The French Revolution:A Brief History Gary Brown Central Michigan University Technology in Education
The World at 1788 The world was in a new Age after the Enlightenment. People began using Enlightenment ideas like the Natural Rights of Man to question traditional/medieval authorities. The U.S.A had already founded a nation with a Democratic political system.
France in 1789: How it Began In 1789 France’s people were split into three Estates: The 1st Clergy, the 2nd Nobility, and the 3rd Commoners. Louis the 16th, King of France, had inherited enormous amounts of debt from his predecessors and his lavish court life at the Palace Versailles. In 1789 Louis called an Estates General, a meeting of all the Estates and the 1st since 1614, to discuss the debt.
The Estates General Each Estate had 1 vote, even though the first 2 Estates only comprised 20%-25% of the population. The 3rdEstate, angry at the lack of equality, demanded individual rights for equal representation. Angry at the 3rdEstate for its supposed “insubordination”, King Louis the 16th locked the 3rdEstate out of the meeting chamber.
The Start of a Revolution: The Tennis Court Oath Refusing to give up, the 3rdEstate met at a tennis court close to the meeting chamber at the palace Versailles. Here the 3rdEstate made an oath to form a National Assembly and a Constitution. The French Revolution had begun.
Violence and The National Assembly It took two years for the Assembly to write a constitution, 1789-1791. During this time many peasant mobs roamed France targeting the aristocratic class. By Breaking into their houses, killing them, and running them out of the country the peasants significantly lessened the power of the 2ndEstate. The time is often referred to as the Great Fear.
The legislative Assembly and War Unfortunately the Constitution and its government, the Legislative Assembly, only lasted 1 year, 1791-1792. In 1792 the two great powers in Europe, Prussia and Austria, afraid of the spread of Democracy, declared war on France in order to restore the Monarchy. The Legislative assembly was dissolved and a National Convention was set up by a more radical less well to do group of 3rdEstate Members, the Sans-Culottes.
Robespierre and the Reign of Terror The new Convention, in order to deal with the pressures abroad and internally, put much trust in the radically militant Robespierre and his committee for public safety. Robespierre mobilized the nation, creating a great army and waged successful warfare against the European powers. Even expanding France’s Territory!
Reign of Terror cont. At home however Robespierre dealt with “Enemies of the Republic” with the guillotine. It is estimated that 16,000 people were executed between 1793 and 1794, including the King Louis the 16th. Though successful in defending and saving the revolution, Robespierre and the Terror was a violent and scary time.
The Directory Tired of the Committee for public safety’s brutal tactics the Convention had Robespierre himself executed in 1794! To separate powers and further reform, a new constitution was written in 1795. This new government had two chambers, one for proposing legislation and the other for approving it. It was called the Directory.
The Fall of the Directory This was a time of stagnation in the revolution. The Directory’s representative’s where those who could afford to pay taxes many times greater than the average citizen. As a result only the rich could become representative’s. The Directory quickly became corrupt and little was done to improve the Nation.
The End of the Revolution The Directory came to rely too heavily on its grand army to rule the country. In 1799 a Coup de ‘etate was held in Paris by the military and a talented, young military officer came out the winner. His name was Napoleon Bonaparte, and he would come to dominate all of Europe for the next 16 years.
The French Revolution’s Lasting Legacies The French Revolution forever influenced the way European Nations citizens view their role in Government. It was the societal manifestation of Enlightenment ideas, illustrated by the Revolution’s slogan: “liberty, Equality, Fraternity”. How did the French Revolution change the world forever?
Sources First Picture: http://www.success.co.il/knowledge/images/Pillar10-History-French-Revolution-Delacroix.jpg Second Picture: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2059/2275100991_2c9dd034c2.jpg Third Picture: https://jspivey.wikispaces.com/file/view/tennis_court_oath.jpg Fourth Picture: http://les.guillotines.free.fr/robespierre.gif Fifth Picture: https://jspivey.wikispaces.com/file/view/medieval-guillotine-4800.jpg Sixth Picture: http://images2.wikia.nocookie.net/uncyclopedia/images/4/41/NapoleonBike.jpg Seventh Picture: http://maxdunbar.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/france-flag.jpg All information used in this presentation was obtained from; Spielvogel, J. (2008). Western Civilization: A Brief History. Volume 2: since 1500. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.