History A2 French Revolution Essay Factors

I've broken down the topic into 12 potential essays that could be asked on the 1789 revolution, 1789-92, The Terror, The Directory, Napoleon's domestic reforms and the Bourbon restoration. If you can memorise these factors, you have a ready-made template for any essay that's thrown at you. Hope it's useful!

  • Created by: Megan
  • Created on: 06-05-12 10:23

Why was there a revolution in France in 1789?

Long Term

  • Structure and governing (Social divisions, rise of the middle classes- unfair 'venal' system)
  • Enlightenment thinking (Rousseau, Abbe Sieyes etc.)

Short Term

  • Foreign Policy (getting involved in War of Independence, costs a lot leading to...)
  • Financial crisis/ Bankruptcy (calling of the Estates-General, setting up of National assembly etc.)
1 of 12

Why did the ancien regime collapse in 1789?

  • The Nobles Revolt (1788, loses Louis his traditional suppporters)
  • Bourgeoisie Revolution (political, Tennis Court Oath, creation of National Assembly- direct challenge to Louis' authority)
  • The role of the sans-culottes (Versailles journee)
  • Louis' mistakes (failing to act)
  • The Peasants' Revolt (made the revolution FRENCH, not PARISIAN)
2 of 12

Why did constitutional monarchy collapse in 1792?

  • The war in Europe (going badly, fear of invasion amplifies other factors, brings radical federes into Paris, Brunswick/Pillnitz)
  • The failing economy (radicalises sans-culottes, makes republicanism mainstream- 80% of wages on bread)
  • Divisions in society (Jacobin/ Cordeliers clubs, rise of middle classes, Civil Constitution of the Clergy)
  • Louis' mistakes (Flight to Varennes, vetoing laws on refractory priests and emigres, failing to recognise his precarious position)
3 of 12

Why did the Terror emerge in 1793?

  • External threats (war going badly, fear of invasion made radical measures seem necessary)
  • Internal threats (civil war, rising in the Vendee)
  • Radicalisation of the Assembly (September Massacres/ Louis' execution- deputies know they will be executed if France is invaded/ taken over by rebels)
  • Creation of the CPS and overthrow of the Girondins (political structure concentrates power- dictatorship goes unchecked, deputies afraid of arguing with CPS)
4 of 12

What was the impact of the Terror?

  • Political Terror (execution of moderates radicalises the rest- Danton, Hebert)
  • Economic Terror (Maximum, execution of hoarders)
  • Religious Terror (dechristianisation, Cult of the Supreme Being)
  • Defeating external threats (the requisitioning of war supplies/ 'levee en masse' is successful (Carnot), France reaches 'natural frontiers'- Rhine, Alps, only fighting Britain- Battle of Valmy removes Austria, turning point)
  • Deepening social divisions (Maximum pits Parisians against peasants, dechristianisation alienates provinces)
5 of 12

Did the Directory achieve anything?

  • Structure/ Impact of 1795 Constitution (very democratic, but too many checks and balances- Directors have to rely on the army to control Councils)
  • Political Developments (Vendemiaire Uprising- role of military/Napoleon, Coup of Fructidor- use of military to end democracy)
  • Military Successes (war going well, leads to Napoleon's advancement and growing popularity)
  • Economic Developments (reliance on 'booty' from war for income, but Ramel's reforms-bankruptcy of two-thirds, new taxes- balance the budget for the first time since pre-1789) 
6 of 12

How did Napoleon seize power?

Long Term

  • Problems of the Directory (Constitution (too many checks and balances- Directors have to rely on the army to control Councils), use of military in Vendemiaire, Fructidor starts slide towards military government, war going badly 1798-99)
  • Personal Popularity of Napoleon (military successes in Italy and Austria, out of the way in Egypt for last few years so not seen as part of recent political squabbling)
  • Political apathy

Short Term

  • Lawlessness in parts of France (desertions in the army, Jourdan's Law, Law of Hostages creates resentment)
  • Attempt by Sieyes to take power (Moreau recommends Napoleon, Council removed to Saint-Cloud, Lucien and army defend Napoleon against deputies)
7 of 12

Why was Napoleon able to become Emperor by 1804?


  • Political contrast to Directory (not a 'man of party', new Constitution- First Consul, seen as strong leader)
  • Patronage (meritocracy, Legion d'Honneur- loyalty of able supporters is unwavering)
  • Concordat (resolves religious issue peacefully, retains CONTROL over Church in France through bishops)
  • Education (sets up lycees for civil servants/ military, teacher training introduced, university set up in Paris)
  • Military Victories (Marengo etc. consolidate position, maintain popularity)


  • Spies, propaganda, censorship, Fouche's secret police eliminate opposition
  • Assassination attempt caused timing (1804)
8 of 12

What was the significance of Napoleon's reform?

  • Political (Constitution)
  • Religion (Concordat resolves an issue that has plagued France since 1789, retains control of bishops)
  • Administrative (Code Napoleon makes French system most modern in Europe, permanently influences occupied countries)
  • Education (sets up lycees for civil servants/ military, teacher training introduced, university set up in Paris)
  • Economy (relies on war)
9 of 12

How successful was Louis XVIII?

  • Problems inherited (opposition to the restoration of a Bourbon, Second Peace of Paris is personally signed by him- seen as working with Allies)
  • Charter of 1814 (can follow Spirit or Letter- he follows Spirit and is relatively liberal- 'middle path')
  • Political policies UP TO 1820 (dissolves 'la chambre introuvable', appoints Decazes (liberal), abolishes censorship)
  • Political policies AFTER 1820 (assassination of Duc de Berry- polarisation, reaction against liberals, Louis dominated by Ultras/ Comte d'Artois)
  • Economic policies (appoints Villele who reforms finance administration, reforms taxation, pays off indemnity by 1818, Aix-la-Chapelle)
  • Religious policies (leaves religion alone until 1820- knows it's a sensitive issue- but places education in bishops' hands in 1821)
10 of 12

Why was there a revolution in July 1830?

  • Charles' incompetence (belief in DROK, Ordinances of Saint-Cloud, hunting at Rambouillet, failure to secure key positions- troops in Algiers, disbanding of Paris National Guard)
  • Situation in Paris (rioting, economic crisis- 66%, 25%)


  • Political policies (keeps 'la chambre retrouvee', keeps Villele- unpopular- appoints Martignac- yes man- appoints Polignac- Ultra Ultra. Out of touch- declaration by Chamber that unfair system is invalid.)
  • Religious policies (coronation at Rheims, sacrilege, Jesuit conspiracy)
  • Economic policies (compensation for emigres)


  • Systemic issues (Charter of 1814, political polarisation in 1820, social divisions)
11 of 12

Why was the restoration of the Bourbons short-live

  • Systemic issues (winners/losers of revolution- social divisions, the Charter of 1814- Louis follows Spirit, Charles follows Letter, shown by appointment of ministers).
  • Political policies (Louis dissolves 'la chambre introuvable', Charles keeps 'la chambre retrouvee', contrast between Decazes' liberalism and Polignac- Chamber Declaration March 1830, 1820 shift)
  • Economic policies (Louis very successful- appointment of Villele, Aix-la-Chapelle, Charles also successful but compensation for emigres makes him unpopular)
  • Religious policies (Louis leaves it alone other than education 1821, Charles restores church influence- coronation, sacrilege results in Jesuit conspiracy)
  • Short term causes of July Revolution (Charles' incompetence, situation in Paris- 66%, 25%)
12 of 12




So I'm sitting here, trying to revise- and I stumble upon this. Read the entire thing, think 'this is really good!' then realise who made it... Hey Meg.. Fancy seeing you here ;)



So I'm sitting here, trying to revise - and I notice Ruby's sitting next to me. Hey Ruby... Fancy seeing you here ;)



Which exam board were you on? I'm on Edexcel and these keycards are REALLY useful! Thanks!

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