Interpretations of the French Revolution

Marx, Mignet, Furet and Enlightened Absolutists 

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Interpreting the French Revolution
Taken from "Thirteen Transformation in the Historiography of the Revolution" by Francois
Firstly interpreted in terms of class struggle:
This was by the liberal historians of the Restoration, before Marx whom's explanation
of history would remain similar, but the outcome and actors were different
However, the Marxist interpretation has problems the inability to account for the
modes by which power is taken and held it only analyses the contents of the
revolutionary event, not the forms or its duration.
Guizot, a French liberal historian, examined the economic dimension of the revolution
and political dimension "When periodizing revolutions, one must begin the day they
burst forth it is the only precise date one can assign them. They do not, however,
take place within such a time framework. The tremors that one terms `revolution,' are
less a symptom of what is beginning than a declaration of what has happened."
Mignet "all the Estates General did was to decree a revolution that had already been
completed." irreversible
Inevitability of the Revolution Mignet
Mignet "all the Estates General did was to decree a revolution that had already been
completed." irreversible
The year 1789 was inevitable, and even prepared beforehand by the entire evolution
of the Ancien Regime.
Yet it provoked tremendously hostile reactions on the part of individuals and classes
with enough strength and freedom of action to oppose it.
Provided a social interpretation of 1789 the bourgeoisie crowned its domination by
seizing political power, succeeding absolute monarchy
"the state's idealism"

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Upheld the idea that the absolute monarchy's power was autonomous relative to
society, the arbiter between the nobility and Third Estate
20th Century Marxist historiography sees the absolute state as aristocratic, governing
in the interests of a formerly feudal class that still retained its social dominance.…read more

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American Independence. He sought alliance with France to counterbalance
British predominance whilst avoiding France as a whole. Charles left a country
in peace and in full progress and it took some for the 1789 French Revolution
to break the policy of nonintervention. The rise of Spanish nationality in foreign
policy ran parallel to its emergence in domestic politics and arose in contact
Floridablanca was a friend of Benjamin Franklin and corresponded with
Voltaire.…read more


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