France Prior to the Revolution

Basic notes on France and its problems prior to the French revolution, with simplified historian's views section for easy revison.

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  • Created by: cat1232
  • Created on: 04-05-12 19:38

Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette

Louis XVI

  • Ruled by divine right
  • Duty to recognise and protect privilege
  • Absolute monarchy
  • Country on verge of bankrupcy
  • Dominated by queen
  • Ruled by counsel

Marie Antionette

  • Daughter of Austrian emperor- relatives used her to pressure decisions
  • disliked - undermined monarchy's reputation
  • extravagence/ gambling debts- "madame Déficit"
  • had many favourites
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Political Structure of France

Political structure of France

  • 1789- 35 provinces
  • Absolute monarcy- head of state, government and chief judge
  • Government had mainly financial power
  • Court held in Versailles
  • King advised by conseil d'état - 32 intendants
  • Decisions of counsel supposed to be made like court
  • Appeared to only apporve already-made decisions


  • six departmental ministers


  • Resposible for controlling grain trade, censorship etc
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Social Structure


  • 3 estates-     1st --> church
      • 2nd --> Nobility
      • 3rd --> peasants and bourgeoisie
  • Boundaries beginning to erode as bourgeoisie were sometimes more wealthy than nobility


  • high clergy - extremely rich and powerful
  • lower clergy - privileges only thing separting from third estate
  • Don gratvit - only church tax and voluntary


  • (two types) Noblesse de l'épée - blue blood/ large lands etc
  • Noblesse de robe - often government officals/ bought titles
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The Enlightenment

Aim - everything must be examined, without exception, with new intensity!

  • Questioned society, church and absolutism
  • Church attempted to supress
  • Believed ruled should regard himslef as "servant of the state" and work for the equality of all people.
  • Réné Descartes- "I think, therefore I am"
  • But the writers weren't organised and differed greatly so not very big impact.
  • Not considered revolutionary.
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Problems with France


  • 7yrs war/ american revolution had cost a lot
  • large national debt (royal spending)
  • bad harvests and tax system


  • poor paid majority of tax (one of the reasons for tension)


  • enlightenment
  • church still powerful


  • weak monarchy/ ruler
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Historian's Views

J.Hardman --> promonarchy.

A.Cobban --> Louis XVI was an "uninterested and unintresting" spectator.

F.Furret --> Economic collapse due to monarchy.

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