How to Write French Revolution Essay: Causes and Consequences of French Revolution 1789
French Revolution Essay: Important Remarks
The French Revolution was one of the core events that shaped modern European and world history. The Revolution began in 1789 and ended in 1799. This period brought about many significant changes in France, starting from the change of the state's political system from absolute monarchy to republicanism.
France was one of the pioneer states which shifted its political course toward democracy. That is why neighboring European countries feared the wave of revolutions that might have broken out around the continent. Western rulers took profit from the monarchy's reign and resisted people's slightest desire to substitute absolutism with any other form of governance.
Even though the French Revolution led to the cultivation of democracy throughout Europe, it took a lot of effort to protest, demonstrate and manifest the French peasants. We do not have an exact number of just how many people died in the French Revolution, but we know for sure that it did take a lot of innocent peasants' lives.
Let's gain a clearer insight into the French Revolution summary. You can read about that major historical event in more detail down below. You are also more than welcome to check out our French Revolution essay sample provided at the end of the article.
French Revolution Timeline 1789 to 1799
As we have mentioned above, the French revolution 1789 began due to major political issues. Primarily, the division of French society led to the unbalanced distribution of resources which oppressed some on the compensation prioritizing others. Feudalism paid a major contribution to such kind of social inequality. Low-class families in France suffered from an economic crisis which led to their confrontation with king Louis.
Shift in the form of reign brought about its shortcomings and advantages. Frequent sessions taking place in the government's representative branch gradually satisfied French society's needs. However, it was hard to stabilize the financial crisis right after the revolution. The issue of feudalism took many gatherings and a long period in the national assembly to settle. Gradually, representatives of the third estate fought and raised their social status closer to aristocrats and clerics based on the declaration of human rights. When the french revolution started, this was the main goal behind the constant protest against the absolute power of king Louis.
Let's examine the timetable and chronological sequence of the revolution in more depth.
When the French Revolution Started?
The first major question we need to answer is, 'who started the French Revolution ?'
The majority of French people started the French Revolution of 1789. At that time, French society was classified through three estates. Aristocrats and clergy members belonged to the First and Second Estates of the society. Their income was abundant since all the gains that peasants worked for went straight into the pockets of clerics and aristocrats. The third estate consisted of an Agrarian society. They were exhausted from constant work and had no gain. They could not even afford meals to feed their families, although they worked blood, sweat, and tears. Eventually, their social and economic conditions worsened, and their basic rights were not considered worthwhile and valuable.
The crowning of the opposition between the third estate and the French monarchy took place on the 14th of July, 1789. The French Revolution was officially declared by the monarch Louis XVI himself once agrarian society took down the French symbol of absolutism - the Bastille. Now you know where the French Revolution began.
To proceed with this interesting historical event, read about why the French Revolution started in the following paragraph.
What Caused the French Revolution?
Let's break down the important factors that led to the French Revolution.
We must first talk about king Louis XVI's unrestricted ability to distribute funds to nobility, the church, and most significantly, himself. The irrational expenditure of material resources gradually led to financial bankruptcy, but the core problem with the country was its unfair tax system. The third estate represented the majority of the population, and they were the ones who dealt with the harshest economic problems. Despite major material problems, nobles like Marie Antoinette continued to waste peoples' money for their own good. French society faced the truth once finance minister Jacques Necker published the official financial account in 1788.
The second half of the eighteenth century was characterized by a massive increase in the population in Europe. France was equally affected by it. A greater population meant higher demand for basic products, like bread. Those products eventually became inaccessible to most western societies because of their high prices. These circumstances gave way to massive famine.
One of the main causes of the Revolution was years of unreasonable spending of government money on invasive wars around Europe. The French government fell into debt, so the monarchy found a solution to cover the debt by taxing aristocrats and clergy members. This provoked major protests from nobles not only in France but in North America as well. The backlash in America began with a refusal to pay a tax the King of Great Britain imposed. Monarchs attempted to halt the aristocracy's reaction, and rulers and the aristocrats tried to bond with non-privileged peasants.
Last but not least, the age of enlightenment started right before the French Revolution broke out. Representatives of enlightenment like Descartes, John Locke, and Rousseau opted for the idea of social equality and the necessity of opposition in case of the existence of authoritative power in the head of the government. As agricultural societies gained more access to quality education, they became familiar with revolutionary philosophers' ideas. They found a way to implement their ideas into reality through Revolution.
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End of the French Revolution
Through the French revolution timeline 1789 to 1799, France was transformed from a republic into an empire. By the end of the revolution period, one of the most violent and, at the same time, most devoted patriots was the head of the whole country. Napoleon Bonaparte, a commander-in-chief who eventually got himself promoted as the leader of the French empire, was the one who declared the end of the French Revolution in 1799.
The first consul gained people's trust at the expense of his conquests around western Europe. Napoleon's strategic planning, as well as his authority in the army, helped him invade Italy, Holland, Prussia, and other countries. However, with his leadership, the French army remained in a state of war with Britain for longer. Bonaparte took advantage of British troops deployed on the territory of Egypt and tried to attack them in Africa. France and Britain remained two major colonial powers back in the eighteenth century. Their rivalry ended with the victory of France on the land but its failure on the Mediterranean sea.
Some scholars state that the main reason behind Napoleon's failure was his desire to acquire all the power as the leader of the French empire. He left the French army back in Egypt and took part in the coup d'etat in France. By 1799 he granted himself unlimited power of reign. He became the state's first consul and ended the French Revolution.
This historic event took ten years, bringing about major shifts in the political system and the ideology of European states. The constant state of war took the lives of thousands of innocent civilians, but we cannot claim the exact number of just how many people died during the French Revolution.
Important French Revolution Events
You have already gained clear insight into the general summary of the French Revolution, but you are still hungry for knowledge. Let's dig into the major events that have shaped the French Revolution in its original form.
- Who started the French Revolution? Majority of the French population. Most of them were rural peasants working on the land. They did all the work but did not gain half as much as they deserved.
- In what did people see the hope? Constitutional change was their sole convalescence. Those changes took place at Tennis Court Oath at the gatherings of the national assembly.
- Where did the French Revolution begin? The exact time and place was the Bastille fortress, the 14th of July in 1789.
- What kind of constitutional reform gave rights to the third estate? The Declaration of Rights of Man and the Citizen was adopted in August 1789.
Even though this period is marked as a positive change in European history, it was still characterized by violence and a reign of terror.
Rise of the Third Estate
Before the french revolution 1789, French society was divided into first, second, and third estates. The members of the clergy, those in the service of the catholic church, belonged to the first estate. Nobles and aristocrats like Marie Antoinette represented the second estate. The largest part of the population was the peasants living in rural areas of France. They represented the third estate.
Despite its immense size and economic importance, the third estate could not contribute to the government's decision-making process. Their frustration and dissatisfaction were the central cause of the French Revolution.
Tennis Court Oath
Tennis Court Oath was the assembly of delegates gathered at the palace of Versailles, who promised to stay unified until a promising constitution had been structured. They constructed a national assembly under the name of the French people, the main representative government branch at that time.
National assembly represented the frustration of the Third Estate, as well as the inconvenience of the aristocracy due to imposed taxes. Their main demand was the implementation of a new constitution that would satisfy the interests of three main domains of French society.
Delegates organized regular meetings at Estates-general. However, at some point, their general meeting cabinet doors were locked. Locked doors were taken as a deliberate act of resistance from king Louis. That was why they relocated to the tennis court of Louis XIV, where delegates took an oath of non-separation until the main goal of establishing a new and fair constitution would have been achieved.
After a series of confrontations, king Louis declared that he was ready to compromise. He would make a more just taxation system but would not let go of the ancient regime. The latter meant the division of French people into the classical three estates.
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The Bastille and Great Fear
Historians symbolize the term 'Great Fear' about the massive panic and unrest spread throughout French rural areas right before the Revolution broke out. At that time, agrarians were left with insufficient resources, leading to a long famine. Government debt left them with unreasonable extra taxes.
All of these conditions aggravated their daily lives. After the publication of Necker's financial report, which clarified the monarch's unreasonable expenditures made it to the point when peasants decided to revolt. Their great fear was triggered by active opposition from the aristocracy. Peasants suspected that nobles would try to turn down their opposition by fighting to gain basic rights.
Declaration of Rights
One of the main objectives of the third estate representatives was gained through the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen. This charter served as a preamble of the long wished constitution of 1791. The main goal of the charter was to state that every man should have been treated fairly under the French government. Each of them should have benefited from the same basic human rights, such as liberty, private property, religion, etc.
The declaration of rights reflected the idea of social democracy proposed by enlightenment thinkers and scholars. Their perspective about equality, freedom, and justice for all was directly transformed into the constitution through judicial directives. The charter was created to erase distinctions between classes. French society should have been united as one under the same laws of the jurisdiction.
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Reign of Terror
The reign of terror invaded France from 1793 to 1794, during the reign of the Revolutionary Government. In the mid-set of civil confrontation and a state of constant war, terror became the main driving force of French governance. They intensified the surveillance of civilians and caught anyone who might have revealed the slightest opposition to their revolutionary regime.
One of the major figures dominating the Revolutionary Government was Maximilien de Robespierre. He was one of France's leaders of the newly-established public safety committee. The lack of rights of civilians to defend themselves publicly in case of accusation reflected the authoritative dictatorship of Robespiere's politics.
The reign of terror counted as one of the most unbearable periods during the French Revolution because thousands of innocent civilians died and were beheaded by guillotine.
French Revolution Thematic Essays
We recommend you follow some of our tips and guidelines to construct a French Revolution thematic essay and ace your history homework.
Once your thesis is ready, try to concentrate on specific topics instead of generally writing about all the ideas you can think of concerning the French Revolution. Instead, use side topics as arguments in support of your thesis.
Try to highlight the following issues to craft a well-thought and logically-structured essay:
What Caused the French Revolution?
Here you can break down the five causes of the French Revolution. Discuss how they were related to one another. Make sure your essay contains the following:
- The Estate System, often known as the Ancien Regime, classified people into categories according to their place of birth.
- King Louis XVI had almost total control over his citizens, a concept known as absolutism, which only inflamed the French people's resentment.
- Food shortages wracked the nation, and bread was scarce because of the country's poor crops.
- New concepts arose at this time on how society and government should function. These concepts would mostly originate from Enlightenment thinkers who favored using reason and science above tradition.
- The American Revolution, which saw America successfully secede from Britain, also served as an inspiration for the French people.
History of French Revolution
You can also write about the history of French Revolution by describing the following events:
- Highlight the publication of a report of government expenses by the finance minister from 1788.
- Write about the pre-conditions of ratifying the 1791 constitution.
- Follow-up on the back history of the Declaration of the Rights of the Man and the Citizen.
- Describe the reign of terror and Roberspier's dictatorship during the Revolutionary Government.
- Finish up the discussion with the Coup of 18 Brumaire once Napoleon declared the end of the Revolution.
Revolutions in America and France: Why Ideologies Matter
If you chose to write about the importance of ideologies as one of your French Revolution essay topics, try to include these aspects in your paper:
- Discuss how the conditions of the French people mirrored the hardships of Americans under British colonial rule.
- Discuss how economic struggles and social inequality affected revolts in America and France.
- Analyze the influence of the Declaration of Human Rights on the French Declaration of the Rights of Man.
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Government Under Napoleon: The French Revolution
Napoleon changed the French government's structure, redrawn Europe's borders, and had a global impact on revolutionaries and nationalists. He sparked debates from the beginning of his rule that is still going on now. If you decide to write your French Revolution essay concerning Napoleon, then make sure to discuss the following in your paper:
- The changes that Napoleon's reign brought about during the French Revolution
- Write about the massive expansion of the empire through invasions in the period of Napoleon's leadership
- What social effects did Napoleon have?
Sample French Revolution Essay
For more inspiration, check out the sample essay on the French Revolution:
The Causes of the French Revolution
Decisions of ambitious men shape the course of world history. In the case of the French Revolution, the army of an ambitious society united to create a better future for their nation. French people started to revolt to establish a more democratic and socially equal state that would defend all men's rights despite their origins, financial circumstances, or social status. However, the most important question is - what conditions led to that massive uprising of French society? Based on historical records, we can list down five main causes that culminated in the French revolt.
The most important issue troubling the French government back in the eighteenth century was the financial crisis. The latter was the consequence of an extensive amount of expenditures spent to create luxurious life for the kings and aristocrats. The most money wasted is a record affiliated with king Louis XIV. His reign marked the beginning of a significant increase in the population of western Europe. France was no exception. Excessive numbers of the population directly affected the allocation of essential resources. People lacked sufficient products to consume.
Classification of French society was the next major problem that aggravated their confrontation with the absolute French monarchy. During that period, French people were divided into three major estates. The first one consisted of clergy - people in the Catholic church service. The aristocrats were the so-called second estate. Most of the population was in the agrarian society working in rural areas of France. They were the major driving force behind material abundance, which went straight under the monarchy's and clergy's control. Agrarians belonged to the third estate. They worked the most and received the least amount of income. Time by time, their oppression became intolerable.
France aspired to invade the neighboring states as one of the colonial powers. Additionally, they fought in American revolts against British rule and supported their struggle for independence. Years of wars and invasions paid off as government debt. French monarchs developed an unjust taxation system to stabilize excessive material outcomes. These unfair economic conditions cultivated feelings of maltreatment, unrest, disappointment, and the desire to fight for social equality.
Ideologically the main thinkers of the enlightenment, like Descartes and Rousseau, provided an appropriate theoretical background to turn the desire for social equilibrium into practice. The constitution of 1791 as well as the Declaration of the rights of Man and the Citizen, was the result.
In conclusion, five major factors played a key role in the formation of the French Revolution. Starting from the economic crisis provoked by the irresponsible expenditure of monarchs, finishing up with the discontentment of the Third Estate to sacrifice their lives to support the luxury of aristocracy and clergy. Last but not least, the revolutionary ideas of French philosophers were one of the most eye-opening materials, leading to the confrontation between the French people and their authoritative government.
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