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The French Revolution. Why did millions of French people suddenly revolt against institutions that their ancestors accepted for hundreds of years?. A Breakdown of the causes. Discuss. Formation of Classes. Since Middle Ages people divided into three large social classes (estates)

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The french revolution

The French Revolution

Why did millions of French people suddenly revolt against institutions that their ancestors accepted for hundreds of years?

Formation of classes
Formation of Classes

  • Since Middle Ages people divided into three large social classes (estates)

    • The political system before the revolution was known as the Old Regime

    • 1st = Roman Catholic Clergy

    • 2nd =Nobles

    • 3rd = Commoners

  • Collectively they met as the Estates General

1st estate
1st Estate

  • Held about 10% of the land

  • Archbishops, bishops and abbots enormously wealthy

  • Parish priests were poor

  • Paid no direct taxes - gave a “free gift” of about 2% of income to the government

2nd estate
2nd Estate

  • Made up less than 2% of the population

  • Owned about 20% of the land

  • Held all of the highest positions in the church, army, gov’t, and courts

  • Had no tax burden for centuries

3rd estate
3rd Estate

  • 98% of France’s population

  • 3 Groups

    • Bourgeoisie - city dwelling middle class

      • Wealthy - desperate for social status

    • Urban lower class

      • Hard working sans-culottes (those without knee breeches)

      • Ate about 3 pounds of bread a day

      • 1788 grain harvest were small

    • Peasant farmers

      • 4/5 of 20 million

      • 1/2 of income to tax & courvee (unpaid labor (as for the maintenance of roads) required by a lord of his vassals in lieu of taxes)

Discontent in france
Discontent in France

  • Population pressures

    • Population increased in the 1700s - need to supply more for a larger family

  • Financial Crisis

    • Landowners pressed peasants for higher rents

    • Inflation - prices increase while _____ remains unchanged = hatred between the rich and poor

    • King is blamed for the economic situation

The french revolution

(financial continued-)

  • Louis XV - the Well-Beloved king ruled for 59 years

    • “It will survive for my time, After me the deluge” (Louis XV )

    • Borrowed heavily from banks to keep the government running

    • Handed a nation in financial trouble over to his heir

  • Louis XVI -

    • Inherits a bankrupt nation with no one willing to lend him money

    • Many advisors suggest taxing the 2nd estate

      • Calls the Estates General to gain approval for his plan

Weak leadership
Weak Leadership

  • Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette

    • Louis financed a very expensive American Revolution ----- Why?

    • Was indecisive and let things drift

    • Marie Antoinette was from the royal family of Austria - France’s longtime enemy

    • She spent a fortune on gowns and jewels

  • Louis wants to tax the nobility - must meet the demands of calling the Estates General --- Versailles May 1, 1789

    • Why would he want to call the E.G. after 175 years?

    • Read Abbey Sieyes (handout)

The estates general
The Estates General

The Number of Representatives


1st Estate



2nd Estate




3rd Estate

The estates general controversy
The Estates General & Controversy

Voting by Chamber


1st Estate



2nd Estate



3rd Estate


The french revolution

  • The 3rd estate sees that it represents the entire nation, & decides to reform unilaterally:

    • Calls itself the “National Assembly”

    • Louis closes down the meeting and members flee to a nearby tennis court

  • Tennis Court Oath

    • Pledge to stay in service until a constitution is written.

      • That constitution must limit king’s powers, and must require regular sitting of an elected legislative assembly with power to budget and create law

The great fear and the constitution
The Great Fear and the constitution decides to reform unilaterally:

  • While the urban masses supported National Assembly

    • Peasants did not know what to think

      • They were afraid that removing power from the king would …

      • Began attacking aristocratic homes looking for documents & destroying homes & property

    • This convinced the N.A. that …

The french revolution

  • 3rd Estate ---- decides to reform unilaterally:“National Assembly”

  • To end the Great Fear and Violence

    • Abolished the special privileges of the First and Second Estates

    • Declaration of Rights of Man & Citizen

      • Born and remain equal before the law

      • Freedom of speech, press, religion

      • Equal to hold public office

      • Fair trial

      • “liberty, equality, fraternity”

    • Adopted France’s first Constitution

      • Set up an elected Legislative Assembly

  • In what way was the Declaration a sham?

    • Women Excluded

      • Olympe de Gouges “ A Declaration of the Rights of Women and Citizenesses”

Legislative assembly continued
Legislative Assembly Continued decides to reform unilaterally:

  • Constitution

    • Divided into 3 Branches (Montesquieu)

    • Weak executive

      • Unable to make or block laws

    • Tax paying males elect members of the legislative branch

  • How might this arrangement fail the new government and France?

Legislative assembly
Legislative Assembly decides to reform unilaterally:

  • King tries to flee France and is captured

    • What does this do to the people’s confidence in the new government?

    • Whose voice grows in strength?

  • Legislative Assembly

    • Conservatives, Moderates, Radicals

    • Foreign Matters

      • Declaration of Pillnitz - (Leopold II & Frederick William II)

        • Invited European rulers to help Louis XVI restore the monarchy

      • Success in war would legitimize the new government

      • L.A. declared war on Austria

      • Forces invade France

        • Mass uprising in Paris

        • Commune calls for the abolition of the Monarchy and arrest Louis XVI and his family

The french revolution

  • Legislative Assembly decides to reform unilaterally:

    • Suspends the monarchy

    • Needs a new constitution

      • Voted itself out of existence

      • Any adult male could vote for officials to National Convention - no property requirements (universal manhood suffrage)

  • National Convention

    • Girondists - S.W. France, middle class, feared domination by Paris

    • Jacobins - republicans who favored domination by Paris - Danton & Robespierre

    • Sans-culottes - extreme radicals who wanted reforms to benefit all class -- Jean Paul Marat

The french revolution

  • N.C. first order of business decides to reform unilaterally:

    • Proclaim the end of the monarchy

    • Suppress revolts

    • Fight off foreign invaders

    • Kings Trial - execution

    • Decide to export the Revolution and liberate all of Europe

  • Successes

    • Executed Louis XVI (plotting against the nation)

    • Army fought off foreign invasion

    • Invaded Austrian Netherlands

      • 1st Coalition (G.B., Neth, Spain, Sardinia, Aust, Pr)

        • Created in response to the success

    • Set up Committee of Public Safety

      • Direct army in crushing foreign forces

      • Turned on the domestic opposition to the Revolution

      • Started the Reign of Terror - a program to silence the critics of the Revolution

        • The Law of Suspects defines in broad terms enemies of the state

Reign of terror a program to silence the critics of the revolution
Reign of Terror - a program to silence the critics of the Revolution

  • The Law of Suspects defines in broad terms enemies of the state

  • The Program was led by Georges-Jacques Danton and Maximilien Robespierre

  • The violence eventually will turn inward and the Reign of Terror will come to an end with the death of Robespierre

Reign of terror
Reign of Terror Revolution

  • Carried out by the Jacobin Dictatorship

    • Robespierre and Danton

    • The Law of Suspects defines in broad terms enemies of the state

    • Committee of Public Safety and Revolutionary Tribunal

    • Lasted about 10 months

    • Execute those disloyal to the revolution regardless of class

      • Twice as many bourgeoisie as nobles and three times as many from peasants and laborers

    • Ends with Robespierre execution

      • How did his trial go against the ideals of the Declarations of the Rights of Man and Citizen

        • No freedom of speech or equality before the law

Napoleon bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte Revolution

The Napoleonic Era


Napoleon Revolution

  • 3 Primary Goals

    • Win peace by military victory

    • Achieve steady government

    • Create economic prosperity

Institutional changes
Institutional Changes Revolution

  • Created:

    • The Consulate

      • He was first Consul

      • Later became Emperor after a referendum

    • The Napoleonic Code

      • Organized all French laws into one code

      • Instituted the code on all conquered lands

    • Established a Centralized financial institution

    • A public school system

      • Create common ideals

    • A meritocracy

    • Signed the concordat

      • Acknowledged Catholicism as the religion of most French

      • Retained the religious freedoms granted in the D.R.M