The French Revolution Begins

Causes of the French Revolution
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Causes of the French Revolution

Slide 1 - Tekstslide

Slide 2 - Video

1. How did the structure of social classes in France lead to discontent?

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The French Revolution
  1. Major turning point in European history
  2. The institutions of the Old Regime were destroyed
  3. A new order emerged, based on individual rights, representative institutions and a concept of loyalty to the nation rather than the monarch.

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How did social structure lead to discontent?
Before the revolution, French society was based on inequality.
Since the middle ages, France's population was divided into 3 orders or estates.

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The First Estate: Clergy
Numbered about 130,000
Owned about 10% of the land.
They were divided: The Higher Clergy - cardinals, bishops, and head of monasteries- were from noble families and shared their outlook and interest.
The parish priests were often poor and from the class of commoners.

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Second estate: Nobility
Numbered about: 350,000
Owned about 25-30% of land.
Played a crucial role in society in the 1700s.
Held leading positions in the government, in the military, in the law courts, and in the Roman Catholic Church.

Slide 7 - Tekstslide

Third Estate: Peasants
Made up 75% to 80% of the population.
Peasants owned about 35 to 40 percent of land. While middle class of the 3rd estate owned the rest.
Were variously divided in terms of occupation, level of education, and wealth.

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Peasants owed duties to the nobles.
A peasant had to pay fee to grind his flour or press his grapes. (Lords controlled the flour mill and wine press).

This was a holdover from medieval times when serfdom was widespread.
Serfdom: condition in medieval Europe in which a tenant farmer was bound to a hereditary plot of land and to the will of his landlord.

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Third estate
  • Another part of third estate---> urban craftspeople, shopkeepers, and workers.
  • These people were struggling, particularly during the 1700s as the price of consumer goods increased much faster than wages ---> (decreasing buying power). 

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Third estate: the Bourgeoisie
  • Included 8% of the population (about 2 million people).
  • Owned about 20-25 percent of the land.
  • Included: merchants, bankers, and industrialists, lawyers, holders of public offices, doctors, and writers.

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Third estate
  • The middle class was unhappy with the privileges held by nobles.
  • They did not want to abolish nobility. But they wanted to better their own position.

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  • Some bourgeoisie became nobles by being appointed to public offices that conferred status. (During 1700s, about 6,500 new nobles were created by appointment).
  • Some nobles shared certain goals with the bourgeoisie. Both groups were upset with a monarchical system and on old social order.
  • Both of them also were drawn to the new political ideas of the Enlightenment.

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Social conditions and Enlightenment ideas formed an underlying background to the French Revolution.

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“People who know little are usually great talkers, while men who know much say little.”

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“I prefer liberty with danger than peace with slavery.”

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“Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains. Those who think themselves the masters of others are indeed greater slaves than they.”

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“ respect of riches, no citizen shall ever be wealthy enough to buy another, and none poor enough to be forced to sell himself.”

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During Enlightenment, many philosophes criticized the old order (or: Ancien Regime)
Though Enlightenment intellectuals and philosophes did not advocate revolution, their ideas widely affected the educated middle class and noble elites of France.

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Both of the social conditions and the Enlightenment ideas helped in paving the way for the French Revolution.

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The event that resembled the straw that broke the camel's back was near collapse of the French budget.

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The National Assembly

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Louis XVI called a meeting of Estate General
The First and Second Estate had about 300 representatives for each
The Third Estate had about 600 representatives
Each one of the three Estates had only one vote

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The Third Estate wanted to change voting system, but the king refused.
In June 17, 1789, the Third Estate declared itself as the National Assembly and would draft a new constitution.

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The Rise of Paris Commune
Militants in the Paris Commune, the Revolutionary government of Paris gave the Legislative Assembly a deadline in which to suspend the king.

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When it passed unheeded, they organized an insurrection. On August 10, 1792, a huge crowd of armed Parisians stormed the royal palace after a fierce battle with the garrison.

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The Legislative Assembly then had no choice but to declare the king suspended. That night more than half the deputies themselves fled Paris, for the Legislative Assembly, too, had lost its mandate.

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Those who remained ordered the election by universal male suffrage of a National Convention. It would judge the king, draft a new republican constitution, and govern France during the emergency. The constitution of 1791 had lasted less than a year, and the second revolution had begun.

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knee-length breeches of nobles

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