Ch – 1 The French Revolution

Important Notes:

  • Louis XVI of the Bourbon family ascended to the throne of France in 1774 and was married to Austrian princess Marie Antoinette.
  • French society was divided into 3 estates: 1st estate was comprised of clergymen, 2nd estate was comprised of nobles and 3rd estate was comprised of businessmen, merchants, court officials, peasants, artisans, landless labour, servants, etc.
  • Under Louis XVI, France helped 13 American colonies to gain independence from Britain.
  • To pay off loans incurred due to wars and to meet expenses of maintaining palace of Versailles, army, government offices, etc. taxes were increased.
  • The tax was only paid by 3rd estate.
  • The term “Old Regime” was used to describe the French society before 1789.
  • Tithes was a tax levied by church on peasants, which comprised of one-tenth of the agricultural produce.
  • Taille was a tax to be paid directly to the state.
  • Philosophers such as John Locke (Two Treaties of Government), Jean Jacques Rousseau (The Social Contract), Montesquieu (The Spirit of the Laws), etc. presented ideas envisaging a society based on freedom and equal laws and opportunities for all.
  • On 5 May 1789, Louis XVI called together an assembly of the Estates General to pass proposals for new taxes.
  • People of third estate led by Mirabeau and Abbe Sieyes gathered on the grounds of Versailles on 20 June and demanded to draft a constitution for France.
  • An agitated crowd destroyed Bastille on 14 July as it stood for the despotic power of the king.
  • On the night of 4 August 1789, Assembly passed a decree abolishing the feudal system of obligations and taxes.
  • The draft of the constitution was completed in 1791.
  • The Constitution began with a Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen.
  • In April 1792, National Assembly voted for a war against Prussia and Austria.
  • A patriotic song was composed by the poet Roget de L’Isle named “Marseillaise“, which later became the national anthem of France.
  • Political clubs were formed to discuss the government policies and plan their own forms of action.
  • Jacobin club was formed by members of the less prosperous sections of the society like shoemakers, artisans, pastry cooks, watch-makers, etc. and their leader was Maximilian Robespierre.
  • On August 10, Jacobins stormed the Palace of Tuileries and massacred the body guards.
  • On 21 September 1792, the newly elected assembly “Convention” abolished monarchy and declared France a republic.
  • On 21 January 1793, Louis XVI was executed publicly at the Place de la Concorde.
  • The period from 1793 to 1794 is referred to as the Reign of Terror.
  • Robespierre’s government followed a policy of severe control and punishment. Such as:
    • Maximum ceiling was placed on wages and prices.
    • Meat and bread were rationed.
    • Peasants were forced to transport their grains and sell at prices fixed by government.
    • All citizens had to eat equality bread instead of white bread.
    • French men and women were called Citoyen and Citoyenne instead of Monsieur and Madame respectively.
  • Robespierre was convicted by a court in July 1794.
  • This political instability led way to the rise of a military dictator – Napoleon Bonaparte.
  • In 1804, Napoleon crowned himself Emperor of France.
  • He was finally defeated at Waterloo in 1815.
  • Indian revolutionaries like Tipu Sultan and Raja Ram Mohan Roy were impressed by the ideas of French revolution.
  • Women in France got right to vote in 1946.

Published by Priya Prakash

In the midst of winter, i found there was within me an invincible summer ~ Albert Camus

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