The French Society during the Late 18th
The French Society Comprised:1st Estate:
Clergy, 2nd Estate: Nobility, 3rd Estate: Big businessmen,merchants, court
officials, peasants, artisans, landless labourers, servants, etc.
Some within the Third Estate were rich and
some were poor.
The burden of financing activities of the state
through taxes was borne by the Third Estate alone.
The Struggle for Survival: Population of France grew and so did the
demand for grain. The gap between the rich and poor widened. This led to
The Growing Middle Class: This estate was educated and believed that no
group in society should be privileged by birth. These ideas were put forward by
philosophers such as Locke English philosopher and Rousseau French philosopher.
The American constitution and its guarantee of individual rights was an
important example of political theories of France. These ideas were discussed
intensively in salons and coffee houses and spread among people through books
and newspapers. These were even read aloud.
THE OUTBREAK OF THE REVOLUTION:
The French Revolution went through various
stages. When Louis XVI became king of France in1774, he inherited a treasury
which was empty. There was growing discontent within the society of the Old
1789, Convocation of Estates General. The Third Estate forms
National Assembly, the Bastille is stormed, peasant revolts in the countryside.
1791 A constitution is framed to limit the powers of the king
and to guarantee basic right to all humanbeings.
1792-93France becomes a republic. Jacobin Republic overthrown, a
Directory rules France.
1795 A new Convention appointed a five-man Directorate to run
the state from 26 October, 1795.
1799 The Revolution ends with the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte.
Time Line: The French Revolution
1770s-1780s � Economic decline: French Government in deep debt.
1788-1789 � Bad harvest, high prices, food riots
1789, May 5 � Estates-General convened, demands reforms.
1789, July 14 � National Assembly formed. Bastille stormed on July 14.
French Revolution starts.
1789, August 4 � Night of August 4 ends the rights of the aristocracy.
1789, August 26 � Declaration of the Rights of Man
1790 � Civil Constitution of the Clergy nationalises the
1792 � Constitution of 1791 converts absolute monarchy into a
constitutional Monarchy with limited powers.
1792 � Austria and Prussia attack revolutionary France
1793 � Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette are executed.
1792-1794 � The Reign of Terror starts. Austria, Britain, the
Netherlands, Prussia and
Spain are at war with France.
� Robespierre�s Committee of Public Safety
repels back foreign invaders. Executes many �enemies of the people� in France
1794 � Robespierre is executed. France is governed by a
Directory, a committee of five men.
1799 � Napoleon Bonaparte becomes the leader.
From the very beginning, women were active
participants in the events which brought about so many changes in the French
society. Most women of the third estate had to work for a living.Their wages
were lower than those of men. In order to discuss and voice their interests,
women started their own political clubs and newspapers. One of their main
demands was that women must enjoy the same political rights as men. Some laws
were introduced to improve the position of women. Their struggle still continues
in several parts of the world.It was finally in 1946 that women in France won
the right to vote.
THE ABOLITION OF SLAVERY
There was a triangular slave trade between
Europe, Africa and Americas. In the 18th century, there was little criticism of
slavery in France. No laws were passed against it. It was in 1794 that the
convention freed all slaves. But 10 years later slavery was reintroduced by
Napoleon. It was finally in 1848 that slavery was abolished in the French
THE REVOLUTION AND EVERYDAY LIFE
The years following 1789 in France saw many
changes in the lives of men, women and children. The revolutionary governments
took it upon themselves to pass laws that would translate the ideals of liberty
and equality into everyday practice. One important law that came into effect
was the abolition of censorship. The ideas of liberty and democratic rights
were the most important legacy of the French Revolution. These spread from
France to the rest of Europe during the 19th century.
NAPOLEONIn 1804, Napoleon crowned himself emperor of
France. He set out to conquer neighbouring European countries, dispossessing
dynasties and creating kingdoms where he placed members of his family. He saw
his role as a moderniser of Europe. He was finally defeated at Waterloo in 1815