Before the revolution France operated on
a system known as the Old Regime.
In this system there is an absolute
monarch and three social class: clergy
(first estate), nobility (second estate), and
everyone else (third estate). How you are
treated depends on what estate you are
People have no say in the government
unless the king asks for it (which is rare).
What was life like for the
people of France under the Old
Pay 2% of
income in tax
Pay up to 50% of
income in taxes
Where the government's money comes from
98% of the French people are part of the Third Estate:
Bourgeoisie – educated citizens who believe in
the ideas of the Enlightenment (artisans &
Workers – lower paid workers who were less
educated (servants, cooks, etc.)
Peasants – 80% of the population, work directly
for a noble typically farming or doing other
manual labor, generally not educated
Why were the bourgeoisie
motivated to make changes?
Why are they driving the
Enlightenment Ideas were
spreading and people began
to question whether the Old
Regime (an absolute
monarch and the three
estates system), was the best
approach for France.
The bourgeoisie knew about
Enlightenment ideas and
wanted more freedoms and
say in the government.
People saw the success of
revolution. Many of the
ideas put forth in the
American Declaration of
Enlightenment ideas. It
was very inspiring to
people to see these ideas
put into action.
How did the American
Revolution play a role in what
would happen in France
according to this author?
France used to be very wealthy, but lately there were a
lot of problems with their economy.
There were several causes for this struggle:
1. Heavy taxes to countries who tried to do business with
2. The cost of living rose for everyone.
3. Bad weather in the 1780’s resulted in food shortages.
4. The price for bread doubled in 1789 and many people
5. France’s King, Louis XVI and his wife Marie
Antoinette were very extravagant and spent lots of
money. Bankers refused to lend him anymore money
and he was in deep trouble.
Louis XVI was an
absolute monarch who
ruled France before and
during the revolution.
Louis XVI didn’t think
the people should have
more rights and
freedoms, and didn’t
want them to have any
say in the government.
Marie Antoinette was
an Austrian princess
who was married to
She was hated by the
French people for being
from Austria and
spending a ton of
Louis put off dealing with the money issue until
France was facing bankruptcy.
Louis knew he needed to raise money so he tried to
tax the Second Estate. The Second Estate protested
wildly and insisted the Louis call together a
meeting of the Estates – General an assembly of
representatives from all three of the estates to
decide what to do on the issue. The Estates –
General had not met in 175 years.
What complaints did the Third
Estate have about the way
Louis XVI conducted the
In the Estates – General each
estate gets one vote.
The Third Estate would never
win because the First &
Second Estate voted together.
This time the representatives
from the Third Estate
demanded that they vote by
Louis XVI said no, which
made the Third Estate angry.
The Third Estate decided they would form there
own group and called themselves the National
Assembly. The goal of the National Assembly
was to pass laws and reforms in the name of
the French people.
Three days later when the National Assembly
found themselves locked out of a meeting hall
they broke into a local tennis court and took a
pledge to keep meeting until they had created a
new constitution for France. This became
known as the Tennis Court Oath.
Louis was scared so he
hired Swiss Guards to
protect him (he didn’t
trust his soldiers).
People saw the Swiss
Guards and thought Louis
was going to attack them.
On July 14, 1789 angry
citizens stormed the
Bastille, a prison in
Paris, to get gunpowder
and supplies to fight back.
After the invasion of the
Bastille a wave of senseless
panic known as the Great
Fear spread through out
In October 1789
approximately 60,000 Parisian
women rioted over the rising
price of bread. The women
marched to Versailles and
broke into the palace.
They took the king and queen
Historical Context: Imagine you are a member of the
bourgeoisie who is leading the French Revolution.
You have to make quick decisions for each crisis.
After you read about each real situation below, then
the class will ask any clarifying questions about it,
and then you will write your own solution to the
problems presented. When you are done, the teacher
will tell you what really happened.
1789 - The peasants are rebelling, but the bourgeoisie
cannot control them. The peasants think that their
right to freedom means they can do whatever they
want since now they are free from the control of the
king. They don’t know what good rights or bad rights
are and have no understanding of the “social
contract”. This is looking more like the state of
nature. What should you do?