By law, society was divided in to three groups called estates” (“Causes of the French Revolution”).
The First Estate was the Church. “During the Old Regime, the church was equal in terms of its social, economic, and spiritual power” (“Extensive Analysis of the French Revolution”). The First Estate owned nearly 10 percent of all land in France. It paid no taxes but, to support church activities such as school running and caring for the poor, they collected a tithe, or a tax on income. About one-third of the entire clergy in France served as parish priests. Parish priests usually lived a hardworking life. This Estate was the minority of the people in France, having approximately 1 to 2 percent of the population.
The Second Estate in French life was the nobility. They enjoyed extensive rights and privileges, and they made up less than 2 percent of the population. They, like the First Estate, paid hardly any taxes. Economically, the nobility was characterized by great land wealth. Nobles were generally the richest members of the society. Typical sources of income were rents and dues for the use of their farms or estates. “The First and Second Estates were grouped together because they had similar political beliefs” (“History Analysis of the French Revolution”).
The Third Estate consisted of the commoners. It included the bourgeoisie, peasants, and city workers. The bourgeoisie, or the middle class, were by far, the wealthiest. In the bourgeoisie, there were the merchants and manufacturers, lawyers, doctors, and others similar to those types of professions. Peasants made up the largest group within the Third Estate. They were forced to pay heavy taxes, tithes to the church, and rents to their property owners for the land that they lived on. The last group within the Third Estate was composed of the city workers. They were servants, apprentices, and house cleaners.
One of the major causes of the Revolution was the differences or inequalities that these three estates had. The Third Estate resented certain advantages of the first two estates. The clergy and nobles did not have to pay most taxes. The Third Estate, especially the peasants, had to provide almost all the country’s tax revenue. Poverty was widespread among the peasants because of an unfair tax system and a poor harvest in 1788. The working class was angry because the food prices had gone up. Many member of the middle class were also worried by their social status. The middle class or bourgeoisie had money but did not have the influence the nobles had.
“They were among the most important people in French society but were not recognized as such because they belonged to the Third Estate” (“Extensive Analysis of the French Revolution”). In 1788, the Third Estate, the peasants, working class, and the middle class began to rebel against the oppression forced upon them by the upper estates (clergy and noblemen). “This political crisis, along with the severe financial crisis that France was experiencing, is believed to be the volatile combination which caused the French Revolution” (“The French Revolution”).
“Financial crisis developed because the nation had gone deeply into debt to finance the Seven Years War (1756-1763) and the Revolutionary War (1775-1783)” (Durant 22). The once prosperous French economy was failing. The country suffered from harsh economic problems. In 1789, the country was in a financial crisis, which was another cause of the French Revolution. The heavy burden of taxes made it impossible to conduct business profitably within France. The cost of living rose for everyone, and the price of bread doubled in 1789, and many people faced starvation. This mainly affected the Third Estate, because they paid most of the taxes in France. The French government borrowed much money to pay for the wars of Louis XIV. Louis XIV and Louis XV both left big debts when they died, making France nearly bankrupt.
“These costs greatly increased the national debt, which was, at the time, already too high” (“Underlying Causes of the French Revolution”). Louis XVI’s extravagant spending led France to face bankruptcy, which greatly attributed to the financial crisis. The Third Estate wanted to make reforms in the government, in order to amend the economic problems. Therefore, they revolted against the king and formed the National Assembly of France, which, in 1799, brought forward a new constitution. Thus, from this information, it can be seen that the financial crisis in 1789, in France, was another major cause for the Revolution.
After viewing this information, it can be proven that the major causes of the French Revolution were the disputes and inequalities between the different types of social classes in French society, and the financial problems, facing the French government, during the year of 1879. The Third Estate, unlike the First and Second Estates, had no power to influence government. In turn, the other two estates resented the three groups of the Third Estate. The Third Estate was over taxed, frequently out of work, and often hungry. These inequalities caused the Third Estate to revolt against their government. The financial problem also caused the lower French class to revolt, because they were affected the most by these economic problems. This is, because they were over taxed in order to help repair the debts of the country.
In conclusion, it can be seen that the French Revolution caused a very hard time in France. The rich people became richer and the poor people became
poorer. The situation in France was so bad that a period of the revolution was known as the Reign of Terror. The French Revolution was a time in French History, which was important to the people of France because of the different types of government they had. Socialism, liberalism, and nationalism all were results of the French Revolution. “The greatest legacy of the French Revolution was that people could change anything that they wanted with political ideas, words, and laws” (“Revolution”). “The French Revolution was not only a crucial event considered in the context of Western history, but was also, perhaps the single most crucial influence on British intellectual, philosophical, and political life in the nineteenth century” (“French Revolution”).
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