The French Revolution
The French Revolution began in 1789 as a popular movement to reform the 'absolute' rule of the monarch, Louis XVI. However, by 1793 France was in the grip of the 'Terror', and in 1804 France returned to a dictatorship under Napoleon Bonaparte.
A number of factors caused the French Revolution:
A feudal aristocracy still ruled over the peasants as they had in the Middle Ages.
The government was bankrupt and the king, Louis XVI, was weak.
The writer Rousseau popularised the idea that kings did not have the right to 'absolute' rule, but that government was a 'social contract' between king and people.
The 1780s were a time of bad harvests and rising prices.
In 1789, money problems forced the king to call the 'Estates General' - a kind of parliament. He wanted to raise taxes.
The Estates did not give him more money, but instead presented thousands of lists of complaints, known as 'cahiers'.