French Revolution Review Questions
Lesson 1
What were the main ideas of the French Enlightenment? How did the
French government respond to these ideas?
Some Enlightenment thinkers believed that all people were born equal and
free. They believed in limited government that would respect individual rights,
religious tolerance, and freedom of the press and of speech. Since these ideas
all suggested great changes in society, the French government censored
Enlightenment writings.
How did the French regard the Glorious Revolution in England, which
took place a hundred years before the French Revolution began? Why
did they react this way?
The monarch, the government, and the aristocrats regarded the Glorious
Revolution as a threat to their position because it proved that a limited
monarchy was a system that would work. French intellectuals regarded the
Glorious Revolution as an alternative to absolute monarchy.
Explain why the French king Louis XVI backed the American Revolution,
how France helped the Americans gain their independence, and what
was the result?
Louis XVI backed the Americans not out of sympathy for their republican goals
but to strike a blow at France’s traditional rival England. French military and
naval aid was essential for the Americans’ success. Volunteers from the
French aristocracy, especially Lafayette, learned to respect the American
revolutionaries and their aspirations, carrying their admiration back to France.
Helping the Americans was very expensive for the French government,
contributing to the financial crisis that precipitated the Revolution.
Lesson 2
1. How did eighteenth-century French society differ from medieval French
By the eighteenth century, the bourgeoisie, or middle class, had developed.
The bourgeoisie were often wealthy. They were professional people, bankers,
and shop owners.
2. Identify the members of the First and Second estates and explain why they
usually wanted to keep things the way they were.
The First Estate was the clergy; the Second Estate was the nobles. Clergymen
did not pay taxes, but they did own enormous amounts of land. This gave
them some influence in government. The nobles were often wealthy. They
were the only people allowed to hold high office. They had very little to do
besides attending the king. Although there were exceptions, in general
members of both classes had wealth and power and wanted to keep them;
they did not want the system to change.
3. Who made up the third estate? How did these people feel about French
society in the 1700’s?
The Third Estate included most of the French population: everyone who was
not a clergyman or an aristocrat. Both the wealthy bourgeoisie and the
poorest workers and peasants were members of the Third Estate. They paid
all the taxes and did most of the work. Members of the bourgeoisie could not
hold high office because of their class. Because these people had less political
rights and privileges under the ancien regime, they wanted to bring change to
French society.
Lesson 3
1. What were the duties of a French courtier in the days of Louis XIV?
Courtiers had to spend money, dress extravagantly, and flatter and
compliment the king. They had to obey elaborate rules of etiquette.
2. What kind of king was Louis XIV?
Louis XIV was an absolute monarch. He believed that he was truly God’s
representative on Earth. Louis worked hard, took his responsibilities seriously,
and acted as his own chief minister. He controlled the most powerful nobles
by watching them at Versailles.
3. Where was Versailles? Describe what it was like in the 1600s and 1700s
It was an enormous palace several miles outside of Paris. It contained more
than 1,000 rooms. Its most famous room was the Hall of Mirrors, a long room
with one wall all of mirrors and the opposite wall all of windows looking over
the gardens.
4. How was the reign of Louis XV different from that of Louis XIV?
Louis XV was not an effective leader. He could not control his ministers and he
was too lazy to govern.
Lesson 4
1. Who was Marie Antoinette? What was her effect on the French people?
Marie Antoinette was the Austrian princess who married Louis XVI and
became queen of France at age 19. She loved to spend money on pretty
clothes and balls. When she played at being a peasant in Le Petit Trianon at
Versailles, the real peasants and working people began to hate her. She was
ignorant of their hardship and never tried to become a responsible ruler.
2. What crucial mistakes did Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette make during the
early years of their reign?
They dismissed Louis XV’s ministers, who had been trying to make the
aristocrats accept some share of the tax burden. They both spent a great deal
of money on personal pleasure. They made their own ill-informed decisions
about ruling, instead of trying to get good advice from experienced officials.
3. What was Le Petit Trianon? Why were the French people so angry about
It was Marie Antoinette’s small mansion at Versailles. She and her friends
played at living a simple, rustic life there. The French people were furious
because Marie Antoinette seemed to be mocking the terrible hardships of
their lives.
Lesson 5
1. What was the Estates-General? How did it function?
It was a group of representatives from all three estates: the clergy, the nobles,
and the rest of the people. It originated in the Middle Ages but had not met
since 1614. Its purpose was to advise the king and approve new taxes. Each
estate had one vote on all policy matters, so the clergy and nobility together
could always outvote the commoners who might want to change the system.
2. What happened at the 1789 meeting of the Estates-General?
The deputies from the Third Estate invited the clergy to join them in bringing
reform. The commoners suggested that the name Estates- General be
changed to National Assembly. The clergy agreed.
3. What role did Louis XVI play in the meeting of the Estates-General?
He reluctantly agreed to call the Estates- General together. He refused to
recognized the vote for the National Assembly, and locked the deputies out of
their meeting places.
4. What was the Tennis Court Oath and who took it?
Because the king locked them out of the palace, the deputies agreed to meet
at the nearby indoor tennis courts. They all swore that they would stay
together until they had written a constitution.
Lesson 6
1. How did the king react to the new National Assembly?
He was angry at being defied and frightened that he was losing his power.
He fired his finance minister, who the king thought sided too much with the
Third Estate.
2. What was the Bastille and what happened there on July 14, 1789?
The Bastille was a Paris fortress built in the 14th century and used as a
prison. Cannons and gun powder were stored there. On July 14 rioters
stole thousands of muskets and stormed the Bastille, forcing the governor
to open the gates. They killed the governor and another man and
beheaded them, afterward parading their severed heads through the
streets in triumph.
3. What happened in the countryside after the fall of the Bastille?
Rioting went on in the countryside. Peasants attacked the mills looking for
flour and bread. They broke into aristocrats great houses, sometimes
killing them.
Lesson 7
1. What did the deputies of the National Assembly want to accomplish?
They wanted to end the peasants’ and workers’ riots and restore order in
France. They wanted to abolish the feudal privileges of the first and second
2. What were the main points in the Declaration of the Rights of Man?
It claimed that all people were born and remained equal. It claimed that
everyone had equal rights to liberty, property, security, and resistance to
oppression. It granted freedoms of religion and speech. It granted the
people some voice in their government. It spelled out citizens’ obligations
to society. It retained the monarchy but abolished the monarch’s absolute
3. Why did the women of Paris march on Versailles? What happened when
they got there?
Paris was suffering a severe shortage of flour, and therefore bread had
become very expensive. Parisian women gathered outside city hall
demanding bread. They were told they would have to ask the king for it.
They marched to Versailles, armed with pitchforks and knives. When they
got there, they broke into the hall were the National Assembly was
meeting. Six of them met with the king, who agreed to give them all the
bread they wanted.
4. What did the king and queen do next?
They agreed to go back to Paris with the crowd. They were taken to an
empty palace and kept there as virtual prisoners. The king agreed to
approve the Declaration of the Rights of Man.
Lesson 8
1. Describe the Legislative Assembly and the issues it faced.
The Legislative Assembly was mostly middle class. It was sharply divided
between conservatives who wanted to keep a limited monarchy and
radicals who wanted to establish a republic. The Legislative Assembly had
to try to solve France’s economic crisis.
2. What effect did Austria’s attack have on the Legislative Assembly and the
The Legislative Assembly declared war on Austria. The people believed that
the King and Queen had betrayed them to the enemy. They attacked the
palace and killed hundreds of people. The royal family was put in prison.
3. What decisions did the National Convention make, beginning on September
22, 1792?
France was declared a republic. The monarchy was abolished. The
National Convention decided to try Louis XVI for treason. He was found
guilty and sentenced to death. The queen was executed several months
Lesson 9
1. What effect did the French Revolution have on the Catholic Church?
The revolutionaries took back all the Church’s land and sold it. They tried
to transform it into a French National Church, a government institution.
The forced priests to take an oath of loyalty to the new constitution.
2. Why did the convention establish a new calendar? What was it like?
The old calendar was related to Christianity; the revolutionaries wanted a
calendar that honored France and the people and that broke with “old
superstitions.” The new calendar had 12 months, each with 3 10 day
weeks. Five days at the end of the year were set aside for a festival of the
sansculottes. The months honored the peasants and farmers, with names
relating to seasonal phenomena, such as flower, heat, or snow and cold.
3. To which civilization did revolutionary clothing and art allude? Why?
Simple clothing and classical styles alluded to ancient Greece and Rome,
which French revolutionaries viewed as model societies of wisdom,
simplicity, and duty.
Lesson 10
1. What was the impact of the French Revolution on the rest of the world?
Late in the year 1793, people throughout the world were horrified by the
salvage turn the French Revolution had taken.
2. What was the Reign of Terror?
The Reign of Terror was the period in France from 1793 to 1794 during
which many people were put to death for opposing the Revolution.
3. Who were the Jacobins?
Middle class citizens, many of whom were deputies o the Legislative
Assembly, formed a club called the Jacobins. They were radicals who had
demanded the execution of the royal family, and some of them had voted
for the war against Austria.
4. What was the original purpose of the Committee of Public Safety?
It was intended to solve the dangers facing the French people: enemy
armies on all sides, uprisings and civil war in some provinces, inflation, food
shortages, and suspicion of traitors to the republic.
Lesson 11
1. Who was Napoleon?
He was a soldier and later commander in the French Army. He was a
Jacobin. Eventually he became a ruling consul and later emperor of France.
2. What were the early achievements of Napoleon’s military career?
As head of the French Army from 1805 to 1809, Napoleon won battles
throughout Europe and added territory to his empire.
3. What were Napoleon’s most lasting achievements as ruler of France?
He established a national bank. He balanced the national budget. He
welcomed émigrés back to the county and protected them from harm. He
allowed freedom of religion. He enacted laws such as equality of male
citizens before the law, the end of the three estates, and the right to own
Lesson 12
1. Define the Romantic Movement.
The Romantic Movement embraced the idea of the individual. Romantics
believed in treating everyday subjects and in individual expression.
Emotions and imagination were more important that reasoning.
Spontaneity was preferable to order.
2. What aspects of Rousseau’s philosophy helped to give rise to the Romantic
Rousseau emphasized the importance of nature over society and of
individual imagination and character.
3. What aspects of Wordsworth’s poetry fit into the ideas of the Romantic
Wordsworth wrote a great deal of poetry about nature and about the
emotions that nature made him feel. He also wrote poetry about children,
whom the Romantics believed were less corrupted by civilization than
4. Who was Ludwig van Beethoven? What is his connection with the Romantic
Beethoven was a classical composer who continued to push the boundaries
of classical music. His symphonies and other works grew more and more
emotional as he got older.
Vocabulary Words
Absolute monarch- a monarch whose power is not limited by a
representative assembly
Archives- the place where records related to an institution or organization
are stored.
Bourgeoisie- the middle class who were neither nobles nor peasants
Conservative- one who opposes rapid change and holds traditional values
Courtier- an attendant at court, usually an aristocrat
Dauphin- the title given to the prince who is next in line to inherit the
French throne
Estates-General- the legislative body before the French Revolution, made
up of representatives from the Three Estates.
Exile- to force a person to leave his or her own country and live somewhere
Guillotine- a machine designed to behead people quickly and with little
Radical- someone who favors extreme change
Royalist- a supporter of the king or queen
Tithe- one-tenth of a person’s income, paid to support a church
Tumbrel- a two-wheeled cart used to transport prisoners to the guillotine