VCE History - The French Revolution

VCE History - The French Revolution
Timeline of Key Events/People/Concepts
– ‘A process of massive political upheaval that changes the way in which a country is governed; a vertical shift in power from an absolute monarch to a popular government
ruling on behalf of the people’ (Richard Malone)
– ‘A transfer of power from a minority to a majority power base that has a lasting political, social and economic impact on the whole country’ (The Leading Edge – Units 3
and 4 – Revolutions – page 6)
– Turning point in the progress of anything – a state of affairs in which a decisive change is evident (Oxford Dictionary)
– The study of history, historical methods and different interpretations of history (The Leading Edge – Units 3 and 4 – Revolutions – page 5)
– The Nature of History. Not only must we assess the evidence on historical matters for ourselves, but we must ponder the nature of history. An English historian, Geoffrey
Elton, in
The Practice of History (1967) argued very hard that historical facts were truths. Elton implied that as long as we could collect all the relevant facts we
could know the past and that knowledge would not be under much dispute. How then have there been so many views and interpretations of
the same event in history? And why is it that we continually rewrite history?? Another English historian in What is History? (1960), argued
that historical facts we like fish under glass at the fisherman’s cooperative. They did not represent all the types of fish in the sea, but only
what had been caught that day, by those particular fishermen. Once purchased, those fish were taken home and prepared in a diversity of ways,
by the varied methods of the individual purchasers, and cooked and spiced to their different tastes. So it is with the making of history. The interpretation will depend on the
ideas buzzing in the historian’s head as well as the facts that he or she selects. This does not mean that there are endless interpretations or that the historian can say
anything. Historians must use the evidence with care and attention to the ideas of the past. History is thus a conversation between the individual historian and the facts of
the past. This means then that a fact can be viewed differently, depending on one's preference and how it is held. It can be viewed from the side by gaping down its mouth,
from the underside or the tail. It is still the same fish, but it looks different to the viewer depending on the angle.
- Improve (within existing structures) as distinct from revolutionise which is to radically change the structures through violent means
Government Structure (Pre-Revolutionary France)
Concept – Power/Authority
Absolute Divine Right
 Theoretical basis of authority - Definitive – unquestionable – power to pass laws, appoint ministers,
declare war and peace, impose taxes and control currency
 Divine Right – reinforced by religious belief – power directly from God – infallible – rule by divine
authority - to criticise the King was to criticise God (Religion and faith a means for social control – fear of
 Not a despot – had to respect nations laws and traditions – especially influenced by law courts – expected
to be benevolent (do good for others) – parlements
 Hereditary – Dynastic- dependent on personal powers of the King
 Idealised images presented through art – exclusivity, lavishness, symbols of absolute royal power etc
 Royal Ministers – of Police, Navy, Justice, Army and Finance – directly responsible to the King –
formed His Council
 Intendants - ran the provinces and generalites – supervised tax collection, religious practice, law and
order, public works, communications, commerce and industry
 Overlapping jurisdictions – 39 provinces with governors, 36 generalites with intendants – each authority
would interpret law differently – different customs, taxes, weights and measures, even language (French
and Latin)
Public perception important – creation of a convincing
imagery of power. This included:
 Belief in competence of the monarch – assumption that
the King was capable of ruling competently – large oil
paintings and engravings created this image – important
that in time of crisis that he looks competent – to reinforce
the image
 Dynastic – there was a whole family history of power –
created prestige – Bourbon dynasty dated back to 1589
 Public belief in benevolence - King was ‘father’ and
protector of his people. – ‘patriarchal authority’ –
protective of subjects and to be trusted
 Vulnerability – if opponents were to question
authority/power, then the system might be weakened
 Incoherent and inefficient
 leading to chaos
 corruption and manipulation
 Taxation – great inequality – privileged orders paid little or no tax (spread unevenly across the Third
Estate – collected through vena office (positions which were bought) Famers-General collected indirect
taxes, paid a lumps sum to the government and collected the rest
 Treasury – no central treasury – inefficient, corrupt and Crown never received full amount collected in
its name
 Economy – backward - Still subsistence farming - internal customs barriers – no technological
advancement – manufacturing on traditional guild system – no industrialisation of textiles – Was booming
overseas trade
Inefficiencies, inequalities and contradictions
 Estates General - the only body which by custom had the power to authorise new taxes (had not met
since 1614)
Perception of corruption and abuse of privilege in parlements
System of overlapping systems – chaotic jumble to
administration, justice, local taxes and religious institutions
(Adcock p.9)
System enabled corruption and ensured that many (especially
in the Third Estate) were powerless
Assembly of Notables - The Assembly of Notables (not met since 1626) - consultative body
Parlements – law courts – issued and administered laws passed by the King. Most important was
parlement of Paris – 2,300 magistrates – all noblesse de robe – Parlements could criticise a law through
remonstrance – but King could counter with a lit de justice
Consultation – limited or nothing
Judges – King was supreme judge – final court of appeal
Jurisdiction – different and competing – parlements, ecclesiastical and military courts all contradicting
each other, Roman law in South, Germanic law in North
Arbitrary – King could just make up his own mind - lettres de cachet
Social Structure (Pre-Revolutionary France – up to 1789)
Concept – Estates
FIRST ESTATE – Clergy 169,500 (0.6% of population)
The First Estate was that of the clergy. In 1789 the clergy numbered close to 170,000. There were 138 archbishops and bishops, 2,800 canons and priors, 37,000 nuns, 23,000
monks and 60,000 parish priests (cures). Of the clergy, about one half were “regular” clergy (living in monasteries, convents and abbeys), while the other half were “secular
clergy”, (running churches and being responsible for public affairs).
The Church in France (Catholic) was called the Gallican Church because it had certain privileges that other countries didn’t have. The King, rather than the Pope, chose
archbishops and bishops. The Church itself had its own hierarchy. Only those of noble birth were appointed to the position of Bishops or Archbishops. It was common for the
youngest sons of the great noble families to enter the higher positions of the Church, so they could enjoy its wealth. Many bishops held more than one bishopric and some
never appeared in their “sees” at all. While the richest Archbishop had an income each year of 400,000 livres, most cures received between 700 and 1,000 livres. While the
regular clergy lived in magnificent accommodation, the cures lived in relatively poor conditions.
The Church was the single largest landowner in France and owned 10% of the land. It was not, however, uniform ownership across all of France. In the north of the country the
Church owned over 30% of the land, in the southwest about 10%. The land in the countryside was rented out to the peasants in return for a proportion of their crop. Revenue
was also derived from Church owned properties and from the Tithe, a tax that all parishioners paid. Between 6 and 10% of their produce went directly to the Church.
The largest and most expensive building in any town was the Church. In cities it would be the Cathedral. In some cases the Church owned upwards of 75% of land in a town
and most of the economy revolved around the Church.
The Church controlled education as nearly all schools were in the hands of the Church. The parish priest was responsible for the education of his diocese and controlled most
sources of information for those who could not read. The parish priest, (the cure or abbe`), often served as the local authority on royal edicts and mediated in local disputes
between peasants and nobles on matters of importance.
The Church was also responsible for censorship.
As the Church was responsible for the pastoral care of the community, (poor relief, hospitals, education, registration of births, marriages and deaths), it paid no taxes. Instead it
voluntarily contributed a grant, the Don Gratuit, to the state every five years. The Church Assemblies decided the amount that was granted, but was usually in the order of 1%
of the income the Church achieved each year. As a result, the Church was able to exercise considerable influence over the government.
SECOND ESTATE – Nobility – 125,000 nobles (0.4% of population)
The Second Estate was the Nobility. They made up 0.4% of the population (between 120,000 and 300,000), but owned close to a third of the land. There were three divisions
within the Second Estate.
“The Noblesse de court” numbered about 4000. These theoretically had noble ancestry that went back to before 1400. In reality they were the nobles who could afford to
reside at the Palace of Versailles.
“The Noblesse d’eppe” (the nobility of the sword, those of noble birth). These nobles were privileged because of their service to the King in battle many years before. They
were not always wealthy and it is estimated that almost 60% of this group lived an impoverished existence in comparison to the Noblesse de court.
“The Nobles de robe” did not come from a noble background. They had gained their noble status as recognition of their service to the King or they had been able to purchase
one of the 50,000 venal offices from the King. Like property these positions could be bought, sold and inherited. In the 18th century, 2,200 families were ennobled by buying
offices and 4,300 by the direct grant of the King. By 1789 almost a third of all noble families had been recently ennobled.
The main source of income for the Second Estate was land. The nobility owned almost a third of all land and almost 20% of the Church’s income went to them as all bishops
were of noble class. Nearly all of the high positions in France were held by nobles. They were the King’s ministers, the high legal officers, the intendants in the provinces and
occupied all of the high positions in the Army. In 1781, by royal decree, officers’ commissions in some of the elite regiments of the Army had to demonstrate at least 4
generations of nobility.
Nobles enjoyed many privileges. They were tried in special courts and were exempt from military service, the gabelle (indirect tax on salt) and the corvee (forced labour on the
roads). They received seigneurial (feudal dues) and had exclusive rights to hunting and fishing. Only nobles could own and operate mills, ovens and winepresses. (These
monopoly rights were known as “Banalites”)
Until 1695 they paid no direct tax at all. This changed with the introduction of the “Capitation”, a direct tax that every person had to pay. “The Vingtieme” was a direct tax on
income levied from the start of the American War until 1786.
Nobles could carry a sword, display a coat of arms, have an enclosed pew at the front of their church, be sprinkled with holy water, have the Church draped in black when they
died and be executed by the sword if found guilty of a capital offence.
THIRD ESTATE 26-28 million (99% of population)
The Third Estate numbered approximately 27 million or 99% of the population. In total they controlled 45% of the land. They had NO privileges!
This order contained many different groups with significant extremes of wealth and poverty. The Third Estate bore the burden of the other two privileged Estates. It produced
nearly all of the wealth of France and paid nearly all of the taxes.
THE BOURGEOISIE (2.3 million in 1789)
This term describes the wealthiest members of the Third Estate. They were town livers who made their money through non- agricultural professions.
The Haute (or high bourgeoisie) the financiers, the bankers, the industrialists and manufacturers were often wealthier than many of the land owning nobility.
The Petite (or lower bourgeoisie) were merchants, lawyers, accountants, master craftsmen and shop owners.
Finance, industry and banking accounted for 20% of French private wealth in the 1780’s and the bourgeoisie accounted for most of it. The remainder of French wealth came
from rents (interest from investments in government stock) and income from the land.
According to Townson “they accepted nobles’ values as their own and wished to share in the system of privileges by becoming ennobled.” As Adcock points out, “during the
18th century, between 5,000 and 7,000 bourgeoisie entered (bought) the “nobility of the robe”. The successful bourgeoisie, for between 50,000 and 500,000 pounds, could
purchase venal Public offices as well.
As you’d expect from this title, the urban workers made their living working in the cities and the towns as labourers, servants or industrial workers. Most were unskilled and as
a result, quite poor. It was difficult to become a skilled worker as most “craftsmen” were recruited from their own family. A five year apprenticeship was needed before an
apprentice could become a “journey man” (paid a daily wage and could enter a guild). In Paris in 1776 there were 100,000 members of guilds. Working hours were long; 16
hour days, 6 days a week.
Domestic servants were probably the largest single occupational force in towns and cities. While they were fed, received wages and lodging they were not allowed to marry
and had to be on hand to serve their family at any time and for anything.
Unskilled workers were the poorest city and town dwellers. They worked irregularly at menial or tough tasks. They were expected to work for very low wages and lived in
appalling conditions. Wages were not adjusted to inflation so the poor got poorer and hungrier. Prices had risen on average by 65% between 1726 and 1789. At the same time
wages had increased by only 22%.
Bread made up ¾ of most workers diets. If the price of bread rose, rather than seek a wage increase, they were keen for the price to be lowered. At times they took matters into
their own hands and seized grain and “distributed” it at a reasonable price.
For many women the only course for income was prostitution. In Paris, there were as many as 25,000 women who were forced into this degrading lifestyle. Many fell pregnant
and were forced to abandon their children. In 1780, 3% of all births were illegitimate. Of these, 252/1000 died before the age of 5. It is estimated that there were 40,000
abandoned children in the main cities and towns of France at this time.
The Church provided the only social relief. Many of the poor could not have survived without regular assistance from the Church. In times of economic downturn many were
unemployed. In Paris, in 1790, 1 in 5 Parisians needed some kind of social assistance.
Death rates were high because towns were unsanitary and their diet was poor. The children were poorly fed and over 30% failed to live beyond the age of 5. In times of high
unemployment or where there had been a bad season on the land, many men took to begging. Thousand of country workers would descend on the towns and cities in hope of
work or relief.
There were approximately 22 million peasants in 1780, owning approximately 30% of the land. Most peasants were tenants, sharecroppers or day workers. Of these almost
half owned some land. A few of these (the Labourers) were expanding their holdings acquiring stock, lending money and hiring workers.
The majority (the Manouvriers) lived a precarious subsistence level. They supplemented their small income from their crops by working part time on the large estates or being
involved in the textile industry. The children of the landless labourers could not inherit their family home unless a considerable amount (the due) was paid to the local noble.
While we have discussed the burden of direct and in direct taxation already, the heaviest burden was meeting rent payments. These had increased considerably in the second
half of the 18th century due to the marked increase in France’s population between 1750 and 1780.
Only a few had anything to sell after making provision for family consumption, the next years seed, church, feudal dues and taxes. In difficult years (crop failures etc.) many
had to buy food to get through the winter. The price of grain was regulated and stocks were held to offset the impact of a poor harvest. The King was able to distribute this
reserve grain, but there was never enough to ensure the price of grain remained stable. Shortages drove up the prices of grain, severely affecting the urban workers. There was a
flow on effect onto textile production because most money was directed at buying food, not clothing. Production was often reduced or curtailed, leading to an increase in the
number of unemployed. This placed further strain on the Church for providing relief for the poor. Crime rates also grew alarmingly in these times of economic downturn.
 Hierarchical - Corporate culture of privilege – not applied equally to everyone. This was manifested that honorific rights (eg: to wear certain clothes, carry a sword etc) and
concession with tax
 Treatment depended on which group one belonged to and what privileges that group enjoyed
 Culture of deference – people accepted that the rich and powerful were superior and therefore entitled to privileges that they did not receive.
 Estates (etat) a social classification – defined what role you were supposed to fulfil in society (A Middle Ages concepts that was being questioned by the 1780s)
 Massive discrepancies within estates in terms of wealth, prestige and power
 Climbing the corporate ladder and accessing the privileges more prevalent during the reign of Louis XVI
 Maintaining their privileges of estates (clergy and nobility) led to the financial crisis of the 1780s
 Ignorance of the Crown and aristocracy to the rising power of the bourgeoisie (in the Third Estate)
 All estates were complex construction with some with immense wealth, while others were poor and disempowered. Each had their agenda to maintain their power base and
privilege, to avoid taxes, to change class etc
 The estates structure defined the values of the time – CHURUCH and spiritualty a power force, Nobles recognised as superior – people defer to their authority
System - Raising Revenue Since Louis XIV
• When the Royal Treasury was short of funds the Old Regime found ingenious methods of raising the funds - Selling public offices (Venality); Arranging loans from
financiers; Taxation on Government and Private Securities; Suspending paying down the national debt; Debasement of the national currency; Anticipatory expenditures on
future tax receipts; As well as the creation of new taxes.
Impact on France
Ruined public confidence; while the government lavishly spent funds frivolously on Versailles.
Those wasteful expenditures continued unabated.
Useless gifts to the favourites of the King and Queen.
Signing blank drafts for Royal consumption.
Riotous extravagance
The Prognosis for the Old Regime
• The wastefulness ultimately doomed the Old Order.
• It was the financial disorder of the monarchy that helped push France in the direction of Revolution.
The State of the French Finances
In 1789, France levied 560,000,000 livres in taxes; fourteen percent of that figure was used to collect these taxes.
The per capita taxes paid by the French public varied from region to region. In Strasbourg it was set at sixteen livres, while in Paris it was sixty-four.
All efforts to rationalize the system failed.
Including the work of the Physiocrats by introducing a simple land taxes formula.
Tithe (to Church) – a tax to the Church, who owed the land, on produce of between five and ten percent of harvest.
Taille (Direct) - a tax to help defray military expenditures and was paid by the peasantry. The nobility was exempt from this tax. Cities and towns had to pay in one lump sum
on tolls placed on foodstuffs.
Capitation (Direct) – Tax on each ‘head’ ie: person – paid by all commoners- the privileged orders avoided this one too.
Vingtieme (Direct) – War Tax on income levied during American War (1778-1783) and for three years afterwards (until 1786) – was conceived as an income tax on all
income, but widely evaded by the privileged groups.
Corvee (Direct) - A tax placed on the peasants, not payable in money, but in labour.
Gabelle/Salt (Indirect Tax)
The most flagrant abuses came with the collection of the hated Salt Tax.
Of all the tax collectors the most hated were those who collected this tax.
Each family was required by law to purchase a specified amount of salt per family; the amount was not a problem, but the management was.
The price was excessively high in northern and central France, while other areas were exempt.
As a consequence, the public turned to smuggling.
The Gabelous (the Tax Collectors) made house-to-house searches; thousands were arrested; the victims were sent to the galleys as punishment.
Punishments for Violating the Salt Tax
During the reign of Louis XVI the following appears to be accurate concerning punishments for violating the Salt Tax.
4,000 cases made.
3,400 imprisonments.
500 were sent to the whipping post, banishment to the galleys.
Feudal dues – Taxes, goods and services payable by the peasant to his overlord (Seigneur) in accordance with old contracts and practices eg: banalities which compelled
peasants to use the feudal lord’s wine press or flour mill; the champart or harvest dues, the octrois customs duties
Observation on Tax Collections in Old Regime France
• Collection of taxes was generally wasteful.
• Often offensive, especially for indirect taxation.
• And more important, brutal.
The Ruinous Nature of Local Tax Collections
The rich peasants were held accountable for the local quota of taxes collected.
To lessen their assessment, the peasants hid their commodities.
 Lots of differences in requirements – uneven, inefficient, unfair
 Abusive to the poor – especially peasants who bore the brunt
 Reflected the values of the time – church, war, land, salt
 Lots of corruption in terms of collections and distribution
 Administration invited corruption so lax
 Confusing
 Third Estate deferred to it – unquestioning (although the bourgeoisie were starting to question)
Ancien Regime - refers primarily to the aristocratic, social, and political
system established in France under the Valois and Bourbon dynasties (14th
century to 18th century). The term is French for "Former Regime," but
rendered in English as "Old Rule," "Old Order," or simply "Old (or Ancient)
Louis XIV – Ruled as the supreme ‘Sun King’
 Enhanced France territorially and militarily
 Strengthened power of the monarch over his nobility and clergy
 Forthright ruler who avoided too many senior advisers
 Began the process of selling titles to raise money (rather than calling
Estates General to change tax laws)
 Moved from palace at Tuileries and built the opulent Versailles (outside
Louis XV
 Followed economic policies of his great grandfather Louis XIV
 Constantly at war – financed by foreign loans – Involved in bitter
 Divine Right Absolute Monarch
 Power, privilege and exclusion
 Sources of power through politics, religion, perceptions, legitimacy,
competence and benevolence
‘Louis XIV’s vigour and strength of will re-established the French monarchy as the
ultimate source of power – a true absolute monarchy – and in doing so created a
strong and unified France which reigned supreme in continental Europe. The palace
of Versailles, built in the 1660s, was a monument to the splendour and absolutism
of the monarchy,’ (Fielding, p.29)
 Built up debt due to extravagance and wars
Foreign loans to finance wars contributed to the fiscal crisis of the 1780s
rivalries with Britain in India and America
Greatly influenced by mistresses Madame de Pompadour and Madame
du Barry
Seven Years War with Austria
Early Years of Louis XVI
 Arranged marriage to Marie Antoinette of Austria as a political alliance
 Was 20 when grandfather died and he became king
 Personally not fitted for office
 Indecisive
 Not respected by courtiers
 ‘The weakness and incision of the King are beyond description – Comte
de Provence, eldest of the royal brothers (Fenwick – p.13)
Turgot (Finance Minster) promoted ‘laissez-faire’ approach to economics
American War of Independence (American Revolution)
Francois Furet ‘having inherited a power too contested to remain in an absolute
monarch…too weak to lead his kingdom towards something else
Commerce to be as free as possible, away from the constraints of government
 Extremely costly – billions of livres loaned to support the cause
 Financial crisis, leading to a fiscal crisis and then a political crisis
 Soldiers returning from war had experienced the “enlightened” ideas of
America where sovereignty is o the hands of the people
Link to The Enlightenment – seemed to many Frenchmen to be based on ideas of
personal liberty and freedom from despotism (Lead to written constitution,
inalienable people’s rights, popular sovereignty, government authority limited
through separation of powers and new spirit of ‘common good’.
 Many of the intellectual leaders of the American colonies were drawn to the
Enlightenment. Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, and Paine were powerfully
influenced by Enlightenment thought.
 The God who underwrites the concept of equality in the Declaration of
Independence is the same deist God Rousseau worshipped.
 The language of natural law, of inherent freedoms, of self-determination which
seeped so deeply into the American grain was the language of the
 Separated geographically from most of the aristocrats against whom they were
rebelling, their revolution was to be far less corrosive than that in France.
When Louis XVI inherited the throne one of his first acts was to send aid to
the Americans when they were fighting their War of Independence, this was
significant for many reasons. Louis XVI sent countless amounts of money,
soldiers and equipment, to the Americans, due to Necker’s Compte Rendu,
Louis XVI was unaware of the extreme debt France was in. So when he gave
the financial support to the Americans he was ignorant that it would increase
the burden of debt already in place. France simply did not have the funds to
continue sending aid to the America, so Jacques Necker began to accept
loans, which had high interest rates, with other countries. The war was
almost entirely funded by international loans, which added almost 2 billion
livres to the nation's debt1. With the nation being in debt it eventually led to
the rising of taxes for the people of France, in particular the 3rd Estate as the
3rd Estate was not subject to tax exceptions. The involvement in the
American War of Independence also had a social consequence on France as
it opened the people of France up to the ideas of enlightenment, of
questioning their place in society. With the French over in America, who
were fighting with the Americas for their own rights against the British
Monarchy, it gave the people of France the notion of demanding
Age of Enlightenment – Intellectual movement of ideas
 In 1632, Galileo Galilei used logic, reinforced with observation, to
argue for Copernicus’ idea that the earth rotates on its axis around the
sun. The Church objected that the Bible clearly stated that the sun
moved through the sky and denounced Galileo's teachings, forcing him
to recant what he had written and preventing him from teaching further.
 As trade and communication improved during the Renaissance, the
ordinary town-dweller began to realize that things need not always go
on as they had for centuries. People could write new charters, form new
governments, pass new laws, and begin new businesses. A new class of
merchants brought back wealth from Asia and the Americas, partially
displacing the old aristocracy whose power had been rooted in the
ownership of land. These merchants had their own ideas about the sort
of world they wanted to inhabit, and they became major agents of
change, in the arts, in government, and in the economy. They were
naturally convinced that their earnings were the result of their individual
merit and hard work, unlike the inherited wealth of aristocrats. The
ability of individual effort to transform the world became a European
dogma, lasting to this day.
 New Core Values: The general trend was clear: individualism, freedom
and change replaced community, authority, and tradition as core
European values.
 1748 Montesquieu publishes The Spirit of the Laws
The Spirit of the Laws advocates the case for the separation of powers (Church
and State)
The Encyclopedie ran to 27 volumes and was a compilation of ‘all the useful
knowledge known to man’ The project was shut down a number of times and
took 29 years to complete
Rousseau supported equality of man in nature and popular sovereignty through
the expression of General Will
These thinkers believed that human reason could be used to combat ignorance,
superstition, and tyranny and to build a better world. Their principal targets
were religion (the Catholic Church in France) and the domination of society by
a hereditary aristocracy.
Heritage: The Enlightenment is often viewed as a historical anomaly – a brief
moment when a number of thinkers infatuated with reason vainly supposed that
the perfect society could be built on common sense and tolerance, a fantasy
which collapsed amid the Terror of the French Revolution and the triumphal
sweep of Romanticism.
More recently, religious thinkers repeatedly proclaim the Enlightenment dead.
Marxists denounce it for promoting the ideals and power of the bourgeoisie at
the expense of the working classes. Postcolonial critics reject its idealization of
specifically European notions as universal truths. Yet in many ways, the
Enlightenment has never been more alive. It formed the consensus of
international ideals by which modern states are judged: Human rights; Religious
tolerance and Self-government
Thompson, S. vcehistory info (Internet) at 27/2/09
1751 onwards Diderot and d’Alembert compile, edit and begin
published The Encyclopedie (finished 1780)
1762 The Social Contract by Rousseau published ‘Man is born free, and
yet everywhere he is in chains’ To protect freedom and equality, men
join together under a social contract and appoint governments to protect
them. Sovereign or power resides in the people who have appointed the
government to act for it
1763 The Treatise on Toleration by Voltaire published. He opposed
tyranny and dogma, but he had no notion of reinventing democracy. He
had far too little faith in the ordinary person for that. He thought that
educated and sophisticated people could, through the exercise of their
reason, see that the world could and should be greatly improved.
Voltaire’s chief adversary was Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau
opposed the theatre which was Voltaire's lifeblood, shunned the
aristocracy which Voltaire courted, and argued for something
dangerously like democratic revolution. Whereas Voltaire argued that
equality was impossible, Rousseau argued that inequality was unnatural.
Whereas Voltaire charmed with his wit, Rousseau always claimed to be
right. Whereas Voltaire insisted on the supremacy of the intellect,
Rousseau emphasized the emotions. And whereas Voltaire repeated the
same handful of core Enlightenment ideas, Rousseau sparked off
original thoughts in all directions: ideas about education, the family,
government, the arts, and whatever else attracted his attention. For all
their personal differences, Rousseau and Voltaire shared more values
than they liked to acknowledge. They viewed absolute monarchy as
dangerous and evil and rejected orthodox Christianity. Rousseau was
almost as much a skeptic as Voltaire: the minimalist faith both shared
was called "deism" and it was eventually to transform European religion
and have powerful influences on other aspects of society as well.
Voltaire was joined by a band of rebellious thinkers known as the
philosophes: Charles de Montesquieu, Pierre Bayle, Jean d'Alembert,
and many lesser lights. Because Denis Diderot commissioned many of
them to write for his influential Encyclopedia, they are also known as
"the Encyclopedists."
Social Movements
 Rise liberal aristocracy that challenged the traditional structure
 Growth in criticism of old regime
 Rise of bourgeoisie – challenging social hierarchy
Enlightenment enabled people to think critically about society through the lens
of reason
Confidence and optimism to believe that is was possible to create a better and
different world
Writers of Enlightenment advocated reform, not revolution – but offered ideas
for authority and guidance
‘As the financial crisis of 1786 brought the monarchy to the point of reform, it
also eroded confidence in both the monarchy and the social system, At a time
when crisis weakened and exposed the workings of the government,
Enlightenment ideas provided a vocabulary of dissent, and means of envisaging
a better world out of the weaknesses of the old.’ (Fenwick p.59)
Erosion of confidence in the legitimacy of political and social structures
Criticism of the old regime, social order and privilege – new ideas of merit
(personal skill) over birth (promotion) for nobles – Old regime loses confidence
in itself
New sense of self worth and social utility (usefulness - in terms of productive
labour) – especially by bourgeoisie increasing confidence and ambition
Growing doubt of liberal thinking nobles (Condorcet, Lafayette, Liancourt,
Talleyrand and Mirabeau) who question political theory of absolutism – reform
minded priests – prominent in the pre-revolutionary and first revolutionary
Rise of aristocratic salons (intellectual gatherings of high society in private
mansions) questioning the political structures and salons and clubs (open
Area of Study 1 – Revolutionary ideas, leaders, movements and events (1781-August 1789)
19 Feb
3 Sep
20 Aug
22 Feb
8 April
3 May
Controller General Necker’s Compte
Louis imposes an additional direct
(vingtieme) tax on income for 1783-1786
to pay for American War
Treaty of Versailles signed by France
Historical Interpretation
Ending conflict with Britain over the American colonies
Calonne appointed Finance Minister
Diamond Necklace Affair
Colonne proposes financial reforms to the
Meeting of Assembly of Notables
Calonne dismissed and replaced by
Brienne (Finance Minister)
Bad harvest
Paris parlement states that the King has a
duty to submit new laws to the parlements
and the new taxes can only be imposed by
agreement with the nations, as represented
by the Estates-General – 5 days later (8
May) – King tries to disempower
16 Aug
24 Aug
25 Sept
5 May
6 May
parlements by redefining their role
First phase of the revolution – the noble
revolt – law courts defy the King and town
populations demonstrate in favour of the
Royal treasury suspends payments Bankruptcy equivalent
Brienne dismissed and the more popular
Necker is recalled
Paris Parlement reinstated – They demand
the Estates General meet and vote by order
Assembly of Notables meets again and
discuss Estates General organisation. In
December they agree to the doubling of
representatives from the Third Estate
Abbe Sieyes publication ‘What is the
Third Estate?’
Drafting of books of ‘Grievances’ (Cahier
de doleances)
Reveillon factory destroyed
Estates General (King maintains honorific
distinctions between orders)
Voting controversy – by order or by head
– Third Estate want by head
Clergy and nobility agree to equality in
Declaration of National Assembly by the
Third Estate
Tennis Court Oath
Louis orders Royal Session of estates
11 July
14 July
National Assembly’s resistance to Louis’
orders – three order unite
20 July
4 Aug
The Great Fear – Peasant revolt –
escalation of rumour and fear in country
areas leads to rural rebellions
King orders troops to Paris resulting in
protests (2-10 July). King refuses to
withdraw them
Necker dismissed
Increasing agitation in Paris. Revolt of the
urban working classes – Desmoulins
exhorts the people to arm themselves
Fall of Bastille
National Assembly - Abolition of
Area of Study 2 – Creating a new society (Aug 1789-1795)
26 Aug
5-6 Oct
12 July
20 June
Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen
Historical Interpretation
March of Women to Versailles – King
and Royal family then Assembly move to
Sale/Nationalisation of Church
Civil Constitution of the Clergy decreed
 Church and Clergy
 Assembly
Royal family flee to Varennes
 Royal family
European Monarchs
17 July
Champ de Mars massacre
 Lafayette
 Jacobins and Cordeliers
14 Sep
First French Constitution
 Assembly
 King
Oct 1
1792 (to
10 Aug
2-6 Sep
22 Sept
21 Jan
June July
2 June
24 June
Legislative Assembly – 1791 Oct 1
France declares War on Austria
Brunswick Manifesto
Storming of Tuileries and massacre of
Swiss Guard
September prison massacres
France becomes a Republic
King Louis XVI executed
France declares war on Britain and
Provincial revolt
Committee of Public Safety created
(Jacobin) Reign of Terror
Purge of Girondin deputies from National
1793 Constitution accepted
Marat assassinated
Robespierre (Jacobin) becomes a member
of the Committee of Public Safety
‘Law of Suspects’ and ‘Maximum;
policies introduced
Guillotining of Jacobin’s (Montagnards)
political opponents
Guillotining of revolutionary leaders
Festival of the Supreme Being
Coup of Thermidor II
 Robespierre’s terror continued even
after the war with Austria had ended
 Robespierre declared that the
Convention needed to be purged of
 27-28 July - Robespierre arrested and
 A return of Girondins to Convention
and moderation
 Thermidorean Reaction - campaign to
1794destroy the Jacobin’s control on
Oct 1795
politics and the society they had
created – Men like Freron, Tallien,
Vadier and Ysabeau, who led the
coup against Robespierre, tried to
gain power in The National
Convention (after Robespierre’s fall)
 Thermidorean Period – Period from 9
Thermidor Year 11 (27-28 July 1794)
to 4 Brumaire Year IV (26 Oct, 1795),
the date on which the National
Convention was dissolved.
Aug-Oct Third Constitution (22 August)
 Robespierre’s influence, instruments
and policies abandoned
 The end (dissolution) of the National
2 Nov
Convention (26 Oct)
The Directory established
1800 to
Period of The Directory
Conservative republic destabilised by powerful political forces of both the left and the
Coup D’état of Napoleon
Napoleon Bonaparte emperor
Return of Louis XVII (brother of Louis XVI)
Charles IX (The Restoration)
July Monarchy
Revolution and a Second Republic
Conservative backlash and rise of Louis-Napoleon
Bonaparte (Second Empire)
Another revolution (Paris Commune) – Third Republic
Rise of true republican party
Century of Bastille 1889 – ‘True republicans’ hold festival –
legalisation of singing Marseillaise. Third Republic lasted
until Hitler’s invasion of France in 1940
Francois Furet states ‘the French Revolution has sailed home to port’ in the sense that
some of the ideals of the French Revolution had been brought into reality and within
the context of the republican political system.’ (Adcock page 193)
Some Key People
Louis XIV (1643-1715) – ‘The Sun King’
Louis XV (1715-1774)
Areas of Study 1
Louis XVI (1754 -1793)
Marie Antoinette (1755 -1793)
Children (4) of Louis and Marie Antoinette
o Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte: 19 December 1778 – 19 October 1851
o Louis-Joseph-Xavier-François: 22 October 1781 – 4 June 1789
o Louis-Charles (the future titular King Louis XVII of France): 27 March 1785 – 8 June 1795
o Sophie-Hélène-Béatrix: 9 July 1786 – 19 June 1787
Jacques Necker (1732-1804)
Charles Alexandre de Calonne (1734-1802)
Abbe Sieyes (1748-1836)
Comte de Mirabeau (1749-1791)
Critical thinkers and writers of Enlightenment (some produced/contributed to Encyclopedie)
Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778)
Voltaire (1694-1778) (Francois-Maries d’Arouet)
Charles-Louis Secondat Montesquieu (1689-1755) (from Anthea) He saw despotism, as a standing danger for any government not already despotic, and
argued that it could best be prevented by a system in which different bodies exercised legislative, executive, and judicial power, and in which all those
bodies were bound by the rule of law. This theory of the separation of powers had an enormous impact on liberal political theory, and gave an example of a
different form of government that was to be considered. (from James G) Montesquieu held a number of controversial views according to the people of
France. He resolutely accepted the role of a hereditary aristocracy. He also accepted that if women would be able to head up a government, he stated that she
would not be as effective as a man would, much to the angst of some people in France.
Denis Diderot (1713-1784) Denis Diderot Master of Arts Degree in Philosophy , Wrote a novel called La Religieuse, The editor of the Encyclopédie. Only
passions, great passions can elevate the soul to great things
Jean le Rond d’Alembert (1717-1783) French mathematician, physicist and philosopher. He met Denis Diderot at the salon of Julie De Lespinasse. He was
abandoned a couple of days after birth, The editor of the Encyclopédie. Just go on…and faith will soon return
They believed that God was an utterly useless idea in science and philosophy and believed it was the cause of disagreement and cruelty. They regarded the
church as the ‘guardian of superstition and the divinely ordained authority of the old regime.’
Diderot and d’Alembert was the editor of the Encyclopédie, which was perhaps the greatest publishing project known until this time. The aim of the publication
was to classify all useful knowledge known to man. The encyclopaedia was published in illegal presses, which meant they were publishing things against the
authorities and most importantly against the orders of the church. (from Em)
Diderot & d’Alembert (From Jack)
Although directly responsible for the nurturing of enlightenment through his position as editor of the ‘Encyclopedie’ Diderot held strong, anti progression views.
He believed that a persons role in society was defined by hereditary means. Diderot held highly unconventional views where by he did not quite side with the
church or monarchy, yet was also openly opposed to the ideas of reason brought forward by d’Alembert, instead resting on his wholly materialistic views of the
d’Alembert, similarly to Diderot did not believe religion to be the omnipotent force of the world. He sought to bring forth a variety of view points, sourcing from
his love of reason, carried by the mediums of mathematics and science.
Area of Study 2
Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1832)
Jean-Sylvain Bailly (1736-1793)
Georges-Jacques Danton (1759-1794)
Jean-Paul Marat (1743-1793)
Maximilien Robespierre (1758-1794)
Camille Desmoulins (1760-1794)
Jacques Hebert (1757-1794)
Some Key Historians
Marxist Historians
(Interpretation based upon Karl Marx’s view of the pattern of history – revolution not an isolated event but a sign that France was making the transition from a
feudal to a capitalist system - suggests patterned - inevitability - Adcock page 2)
George Rude
George Lefebvre
Albert Soboul
Revisionist Historians
(Regarded revolution as an ‘accident’ in the historical sense and that, although the revolution took place, it was not ‘inevitable’ – Adcock page 2)
Alfred Cobban
William Doyle
Simon Schama