Revolutionary France

Revision for Year 10 Elective History 

The French Revolution 

  • Created by: Elizabeth
  • Created on: 06-10-12 01:40

Eighteenth Century France before the Revolution

Eighteenth Century France before the Revolution

~France dominated Europe during the reign of Louis XV and Louis the XVI, due to:

  • her large growing population
  • her rich natural resources
  • the lack of unity in Germany and Italy

~By the late 1780's France's supremacy was weakening because:

  • Britain inflicted a decisive defeat on France during the Seven Years War (1756-63)
  • Prussia and Russia were growing dominance of power in Europe

~However, France was able to maintain their powerful position as:

  • Latin was suspended as the international language
  • Paris and Versailles helped cultivate brilliant social life
  • A long line of writers, playwrights, novelists and thinkers contributed to cultivating France's position as the centre of European civilisation 
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The Ancien Regime

The Ancien Regime

The Ancien Regime was a label used to describe the organisation of government and society in France before 1789. It was composed of the King, on one hand, and everyone else on the other.

~Social Organisation in France

  • First Estate- Clergy (130 000)
  • Second Estate- Nobility (400 000)
  • Third Estate- Commoners (24 500 000) 

The clergy was a profession rather than a social class and were differentiated into:

  • Those of noble birth, who held positions in the upper clergy (archbishops, bishops, abbots)
  • The lower clergy (commoners) 

While there were three Estates, there were ONLY TWO CLASSES, nobles and commoners

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The Monarchy

The Monarchy

~The French King was the absolute ruler which meant that:

  • the use of his powers was not limited by anyone in anyway
  • the manner in which he ruled was his choice

~However this did not mean that the King's power was despotic. The King was to rule with:

  • The support of the law
  • The support of God
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The Aristocracy

The Aristocracy

~The sword nobility 

  • descendants of noble families
  • tended to dominate careers in the army

~The robe nobility 

  • had acquired or inherited noble titles
  • grew in wealth and importance over time
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The Third Estate: Peasants

The Third Estate: Peasants

~The peasantry formed about 80% of the population 

~At the top came a fairly small but economically powerful class of men who owned land and were able to make a comfortable living for themselves 

~Beneath them were the peasants who owned or rented enough land to make a comfortable living but struggled greatly when crops failed

~Next were the metayers, the landless or nearly landless peasants who rented a little and recieved stock, seeds and tools from their landlords

~Finally came the host of landless peasants who depended on being able to find agricultural work to make a living

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The Third Estate: The Bourgeoisie

The Third Estate: The Bourgeoisie

~The haute bourgeoisie

  • merchants, financiers and manufacturers who had taken advantage of the commercial and industrial growth in France

~The petite bourgeoisie

  • Those engaged in liberal professions 
  • Lawyers, doctors, chemists, engineers, writers, lower army officers, journalists, traders, bankers and clerks
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Government and Administration

Government and Administration

~Three Kings reigned during the eighteenth century 

  • Louis XIV (1643-1715) Concentrated on maintaining and improving his own authority but never used it to sweep reforms
  • Louis XV (1715-1774) Shy, sensual, idle, easily bored and the one who preferred to avoid problems
  • Louis XVI (1774-1793) reigned in a period of crisis and upheaval, he lacked confidence and his own judgment.
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The King's Ministry

The King's Ministry

~The King's power structure 

  • Chancellor or Keeper of the Seals- responsible for justice
  • Controller General- responsible for internal affairs and finance 
  • Four Secretaries of State: War, Foreign Affairs, Navy, Maision du Roi (household of the King)
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The Financial Administration

The Financial Administration

~The main tax of the French monarchy before 1789 was the taille. In general it was paid only by the poor.

~The capitation, set up in 1695 was a tax on wealth with no exceptions. 

~In 1749, Controller General Machault attempted to institute the vingtieme ('twentieth' tax) but by 1751, the nobility were able to apply enough pressure on Louis XV to have it reduced to more than just a additional burden on the peasantry 

~The main indirect taxes included:

  • custom duties, including internal customs duties
  • wine, playing cards soap etc.
  • tobacco and salt 

~Stamp taxes, lotteries an the sale of offices were also taxed

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The Church

The Church

~The Church were given power and privileges by the King including:

  • Land; approximately 6% of the land in France
  • Immunity from public taxation
  • The right to levy the tithe (a tax payable by all peasants) 
  • Control of administrative functions (births, deaths and marriages) 
  • Virtual monopoly of education

~Positions held by the Church

  • Cardinal- leading dignitary, wore a red robe
  • Archbishop- a chief bishop, supervisor 
  • Bishop- Governor of one of the 142 diocese in France
  • Canon- expert in religious law and doctrine
  • Abbot- head of a monastery of monks
  • Prior- deputy to an abbot

~Common clergy positions included: parish priest, vicars, monks, nuns and brothers

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