The French Revolution of 1789-1799, had a great impact not only to the people in France, but to rest of Europe, and the entire world. The major cause of the French Revolution was the disputes between the different types of social classes in French society. The revolution led to many changes in France, which at the time of the Revolution was the most powerful state in Europe. The revolution led to the development of new political forces such as democracy, and nationalism. It questioned the authority of kings, priests, and nobles.
The revolution also gave new meanings and new ideas to the political ideas of the people. The primary cause of the revolution was the disputes over the people s differing ideas of reform. Before the beginning of the revolution, only moderate reforms were wanted by the people. An example of why they wanted this was because of King Lousis XIV s actions. At the end of the seventeenth century, King Lousis XIV s wars began decreasing the royal finances dramatically. This worsen during the eighteenth century. The use of the money by Lousi XIV angered the people and they wanted a new system of government.
The writings of the philosophisers such as Voltaire and Diderot, were critical of the government. They said that not one official in power was corrupt, but that the whole system of government needed some change eventually, when the royal finances were expended in the 1780 s there began a time of greater criticism. This sparked the peasants notion of wanting change. Under the Old Regime in France, the king was the absolute monarch. Louis XIV had centralised power in the royal bureaucracy, the government departments which administered his policies.
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Together, Louis XIV and the bureaucracy worked to preserve royal authority and to maintain the social structure of the Old Regime. At this time in French history, the social classes played an important role in the lives of the people. The social structure of France was divided among three groups; the first, second, and third estates. Each social group had a varied type of people within their structure, which presented the different views of the people. The First Estate was the Church. During the ancient regime, the church was equal in terms of its social, economic, and spiritual power.
The first estate owned nearly 10 percent of the land in France. It paid no taxes but, to support church activities such as school running,, and caring for the poor, they collected a tithe, or a tax on income. About one-third of the entire clergy in France served as parish priests. Also included in this estate were the nobles. Some of the nobles lived in luxury in major cities in France such as Versailles or Paris. Parish priests usually lived a hardworking life. This Estate was the minority of the people in France, having approximately 1 to 2 percent of the population.
The Second Estate in French life was the nobility. They enjoyed extensive rights and privileges. They made up less than 2 percent of the population. They, like the First Estate, paid hardly any taxes. Economically, the nobility was characterised by great land wealth. Nobles were generally the richest member of the society. Typical sources of income were rents and dues for the use of their farm or estates. The First and Second estates were grouped together because they had similar political beliefs. The Third estate consisted of the commoners.
It included the bourgeoisie, or the middle class, were by far the wealthiest. In the bourgeoisie, there were the merchants and manufacturers, lawyers, doctors and others similar to those types of professions. Peasants made up the largest group within the Third estate. They were forced to pay hefty taxes, tithes to the church, and rents to their landlords for the land they lived on. The last group within the Third estates were the city workers. They were servants, apprentices, and household maids. The major causes of the revolution were the differences these three groups had.
However, there was another important factor during these times. France suffered from harsh economic problems. Poor farm harvests by farmers hurt the economy, and trade rules from the Middle Ages still survived, making trade difficult. However, the most serious problem was the problem facing the government during this time. The French government borrowed much money to pay for the wars of Louis XIV. Louis still borrowed money to fight wars and to keep French power alive in Europe. These costs greatly increased the national debt, which was at the time already too high.
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