The French Revolution and the Birth of Modernity

Beginning in May 1789 and ending in November 1799, the French Revolution was a major history-changing and society impacting event; filled with revolutionary ideas, beginnings and political unrest. The French Revolution is thought to have been one of the most ‘violent, society-changing and influential’ revolutions of its time.

Before the revolution, the French Monarchy had already begun collapsing, from public pressure and the country’s expensive participation in the American Revolution states Encyclopedia Britannica. This financial crisis and disorder forced the king to call a national assembly in June 1789, explains History Crunch.

Here, the third and second estate, or the nobles and commoners, demanded more say in the government. Being outvoted on this idea, the third estate gathered elsewhere and vowed the now-famous tennis court oath.

One month later, an aggressive mob stormed Bastille, a French state prison. The British Library Board states that the prison had become a ‘symbol of the monarchy’s dictatorial rule’. This event was a defining moment in the Revolution symbolising the true beginning of extreme violence and terror, which later included many riots, charges, massacres and executions, with a new invention, the guillotine.

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Soon after, in August 1789, the national assembly eliminated the Ancien Régime and adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man, inspired by the American Declaration of Independence. Though this was an improvement, fighting continued for another nine years before Napoleon took power in August 1799; when the French people were finally content with the constitution and new rulers.

To represent the French Revolution, a French flag was painted with added textures, colours and outlines to show further meaning.

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The painting primarily used symbolism, a major concept of the enlightenment period and revolution along with the colours of France. A mix of modern-day emblems, with ideas, symbols and representations from the French Revolution-era were implemented. This mix of modern and old symbols, along with each of their own deeper meanings were used to show the importance of the revolution to modern society and how it continues to impact the modern world. Many different types of symbols and representations were used to show how complicated and elaborate ideas from the French Revolution were.

The painting primarily uses the colours blue, white and red, each mixed with a small amount of black, representing the dark of ages past, as well as giving it an old dark effect. At a glance, these may just be the colours of France, but they each have much deeper meanings when the colours and textures are combined. Blue is the well-known colour of the ocean, bravery, freedom and strength; in this painting, an ocean-like texture has been added to give an appearance of murky waters, representing France overcoming its murky past. Faint leaves have been painted on the blue section, to represent the tree of liberty, a symbol of freedom from the enlightenment period. Instead of using plain white, grey was used on the second section of the French flag, which, in this section is an outline of Marianne. (EXPLAIN MARIANNE Phrygian cap) White is the colour of the king and clergy of France and also represents peace, honesty and purity, this is why this section is painted plainly and purely, without any extra print. The third, red section is painted in three different shades, representing the diversity of the people of France, the darker and lighter shades are both used over the medium shade and are painted to look like blood splats. Drips of blood are painted on the red section because red represents fraternity, terror, so together it represents the blood spilt as revolutionaries fought for their rights.

The painting uses a mix of abstract art and an old-style textured effect to show how the revolution still affects our modern world. It is painted in a style that is intentionally rough and confronting, reflecting the revolution itself. When these colours and textures come together on the painting, it represents the change in society and the impacts on the modern world, as well as everyone coming together to fight for rights. It also strongly reflects the revolutionary motto “Liberté, égalité, fraternité”.

Erik Gregersen’s article ‘French Revolution – Causes, Facts and Summary’, edited February 2019, was very useful, providing detailed information that was easily comprehended. It covered major revolutionary aspects, including symbolism, origins and later impacts; this was helpful for adding deeper meaning and depth to the creative response. Encyclopedia Britannica is a reputable source who employ qualified authors, gather information from academic articles and primary sources.

The primary source used was written by George Washington in October 1789, and published by Alpha History, 2018. By outlining the real-time viewpoints of the revolution, and showing how it had already begun to affect people across the world, this text was very helpful. The text was also useful for the creative response as it confirmed the idea that it took the revolutionaries a lot of time and effort, fighting for their rights. This source is reliable because it was written by a politician of the time, who had experience, insight and knowledge on revolutions. There may be some bias in the opinions on both sources reliability, as viewpoints and therefore reliability will always change based on society and available information.

In 1799, when the French Revolution ended, it had seemed unsuccessful, due to the violence, confusion and chaos during the revolution. It was only later, in 1815 that its worldwide impacts and changes were widely accepted. Despite the amount of negativity associated to the French Revolution, there was a positive outcome, if not the original objective; it established a good example of representational and democratic government, which is now the most popular form of governance. The revolution also established advanced, free and social principles of justice and equality among citizens, as well as the separation of church and state. The English and American revolutions did foreshadow the major ideas of the French revolution; however, the French Revolution established independence and rationality in social life and politics. After these ideas were communicated through parliament, they were placed at the centre of human concerns.

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The French Revolution and the Birth of Modernity. (2020, Nov 03). Retrieved from

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