5.2 The French Revolution I

The Time of Wigs and Revolutions
5.2 The French Revolution
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This lesson contains 29 slides, with interactive quizzes, text slides and 3 videos.

Items in this lesson

The Time of Wigs and Revolutions
5.2 The French Revolution

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Slide 2 - Slide

Let's see what you remember from our previous class!

Slide 3 - Slide

In the eighteenth century, a large majority of the French people belonged to:

the first estate.
the second estate.
the third estate.
the bourgeoisie.

Slide 4 - Quiz

The bourgeoisie, a group that included doctors and lawyers was part of:

the first estate.
the second estate.
the third estate.
the second and the third estate.

Slide 5 - Quiz

Which statement is true?

Statement I: The bourgeoisie had the same power as the clergy and nobility.
Statement II: Members of the bourgeoisie did not have to pay taxes.

Statement I is true.
Statement II is true.
Both statements are true.
Both statements are false.

Slide 6 - Quiz

What kind of change did the bourgeoisie demand in the Estates General?
They demanded the same power and privileges as the people from the first and second estate.
They wanted better working conditions.
They wanted the first and second estate to reduce their spending and luxurious lifestyle.
They demanded a better salary for their hard work.

Slide 7 - Quiz

The main goal of the meeting of the
Estates-General in 1789 was to discuss:

the social inequality of the estates system.
the position of the king.
the causes of the famine.
the taxation system in France.

Slide 8 - Quiz

What you will learn in 
this lesson
  • How the meeting of the Estates-general ended
  • What the Tennis Court Oath was
  • How, why and when the French Revolution started
  • How the Ancien Regime came to an end

Slide 9 - Slide

What is this lesson about?
Several factors led to the French Revolution. First of all, a meeting in the Estates-General ended in a disappointment for the third estate. Their proposal to have the first and second estate pay taxes was overruled by the other two estates. Therefore the third estate decided to establish the National Assembly and called for social equality. Poor and dissatisfied people attacked the Bastille and in the countryside, violence broke out against the landlords. After these events, feudal rights were abolished and everyone in France was made a citizen.

Slide 10 - Slide

Word Duty

Revolution: a change from one – often political – system to another, in a relatively short period of time
National Assembly: in 1789, a meeting was established by disappointed members of the third estate; several members of the lower nobility and clergy also joined
Tennis Court Oath: a pledge of the third estate and it’s sympathisers not to break-up the National Assembly until a new constitution for France had been written
The Great Fear: a revolt from peasants against their landlords on the countryside
Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen: in 1789, a declaration was written by the National Assembly, stating that everyone is born free and is equal in the eyes of the law

Slide 11 - Slide

Important  people
king Louis XVI (16th)
queen Marie Antoinette
Maximilian Robespierre
Napoleon Bonaparte

Slide 12 - Slide

Important dates of the French Revolution (the yellow dates are of this lesson)
1789: May:       King Louis XVI calls for a meeting of the Estates-General
         June:      Tennis Court Oath
         July 14:   Storming of the Bastille
         Aug:        the Great Fear 
                        la Nuit des Sacrifices
                        Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
         Oct:         March on Versailles
1791: Failed escape of the king
1792: Feb:       start First Coalition War
          Sept:      end of the monarchy
                        reign of Terror
1793: Louis XVI executed
1794: Directoire
1797: end First Coalition War
1798: Napoleon arrives.

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A revolution is a change from one – often political - system to another in a relatively short period of time. The French Revolution in 1789 shows very well how rapidly a state can change politically and socially. But the political upheaval in France did not happen overnight.

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What do you need to do?
1. Go through the following slides
2. After each slide: click on the 'summarize' button.
3. Answer the questions and write your answers down in your notebook.
4. Do not go to the next slide before you answered the questions

Slide 15 - Slide

Division and disappointment in the Estates-General

On May 5th, 1789, the Palace of Versailles became the meeting place of the clergy, nobility and the representatives of the third estate of France. The main goal of this meeting was to discuss the taxation system in France. Especially the third estate, mostly represented by lawyers and merchants, hoped to establish equal rights and obligations. They proposed a different economic system in which the clergy and nobility also contributed to the king’s wealth.
The nobility did not agree with the proposal of paying taxes because it would take away one of their privileges. 
Another problem was the voting system, namely that each estate received one vote. The number of representatives did not matter. This meant that despite the fact that the third estate had a lot of representatives, their vote was overridden by the clergy and nobility who combined their votes. The third estate demanded the French king to change this rule. Yet Louis XVI refused to change the voting system in the Estates-General.

  1. what was the goal of the meeting?
  2. what did the 3rd estate want to achieve?
  3. how did the voting system work?
  4. why was this not positive for the 3rd estate?
first estate:         300 representatives
second estate:   300 representatives
third estate:       600 representatives

Slide 16 - Slide

The Tennis Court Oath

In June 1789, the disappointed and angry third estate decided to establish a new meeting called the National Assembly. Several members of the nobility and clergy also decided to join.
The National Assembly wanted no more absolute power for the French king and an end to the estates system. They believed in equality for everyone. King Louis XVI did not agree with the National Assembly and decided to send 20,000 soldiers in secret to end the meeting of the Assembly.
The next day, members of the Assembly met in an indoor tennis hall that had enough place for all the representatives. The third estate and its sympathisers pledged not to break-up until a new constitution for France had been written. Their pledge is called the Tennis Court Oath.

  1. What was the National Assembly and what did they want?
  2. How did the king respond?
  3. What was the tennis court oath?

Slide 17 - Slide

With the name 'National Assembly' the third estate wanted to say that this was the legitimate gathering of the people of France and that the Estates-General was not.

The Tennis Court Oath. Members of the lower nobility and clergy joined the third estate. Painting by Jacques-Louis David (1791).

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A violent start of the French Revolution

In 1789, the French people had simply had enough of food scarcities and the social inequality in their country. The ‘arrogance’ of the nobility and the luxurious lifestyle at Versailles made the people even angrier. In July 1789, hundreds of Parisians gathered together and plundered and destroyed food 
depots, hospitals and armouries. On July 14th, they stormed the Bastille, a state prison where the government stored ammunition. The storming of the Bastille is considered the start of the French Revolution.

  1. what happened on July 14th 1789?
  2. Explain briefly who did this and why
  3. What is significent about this event?
Storming of the Bastille. On the right you see the arresting of Bernard de Launay, the governor of the Bastille. Anonymous painting.

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Slide 20 - Video

The Great Fear

The outburst of violence did not only reach the streets of Paris. Between July 17th and August 3th 1789, peasants in the countryside revolted against their landlords. This event is called The Great Fear because peasants believed that the higher classes created the famine on purpose, to starve out the poor people. The peasants destroyed the villas and castles of the hated nobility one by one. Hundreds of people were killed in violent confrontations between the rich and poor.

explain what the Great Fear was (who?, why? what? when?)
The rebellious peasants and city workers were sometimes called the Sans Culottes ('without knee breeches'). They got this nickname because they wore trousers, while the nobility could be recognized by their knee breeches.

Slide 21 - Slide

La Nuit des Sacrifices

To gain back control over France, the National Assembly decided to take drastic measures. On August 4th and August 5th 1789, ‘La Nuit des Sacrifices’ took place. This was an important event because it heralded the start of a social revolution in France. After the Great Fear, the estates system was abolished.
Now all people of France were equal and everyone was called citoyenne (‘citizen’).  It also ended the absolutism of the French king. The period of time in which the French king had absolute power is known as the Ancien Régime.

  1. who took which 2 measures during La Nuit des Sacrifices?
La Nuit des Sacrifices: End of the Ancien Régime in a symbolic scene. Anonymous (1789).

Slide 22 - Slide

Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen

Two weeks later, the National Assembly established the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen
Its motto still resonates in France and all over the world: liberté (‘freedom’), egalité (‘equality’) and fraternité (‘brotherhood’). According to the Declaration everyone is born free and is equal in the eyes of the law. Furthermore, there is freedom of speech and all religions are to be tolerated.
The French Declaration was inspired by the Declaration of Independence in the United States. You learned about this in chapter 4. According to the American Declaration everyone is equal and no one is above the law. This also means all people have to pay taxes. The ideas of enlightened French philosophers like Montesquieu and Voltaire were the basis of this declaration. They stated that all people have natural rights that cannot be taken away from them. The government should honour these rights, otherwise the people are allowed to revolt.

  1. what were the main ideas of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen?
  2. what is the link between this document, the American Revolution, and the Enlightenment?
The motto Egalité, Fraternité, liberté, first used by Maximilien Robespierre in 1790, in a symbolic drawing.

Slide 23 - Slide

Which of the following best describes the meaning of the term "National Assembly"?
a meeting of representatives from the three estates
a meeting of people who want represent all the French people
a meeting of people who only represent the third estate
an assembly of French nationalists

Slide 24 - Quiz

Storming of the Bastille
National Assembly is formed
The Tennis Court Oath
France on the verge of bankruptcy

Slide 25 - Drag question


Slide 26 - Slide

You can watch the following movieclips for an extra explanation of the French Revolution

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Slide 28 - Video

Slide 29 - Video