The French Revolution is a well-known period in European history. The revolution brought about significant changes in the political landscape of France and uprooted the age-old traditions in France. The movement started in 1789 and ended with the ascent of Napoleon Bonaparte. The revolution was caused because of the widespread discontent with the monarchy and economic policies of King Louis XVI.
What led to the French Revolution?
At the close of the 18th century, France had been long involved in the American Revolution and the extravagant spending of King Louis XVI led France to bankruptcy. Additionally, the common people of France were caught in a vicious cycle of poor harvest, cattle disease, and the increasing prices of bread. This led to widespread discontent and made the people revolt against the monarchy.
Prominent Events of the French Revolution
The entire period of the French Revolution saw several events. Some of the prominent ones include:
Rise of the Third Estate
The population of France had been changing for a long time and non-aristocratic members formed a major part of the Third Estate. However, the Third Estate was not provided equivalent powers and by 1798 began to mobilize for equal representation and wanted voting by head and not by status. The nobles were, however, not ready to part with their privileges and powers.
Tennis Court Oath
With increasing hostility between the three orders about the voting rights of the Third Estate, the title of the National Assembly was adopted by it at an indoor tennis court and took the Tennis Court Oath vowing not to disperse until constitutional reform had been achieved.
The Bastille and Great Fear
As the National Assembly continued its work, violence and fear had consumed the capital city. The rumors of an impending military coup further put the people of Paris in fear. Many rioters marched into the Bastille fortress to collect gunpowder and weapons and this is what marked the beginning of the French Revolution. The revolutionary fear spread far and wide and peasants looted and burned homes of tax collectors and landlords who had exploited them. This agrarian revolt is termed as Great Fear and led the National Assembly to abolish feudalism in August 1789.
Declaration of Rights
The National Assembly adopted the Declaration of Rights of Man and of the citizen in August 1789. The declaration proclaimed to replace the ancient regime with a system based on equal opportunities, freedom of speech, popular sovereignty, and representative government.
Reign of Terror
During the French Revolution, the period marred with a lot of violence was known as the Reign of Terror. It was during this period that the revolution turned radical and King Louis XVI was sent to death from treason.
End of the French Revolution
In 1795, the National Convention created the first bicameral legislature of France. The executive power was given to the five-member Directory. However, the members of the Directory were involved in corruption, inefficiency as well as the financial crisis. By the 1790s, most of the members of the Directory had ceded much of their power to the military generals. In 1799, frustrated with the leadership, Napoleon Bonaparte staged a coup and abolished the Directory, and appointed himself as France’s “first consul.” This led to the end of the French Revolution.
- French Revolution was started to bring about political changes in France.
- The revolution aimed to create a free and sovereign France.
- There were several important events during the French Revolution that were marred by violence and revolts by peasants.
The revolution came to an end with the ascent of Napoleon Bonaparte.