4.1 Time of Wigs

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This lesson contains 47 slides, with interactive quizzes, text slides and 12 videos.

Items in this lesson

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You can explain the Estates Society in France in the 18th century by giving 2 characteritics of each Estate

Lesson Goals:

Slide 2 - Slide

Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité

Slide 3 - Mind map

Is life in Europe full of freedom, equality and brotherhood in 2023?

Slide 4 - Open question

Maybe not.. but what if you compare it to an estate society.. what are estates?

Slide 5 - Open question

Why France revolted
In 1789, a revolution tore France apart. Some causes had been building up for years. 
King Louis XVI was an absolute ruler.
  • He and his nobles lived in luxury. Nobles did not have to pay most taxes. For ordinary people life was hard. They had to pay most taxes. 
  • The Church supported the king. It told people to obey him as a ruler chosen by God. It, too, did not have to pay all taxes. Ordinary people had to give the Church part of their income as a tax. 
  • From 1770, there were many bad harvests, which pushed up the price of grain (and therefore the price of bread). The population rose, pushing bread prices up even more. Bread was the main food of the poor.
King Louis XVI (16th)

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Slide 7 - Video

The Three Estates
(de 3 standen)
All the people in the country belonged 
to one of the 3 estates.

An estate is a group of people 
you belong to from birth.
An estate is hereditary.

You can not easily 
change into 

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1st estate: clergy

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The First Estate
The clergy were people who worked for the Roman Cahtolic Church.

They were the closest to God and so the most important Estate

They payed no taxes and were very powerful because they owned a lot of land

Besides that, almost everyone believed in Christianity in the 18th century 

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1st estate: clergy

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2nd estate: nobles

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The Second Estate
The nobility was the Second Estate.

They were powerfull because they were rich and owned land and sometimes cities.

They had to pay no taxes and owned armies to use in combat.

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3rd estate: peasants

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3rd estate: peasants

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The Third Estate
The Third Estate included everyone else. So rich citizens and poor farmers all belonged to the Third Estate.

The rich people in the third estate are called: bourgeoisie

The Third Estate had to pay all taxes.

So, despite the fact that bourgois people were just as rich as many nobles, they lacked the same rights as nobles. 

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3rd estate: city workers and farmers

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3rd estate: bourgeoisie

Slide 18 - Slide

Which Estate had to pay all the taxes in France?
First Estate
Second Estate
Third Estate

Slide 19 - Quiz

Who were part of the bourgeoisie?
Rich farmers
Rich citizens

Slide 20 - Quiz

Why was the Clergy the First Estate
They were the only one who did pay taxes
They were send by God to rule the world
They were the closest to God
They owned a lot of land

Slide 21 - Quiz

  • In 18th century France, people were divided into 3 groups called "estates" (= standen)
  • 1st estate: the clergy (= geestelijkheid)
  • 2nd estate: nobility  / aristocracy (= adel)
  • 3rd estate: the rest, but can be subdivided into:
  •        - poor, uneducated people: city-workers and farmers
  •        - wealthy, educated people: lawyers, bankers, merchants,               doctors. This group was called the Bourgeoisie
Lesson 4.1  Problems in France

Slide 22 - Slide

Looking at the rights and duties of the 3 estates, 
it becomes clear why the 3rd estate 
(90% of the people) were unhappy.

Slide 23 - Slide

Source A: A cartoon about the Three Estates, published in the 1780s.

Slide 24 - Slide

Which estates do the people in the source represent?

A : clergy B: nobility C: commons
A: commons B: clergy C: nobility
A: nobility B: commons C: clergy
A: nobility B: clergy C: commons

Slide 25 - Quiz

What do you think the stone on top of the figure lying on the ground is supposed to mean?

The stone symbolizes the taxes the third estate had to pay (which is a
heavy weight) and the first and second estate did not.

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Slide 28 - Video

Meeting of the Estates-General
  • In 1789 the king called for a meeting of the Estates-General.
  • He had run out of money and he wanted to ask the representatives of the 3 estates to agree to his plans to raise the taxes.
  • In May, 1200 representatives gathered in Versailles 
  • to listen to the king.

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The 3rd estate members wanted to make some radical changes though......
The meeting would lead to the start of the French Revolution

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How to vote?
This is when trouble started..
The Estates-General sat for several weeks in May and June 1789 but came to an impasse over the first item on the agenda: whether they should vote by estate, giving the first two estates an advantage, which was the King's choice, or vote all together, giving the Third Estate the advantage.

first estate:        300 representatives
second estate:  300 representatives
third estate:       600 representatives
1 vote
1 vote
1 vote
2 votes
1 vote

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The National Assembly and the Tennis Court Oath
June 20, 1789

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The National Assembly and the Tennis Court Oath
June 20, 1789
The National Assembly and the Tennis Court Oath

  • We want a CONSTITUTION that gives us:
  • - more power for the people
  • - less power for the king
  • - equal rights

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Slide 34 - Video


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Napoleon's Legacy.
  • France needed to give back the countries Napoleon had conquered.
  • Many changes that Napoleon had made though remained in many European countries, like:

  •         the Code Napoleon (burgerlijk wetboek): more equality by law.
  •         the same measures: kilo, liter, meter. (the metric system)
  •         the registry office (burgerlijke stand), last names for everybody.
  •         military conscription (dienstplicht).
  •         In many countries that were conquered by Napoleon people became more           nationalistic: they loved (and were proud of) their own country and culture
  •         In the 19th and 20th centuries this would lead to new wars....

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Slide 43 - Video

Slide 44 - Video

Which 19th century inventions and developments did you see in the video? Mention as many as you can.

Slide 45 - Open question

what positive effects of the Industial Revolution were shown in the video?

Slide 46 - Open question

what negative effects of the Industial Revolution were shown in the video?

Slide 47 - Open question