1. Why was there a revolution in France in 1789? (Long and Short Term Causes).

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  • Created on: 28-05-13 20:07

Taxation system: (long term cause)

·         Taxation system in France = tax farming - chaotic and inefficient.

·         Farmer-General collected indirect taxes for govt. Paid state agreed sum and kept for themselves anything above that figure = Govt. never received enough money from taxes to cover expenditure.

·         Many taxes collected by officials who, under venality, had bought the right to their position = could not be dismissed.

·         Corruption and wastage vast, yet bulk of royal revenue was made up of taxation = weakened Crown.

·         Main direct tax: Taille – in theory payable by those who did not belong to privileged estates. Reality = most inhabitants of towns had been granted exemption by the Crown and so the burden fell mainly on peasantry.

·         Also the capitation (tax on people) and the vingtieme (5% levy on incomes) – not everyone taxed equally created unfairness and resentment.

·         Wide range of indirect taxes (e.g. gabelle, aidas and octrois) – levied on goods not incomes. Considerable burden on those on low incomes, but brought in great deal of income to the Crown.

·         Church did not pay any tax, ebn though earned 100 million livres a year. Instead it paid annual payment which it determined – usually under 5% of its income.

·         Resentment among third estate as they paid the most tax, when on lowest income + knew that much of taxes they paid never reached treasury.

French society – different estates – grievances: (long term cause)

·         French society divided into 3 orders known as Estates of the Realm. First two estates had privileges that were frequently used to disadvantage third estate. Over 18th century, divisions appeared between estates – created tension = lead to revolution.

·         First Estate:

Clergy and members of religious orders. Some bishops held more than one bishopric =bishops of more than one diocese = plurality. Many never visited diocese and this absenteeism made church unpopular as were seen to be more interested in wealth than religious/spiritual needs of people. Tithe: charge paid to church each year by landowners based on a proportion of the crops they produced – most places about 7% of the crop. Tithes supposed to provide for parish priests/poor relief/upkeep of church buildings – reality: went into pockets of bishops/abbots. Church resistance to new ideas & power over people made it unpopular.

·         Second Estate:

Nobility – numbered hundreds of thousands = court nobility, noblesse de robe (legal/administrative nobles) remainder lived in various states of prosperity. Nobility held most top jobs in state, were exempt from taxes, military service, received variety of feudal dues and had exclusive hunting/fishing rights. Determined to propose any changes that threatened positions and undermined privileges, as these were all they had to distinguish them from commoners.

·         Third Estate:

Bourgeoisie – Rich merchants/traders – made vast fortunes from France’s oversees trade. Financers/landowners/members of liberal professions/lawyers/civil servants.  Rose in wealth and


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