French Revolution chronological revision

French Revolution chronological revision follows the course of the French Revolution from enlightenment ideas until the White Terror.


  • Analysis and explanation of key events, people, institutions and changes
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  • Created on: 29-04-13 13:06
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History RAT Revision-The French Revolution
The Three Estates
The Monarchy
Head of the social and government it was his duty to ensure that has people were
provided with law and order.
Appointed ministers and he also chose 36 intendents, who acted as his local officials
and were responsible for the different parts of France known as generalities.
Louis ruled as an absolute monarch and later faced charges of despotism (tyrannical
power/dictatorship). Louis' belief was that he ruled by divine right.
The king was expected to rule over a fair and just regime, he was expected to pass
only such laws as were necessary for the well-being of the whole kingdom and to
preserve his subjects' freedom within the law.
The process of law making- an edict was drawn up by the king and advisers, this was then
sent to the parlements for approval. These were the 13 supreme courts of appeal in France;
who also had political powers. They had the right to challenge all edicts before they became
First Estate
The clergy, both high and low. The clergy occupied the highest position in society and
was known as the First Estate.
Its members varied tremendously in type- there was a huge difference, in terms of
wealth and power, between humble parish priests, monks and nuns and the bishops
and archbishops and cardinals (who came from the ranks of the nobility).
Not all members of the first estate were rich. Clerics were very influential in France,
the Catholic Church governed the daily lives of most people, and it controlled
education and provided care for the sick.
Privileges: They could only be prosecuted in their own church courts, they could not
be asked to perform military service or house troops or provide money for royal troops, and
they also had various financial privileges and were not required to pay the taille (the main
direct tax).
Second Estate
The nobility, including the royal family, which owned around a fifth of the land in
The nobility was divided, and not all were exceptionally wealthy. The first group was
the ancient nobility, whose status came from their birth. They were known as the
nobility of the sword as they were originally the only men allowed to carry a sword.
The other group was made up of those whose noble status derived from the work
they did and was known as the nobility of the robe. Nobility might be acquired
through performance of a particular job, such as judge, given in return for money, as
a reward for outstanding military service, or, more often, as a `perk' accompanying a
particular governmental office.
Venal offices were those that could be purchased and they provided a useful source
of income for the crown during the 18th Century. The numbers of the second estate
had grown considerably during this century.
Privileges: the right to wear a sword, display their coat of arms and take precedence
at public ceremonies helped reinforce their belief in a natural superiority. They had a right to
be heard in a high court and be beheaded rather than hung; they were exempt from the
corvee (forced labour on the roads) and the taille (direct tax) and gabelle (salt tax) and had a
lower rate of assessment in other direct taxes.
Third Estate
A mixed group of those who were neither clerics nor nobility.

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The largest proportion, comprising 80-90% of the population, was peasantry.
Peasants worked the land of others but there were some peasants with small
holdings of their own.
At the top there were the richer, land-owning peasantry and the tenant farmers of
large estates and the bourgeoisie, who relied on their skill as professionals (doctors,
lawyers, teachers etc).
At the very top of the bourgeoisie, they identified more with the second estate and
many tried to join through the purchase of office.…read more

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Nobody was exempt
Feudal Rights-
The right of the oven: peasants had to bake their bread in an oven owned by the landlord,
paying a fee for its use.
The rights of the mill: peasants had to grind heir corn in the landlord's windmill or watermill,
paying a fee to use it.
The right of the press: peasants had to press their grapes in the landlord's press, paying a
fee for its use.…read more

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How did Enlightenment ideas spread?
French architecture, furniture and fashion dominated continental taste and all
educated Europe adopted the French language as its primary tongue. It was the
language spoken in courts Europe wide with the exception of England and Spain.
New developments in France were, therefore, rapidly discussed and absorbed
The proliferation of journals, newspapers and books generated a circulation Europe
wide. In 1787, 70,000 copies of newspapers were being regularly sold with a
subscription of over half a million.…read more

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He concentrated on the relationship between man and society
Rousseau's `Emile' discusses the role of women in society and the level and form of
education they should therefore attain. He accepts that women and men are similar
in terms of their basic organs. Women should be weak and passive and men should
be strong and active. The main function of a woman is to please man, men are
dependent on women and women are dependent on men.…read more

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Economic condition of France-
The wars were funded by borrowing and so every time the crown took out a loan it
faced future repayment debts.
To try to meet costs, the king and ministers had tried to squeeze the maximum
amount from existing taxation and also introduced a number of temporary taxes.
One that was particularly resented was the Vingtieme, which was a levy on income
paid by all except the clergy. It was introduced in 1749 and was still being levied in
1780.…read more

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Turgot was interested in the writings of the French physiocrats, economic writers
who believed in freeing agriculture from the restrictions of taxes and dues as a way
of stimulating the wealth of the country.
Although this approach had already been attempted unsuccessfully in the 1760s,
Turgot believed this was the way forward and tried to introduce a number of
reforms.…read more

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On the 20th August 1786, Calonne informed Louis that the state faced financial
collapse. The total revenue for 1786, he claimed, would be 475 million livres, but
expenditure was estimated at 587 million livres.
He believed the compte rendu had worsened the situation by making it appear that
the crown had a surplus.…read more

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He attempted to force his proposals through by taking them directly to the
The Paris Parlement, which spoke for the provincial parlements, accepted the
administrative reforms but remained hostile to the land tax reform- it decreed that it
lacked the authority to sanction this change and refused to register the edicts.…read more

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Failed to recognise a changing tide in the intellectual agenda and its impact on
society. Failed to enforce rigorous censorship with the proliferation of radical
journals and press.
Some high ranking members of the nobility believed that the king had let
government become ridiculously complex and was more and more reliant on
ministers and advisers.
There was a perception that Louis stayed away from Paris- detached from his
subjects.…read more


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