Thursday, January 14, 2010

French Revolution (1789-1799): Causes & Effects


The French Revolution (1789-1799) at the height of the 18th century, the most glorious kingdom in Europe would face a mighty foe, the power of its own people. One man would rise to inspire the nation to cast aside a hated King and Queen, and a new republic would be born in blood--the blood of the French Revolution. The French Revolution examines the transforming event of western civilization on Saturday, January 22 at 8pm/7c.

The French Revolution is a two-hour documentary that introduces viewers to the key figures of the Revolution, including King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, who ruled unaware of the depth of anger of their subjects; Maximillian Robespierre, the lawyer turned revolutionary who resorted to violence to preserve the new Republic; Georges Danton, Robespierre's ally, whose calls for ending the violence would lead to his own violent end; Jean-Paul Marat, the newspaperman who fanned the flames of the Revolution and would be turned into a martyr after he was murdered; and Charlotte Corday, the woman who murdered Marat, hoping his death would put an end to the violence. 18th Century France was the richest nation on Earth, with the most powerful King, the best-educated population and the strongest army in Europe. But a perfect storm of discontent was brewing. On one hand, King Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, lived a decadent lifestyle in their Versailles palace.
In Paris, the idea of equality spawned from the Age of Enlightenment was taking shape. The French economy headed south, due to constraints from aiding the Americans against France's bitter enemy, England. A bitter winter and a poor harvest left the average French citizen hungry-and growing increasingly resentful. Anger turned to rage, and rage turned into violence. THE FRENCH REVOLUTION takes viewers through the dramatic step-by-step escalation of the revolution, from the formation of the National Assembly to the storming of the Bastille, the women's march on Versailles to the detainment of the king and queen. It follows Robespierre growing fanaticism, from devout anti-capital punishment crusader to deciding that in order for the democratic Republic to move forward, the king and all who stood in the way of his bold plans for a new nation based on virtue and equality must be executed by the guillotine in a time known as "The Terror". The documentary chronicles how his revolution resorted to extreme ideals that created a state in which neighbor feared neighbor, the Catholic Church was abolished, thousands were put to death-and how this state of affairs would eventually cause his own bloody demise and relegate him a fanatic in the annals of history.
The Terror may have died with Robespierre, but the revolution did not. The accomplishments of the revolution would far outlive any of the revolutionaries themselves. After Robespierre's execution in 1794, France would enter a period of uncertainty, frozen between fear of another terror, or worse yet, a return to the oppressive monarchy that preceded it. After five stagnant years, power once again consolidated in the hands of a single man, Napoleon Bonaparte. The program features dramatic reenactments, illustrations and paintings from the era, accounts from journals and expert commentary from historians to propel to narrative.


The statement citing the essential cause of the French Revolution as the "collision between a powerful, rising bourgeoisie and an entrenched aristocracy defending its privileges" has great pertinence in summarizing the conflict of 1789. The causes of the French Revolution, being provoked by this collision of powers, were the financial debt of the government and the long-standing political differences in the government. Over the course of twenty-five years after the Seven Years' War, the government of France--the Bourgeoisie royalty, could not manage its finances on a sound basis. This was worsened when France aided the American Revolution against Great Britain. The Government had reached great financial debt. The problem lied and continued because of the government's inability to tap the wealth of the French nation by taxation. There was a great paradox in France being a rich nation with a government in poverty. The deteriorating finances of the government are what triggered the prolonged differences between the Bourgeoisie and the aristocracy.

The political differences between the monarchy and the nobles came about after the Seven Years' war also. The increasing debt of the government escalated the hope for the monarchy to resume an "absolute power" status as it did with Louis XIV. However this could not be accomplished because of the doubt that the public had towards the present kings Louis XV and Louis XVI, and the public could not be swayed to help. The only result of the attempts for absolutism by the monarchy was a series of new and increase taxes on the nobles. The aristocracy immediately reacted to these taxes as declaring them unfair and would not accept them. Louis XV began with a series of financial advisers chancellors which all had the intention of saving the monarchy from financial ruin. They made many attempts at taxation, such as a land tax, but each of these were defeated by the nobles -- the Parliaments were even destroyed for a brief time, but were later restored by Louis XVI in attempt to gain public support. The government continued to become poorer and poorer and it seemed the only successful taxation was done towards the peasants, whom had the least money. The monarchy eventually fell and caused great unrest leading to the French Revolution.The French Revolution was caused by the escalating rivalry between the monarchy and the aristocracy. The conflict would make an impact on all of Europe to come and even world history. All this turmoil was caused by a bunch of greedy Nobles and kings which wanted power and money. It seems this problem repeats history, even today because big money-makers, like Texas Oil Ranchers, wouldn't pay to fix pollution problems early on it eventually lead and is still leading to great conflict for the future.

1. Social and Economic Inequalities
2. Class Parities & Privileges
3. Defective System of Taxation
4. American Revolution (1775-1783)
5. Confusing Judicial System
6. Dissatisfaction among Soldiers
7. Flawed Administrative Structure
8. Inefficiency of the Rulers
9. Deterioration of the Economy by Participation in Wars
10. Role of Intellectuals (Montesquieu, Voltaire &Rousseau)
11. No national Parliament
12. Bankruptcy & Heavy Debts
13. Autocracy of Kings
14. Charter of Queen: Marie Antoinette wife of Louis XVI
15. Emotional Ferment of Public
16. Famine of 1788
17. Rise of Middle Class


"What is the goal for which we strive? A peaceful enjoyment of liberty and equality, the rule of that eternal justice whose laws are engraved, not upon marble or stone, but in the hearts of all men.” There was much debate in revolutionary France about what the revolution should achieve, and indeed with such a diversity of objectives a similarly mixed response among historians as to whether the objectives of the revolution were achieved. The main influence on the creation of the principles and the driving force behind which objectives were met were the people of France, the revolutionists as a whole, who demanded "liberty, equality, fraternity." Secondly there were the Jacobins, a political party led by a few influential figureheads that would eventually gain absolute power.
1. Liberty
2. Equality
3. Fraternity


The French Revolution was not only a crucial event considered in the context of Western history, but was also, perhaps the single most crucial influence on British intellectual, philosophical, and political life in the nineteenth century. In its early stages it portrayed itself as a triumph of the forces of reason over those of superstition and privilege, and as such it was welcomed not only by English radicals like Thomas Paine and William Godwin and William Blake, who, characteristically, saw it as a symbolic act which presaged the return of humanity to the state of perfection from which it had fallen away — but by many liberals as well, and by some who saw it, with its declared emphasis on "Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity," as being analogues to the Glorious Revolution of 1688: as it descended into the madness of the Reign of Terror, however, many who had initially greeted it with enthusiasm — Wordsworth and Coleridge, for example, who came to regard their early support as, in Coleridge's words, a "squeaking baby trumpet of sedition" — had second thoughts.
The old regime in England, on the other hand, had from the first allied itself closely with Locke and Newton, those great advocates of reason and order, and Edmund Burke could denounce the Revolution in 1790 in his great Reflections on the Revolution in France, elegantly bound copies of which George III, who was not renowned for his intellect, gave to all his friends, saying that it was a book "which every gentleman ought to read." Burke maintained that the radicals who had begun the Revolution by releasing the enormous pent-up quasi-religious energies of the common people of France were interested first in the conquest of their own country and then in the conquest of Europe and of the rest of the world, which would be "liberated" whether it wished to be or not.
Tom Paine's great response to Burke's work, The Rights of Man, appeared in 1791, and the debate between conservatives and radicals raged on for many years and certainly influenced, directly or indirectly, the thought and the work of every major English author for the remainder of the century and beyond. So British took some measures to cater it,
1. Alien Act (1793): Ban on Foreign Entrance
2. Combination Acts
3. Suspension of Habeas Corpus (1794)
4. Seditious Practices Act (1795)
5. Ban on Trade Union
6. Treasonable Practice Act

The years of the French revolution can be seen to have laid down the birth pangs of a new world order. This new world order was quite distinct and contradictory to the trend that had been prevailing in France before that time. Although the cause for the revolution cannot be singled out, the effects of the events spilled out of France and greatly effected global change. At the time before the revolution France was considered to be a backward nation which had an imbalanced situation because the economic and intellectual development was not at par with social change. Feeling the need for change the middle men began to take France in to a new direction altogether.
The effects of the revolution took full swing when the revolutionaries managed to overthrow the monarchy in total as an addition to the suppression of the church. In the years to come the world and particularly France was to realize the far reaching consequences that this bloody revolution had.

The middle men known as the bourgeois and the land owning class were now in the most dominant social class in France. With the death of feudalism and the implementation of ‘Code Napoleon’ the country had consolidated its contracts and managed to attain some social order. Although under an ungodly regime France now stood as a unified nation which gave it more power and authority to influence world affairs. In the years of the Napoleonic wars the idea of nationalism was further progressed as France began total warfare. Although the historians have major differences in the benefits that the French revolution has flowered no one can argue the effects that it had on shaping the future course of the world.
1. Influence over English Literature: Romanticism
2. Made Pitt the Younger Reactionary
3. Lead to Irish Revolt
4. Craving for Reforms
5. Effect on Party System
6. Annulment of Policy of Isolation
7. Lead to American revolution
8. Banner of Liberalism

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