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How was the system of estates organised in the French society?

The French society was divided into 3 estates.

(i) The Clergy

(ii) The Nobility and

(iii) Businessmen, merchants, court officials, peasants, artisans, landless labour &

The members of the first two estates, that is, the clergy and the nobility, enjoyed certain privileges by birth. The most important of these was exemption from paying taxes to the state.

Peasants, belonging to the 3rd estate made up of 90 per cent of the population. Peasants were obliged to render services to the members of the 1st and 2nd estate and to work in their houses and fields and to serve in the army or to participate in building roads.


Explain the emergence of the middle class in the 18th century.

The eighteenth century witnessed the emergence of social groups, termed the middle class, who earned their wealth through an expanding overseas trade and from the manufacture of goods such as woollen and silk textiles that were either exported or bought by the richer members of society. In addition to merchants and manufacturers, the educated in the third estate included professions such as lawyers or administrative officials. They believed that no group in society should be privileged by birth. Rather, a person’s social position must depend on his merit. These ideas envisaging a society based on freedom and equal laws and opportunities for all, paved way for the emergence of the middle class.


Mention the importance of the following dates:-

(i) 1774

(ii) 1789

(iii) 1791

(iv) 1792-93

The importance of the dates are:-

Louis XVI became the King of France

Convocation of Estates General

Third Estate formed the National Assembly, The Bastille was stormed

A constitution was framed to limit the powers of the king and to guarantee basic rights to all human beings.

France became a Republic and the King was beheaded. Jacobin republic was overthrown.


When did Napoleon become the Emperor of France ?

Napoleon became the Emperor of France, in 1804 and annexed large parts of Europe.


When was Napoleon defeated at Waterloo ?

Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo in the year 1815.


Who were Mirabeau and Abbé Sieyès. Mirabeau ?

Mirabeau was born in a noble family but was convinced of the need to do away
with a society of feudal privilege. He brought out a journal and delivered powerful speeches to the crowds assembled at Versailles.

Abbé Sieyès, originally a priest, believed in equality and wrote an influential pamphlet called ‘What is the Third Estate’?

Mirabeau and Abbé Sieyès led the members of the 3rd estate who assembled in the hall of an indoor tennis court in the grounds of Versailles, on 20 June. The 3rd estate declared themselves a National Assembly and wanted a constitution for France that would limit the powers of the monarch.


What was the main objective of the Constitution drafted by the National Assembly?

The National Assembly completed the draft of the constitution in 1791. Its main object was to limit the powers of the monarch. These powers instead of being concentrated in the hands of one person, were now separated and assigned to different institutions – the legislature, executive and judiciary. This made France a constitutional


How were the members of the National Assembly elected?

Members of the National Assembly were elected indirectly. Citizens voted for a group of electors, who in turn chose the Assembly. Not all citizens, however, had the right to vote. Only men above 25 years of age who paid taxes equal to at least 3 days of a labourer’s wage were given the status of active citizens and were eligible to vote. The remaining men and all women were classed as passive citizens. To qualify as an elector and then as a member of the Assembly, a man had to belong to the highest bracket of taxpayers.


Why were Political Clubs formed?

Large sections of the population were convinced that the revolution had to be carried further, as the Constitution of 1791 gave political rights only to the richer sections of society. Political clubs were formed by people who wished to discuss government policies and plan their own forms of action. The most successful of these clubs was that of the Jacobins, which got its name from the former convent of St Jacob in Paris.


Write a note the Jacobin Club.

The members of the Jacobin club belonged mainly to the less prosperous sections of society. They included small shopkeepers, artisans such as shoemakers, pastry cooks, watch-makers, printers, as well as servants and daily-wage workers. Their leader was Maximilian Robespierre.

The Jacobin Club was the strongest of the many clubs that were formed. In the summer of 1792 the Jacobins planned an insurrection They stormed the Palace of the Tuileries, massacred the king’s guards and held the king himself as hostage for several hours. Later elections were held. The Jacobian Government came to power. The newly elected assembly was called the Convention.

The Jacobian leader , Robespierre headed the Assembly. Robespierre followed a policy of severe control and punishment. Robespierre pursued his policies so relentlessly that even his supporters began to demand moderation. Finally, he was convicted by a court in July 1794. The fall of the Jacobin government allowed the wealthier middle
classes to seize power.


Describe the status of women of the 3rd estate in France.

Most women of the third estate had to work for a living. They worked as seamstresses or laundresses, sold flowers, fruits and vegetables at the market, or were employed as domestic servants in the houses of prosperous people. Most women did not have access to education or job training. Only daughters wealthier members of the third estate could study at a convent, after which their families arranged a marriage for them. Working women had also to care for their families, cook, fetch water, queue up for bread and look after the children. Their wages were lower than those of men.


Why did women start their own Political Clubs?

Women started their own political clubs in order to discuss and voice their interests. About sixty women’s clubs came up in different French cities. The Society of Revolutionary and Republican Women was the most famous of them. One of their main demands was that women enjoy the same political rights as men.


Write a short note on Olympe de Gouges.

Olympe de Gouges was one of the most important of the politically active women in revolutionary France. She protested against the Constitution and the Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen as they excluded women from basic rights that each human being was entitled to. In 1791, she wrote a Declaration of the Rights of Woman and Citizen, which she addressed to the Queen and to the members of the National Assembly, demanding that they act upon it. In 1793, Olympe de Gouges criticised the Jacobin government for forcibly closing down women’s clubs. She was tried by the National Convention, which charged her with treason. Soon after this she was executed


When was slavery abolished in French Colonies ?

Slavery was abolished in French colonies in 1848.


Which was the one important law that changed the lives of men , women and children after the Revolution?

One important law that came into effect soon after the Revolution was the abolition of censorship. In the Old Regime all written material and cultural activities – books, newspapers, plays – could be published or performed only after they had been approved by the censors of the king. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen proclaimed freedom of speech and expression to be a natural right.

Newspapers, pamphlets, books and printed pictures flooded the towns of France from where they travelled rapidly into the countryside. Plays, songs and festive processions attracted large numbers of people. This was one way they could grasp and identify with ideas such as liberty or justice.

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