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The French Revolution. CAUSES OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION. What is the French Revolution?. Common People overthrew a king and form a new government in the one of the most powerful and wealthy countries in the world (The only time in history)

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The french revolution

The French Revolution



What is the french revolution
What is the French Revolution?

  • Common People overthrew a king and form a new government in the one of the most powerful and wealthy countries in the world (The only time in history)

  • First time a Monarchy and Nobility were replaced by democracy and popular rule

  • Freedom and Individual Rights become government priorities

  • The ideas of the enlightenment become a reality

The legacy of the french revolution
The Legacy of the French Revolution

  • Things almost immediately go wrong

  • Violence then Chaos

  • War and Public executions by the Thousands

  • Dictatorship then even more war

  • In the end, after 20 years of insanity, a new kings is appointed in France and the revolution ends

  • However, the revolution does not die, the ideas live on and act as the foundation for many of the political and social changes of the 19th century

The enlightenment
The Enlightenment

  • The ideas of the Enlightenment were the foundation of the complaints against the king

  • They were also the foundation for the concept that a government could be ruled by the people for the people

  • The enlightenment suggested that people have natural rights that should be protected and that a government that disregards these rights rules illegally

  • The enlightenment was not the greatest source of anger in the people, however, it was a very important cause

The american revolution
The American Revolution

  • The success of the American revolution proved that democracy could work and that common people could rise to power

  • It acted as a model

  • Most importantly, French troops fought beside Americans in the Revolution

  • These troops fought, suffered and died for the cause of Freedom. Then they came home to absolutism and oppression

  • If they could fight for the freedom of others, then they could fight for their own freedom


  • France had been involved in many costly wars during the reigns of Louis the 14th, 15th and 16th

  • They had recently fought, and lost, the seven years war

  • They had sent soldiers, naval vessels and money to support he American revolution

  • In addition, the King and the nobility were spending enormous amounts on luxury

  • France was completely bankrupt!

Louis the 16th
Louis the 16th

  • Louis was a weak ruler

  • Although he was well liked and popular, he lacked the ability to be ruthless

  • Not highly intellegent

  • Was easily influenced, especially by his wife, Marie Antionette

Interesting facts about louis
Interesting Facts about Louis

  • Louis had phimosis, a problem which prevented him from having intercourse –easily fixed by circumcision – he was married for 7 years before he had intercourse with his wife – this causes permanent problems between husband and wife

  • Louis was called a “fat, ill-breed boy” by his Father’s mistresses, most agreed he did not have the qualities to be a leader

  • Louis was very good at manual labour - interested in locks – he fiddled with the palace locks in his spare time – he admitted privately that he wished he could live a simple life as a locksmith

  • Many thought Louis was a drunk – however, he did not drink excessively – he would often eat to the point of collapse

Marie antoinette
Marie Antoinette

  • Marie was married when she was only 13

  • Although she was an attractive, intelligent and cultured girl, she received no attention from her husband

  • She fell into loneliness and depression

  • She was also hated by the French people, she was blamed for the Royal couples lack of Children

  • To combat her situation, Marie turned to a extravagant and pleasure seeking lifestyle

  • She often influenced Louis to create policy that would favour her and her rich friends

  • For example: Marie Antoinette was influential in preventing the King from reforming the tax system

  • She never said “Let them eat Cake!” - a myth based on writing of Rousseau – Marie was only 9 when the book was published

  • However, Marie was not a villain – she was in fact dedicated to helping the poor through charity – however, she became a symbol of the extravagance of royal life and was a target of the revolutionaries

The estate system
The Estate System

  • The People of France were divided into 3 Estates

  • The First Estate was the clergy

  • Approximately 100,000 people

  • The Second Estate was the Nobility

  • Approximately 400,000 people

  • Both did not have to pay taxes

  • Most lived in great luxury in chateaux and palaces

  • The Nobles had almost complete authority over the peasants

  • They collected tolls for usage of the roads, markets, mills, ovens and winepresses

  • Were not required to do Military Service

  • Despite all their privileges, they were politically unimportant since the time of Louis the 14th

  • Several attempts were made to tax the nobility, but Louis was to weak to implement it

The third estate
The Third Estate

  • 90% of the Population

  • Forced to do military service

  • Forced to pay taxes and tolls to the King, Nobility and Clergy – economically crushing

  • Denied important positions in the government and Army

  • Were not allowed to hunt to supplement the diet

  • Not all the third estate were peasants – many in France were educated – doctors, lawyers, merchants, middle class workers - shared the same fate as the country folk

The harvest crisis
The Harvest Crisis

  • This was the spark that set off the firestorm

  • Very few fruits and vegetables were being produced by France’s farms

  • The price of produce, especially wheat and bread were very high

  • Despite the crisis, taxes continued to rise to combat the national debt

  • The people of France were starving

  • They began to protest and soon became violent