French Revolution- The origins of the French Revolution

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  • Created on: 11-03-13 17:53
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  • French Revolution- The origins of the French Revolution
    • Long-term causes of the French Revolution
      • French Society during the ancien regime
        • Divided into three estates; the first two had many privileges that they frequently used against the three estate
        • The first estate was made up of the clergy, 115,139
        • The second  estate consisted of the nobility, 350,000
        • The third estate was everyone else, 24,500,000
      • The taxation system
        • It was both chaotic and inefficient
        • Taxes
          • Taille- Land tax
          • Vingtieme- 5% tax on income
          • Capitation- Tax on people
          • Gabelle- Salt tax
          • Aidas- Tax on food and drink
          • Octrois- Tax on goods entering town
        • Direct taxes
          • Mainly paid by just the third estate
          • The church did not pay any of them
        • Indirect taxes
          • Considerable burden on those on low incomes
          • Great deal of income to the crown
      • The Enlightenment
        • The movement questioned and challenged a whole range of views and ideas that were widely accepted
        • They were not prepared the accept tradition and revelation
        • The main objects of their attack were the church and the government
        • Although not revolutionary themselves, their ideas and approaches did influence many who would become revolutionaries
      • Royal Government
        • France before 1789 was an absolute monarchy ruled by the Bourbons
          • This meant that the authority of the French crown was not limited by any representativebody
          • The Kind was responsible only to God
        • Limitations to power
          • Although this power was absolute, the King was bound by the laws and customs of the Kingdom
            • For example, there were many independent bodies such as the Assembly of the Clergy which had rights and privileges guaranteed by law
          • The King also had to consult his council of ministers and advisers to make laws
            • This meant considerable power was in the hands of a small number of men
              • The most important of these was the Controller-General, who was in charge of royal finances
          • Louis was well intentioned but never came to terms with the state's financial problems
            • He was rather weak and indecisive
    • Short-term causes of the French Revolution
      • The financial crisis
        • The primary short-term cause of the French Revolution
        • On the 20th August 1786, Calonne (the Controller-General) told Louis that the government was on the verge of bankruptcy
        • The expenditure of the crown was  more than the income
      • Foreign policy
        • The Seven Years War
          • French forced in India and North America suffered a series of crushing defeats at the hands of the British
          • Much of France's overseas territory was lost in 1763
        • The American War of Independence
          • The French wanted revenge
          • It worsened the already weak financial situation of the crown
          • The French soldiers were exposed to ideas such as liberty and democracy and demanded similar rights for the people of France
      • The economic crisis
        • The economy was largely based on agriculture
        • France had a series of bad harvests; 1778-9, 1781-2, 1795-6 and 1787
          • France then experienced  a food shortage due to the large population and bad harvests in a row
          • Also led to unemployment rising
    • The Key Debate
      • More Revisionism
        • J.H. Sherman
        • Argues that long-term problems and resentments were brought to a head by events preceding 1789
      • Revisionist view
        • Alfred Cobban and Francois Furet
        • In the 60s they challenged existing views by saying that the revolution was driven by social and cultural factors
        • The driving force was the enlightenment
      • Post-Revisionist
        • Gwynne  Lewis- tries to put both debates together
        • Combination of all the factors
      • Marxist view
        • Georges Lefebvre and Albert sobul
        • Revolution lead by the Bourgeoisie who had been growing in importance economically
        • Essentially a class war




A clearly organised and very detailed summary. Excellent for revising causation questions on the French Revolution.



Quite helpful! Thank you very much!!



extremely helpful

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