Coupon Accepted Successfully!



Describe the circumstances leading to the outbreak of revolutionary protest in France.

In the eighteenth century, the French society was divided into three estates, namely,

(i) The Clergy;

(ii) The Nobility and

(iii) Peasants , Officials and Businessmen


The population of France rose greatly in the 1780s. This led to a rapid increase in the demand for food grains. Production of grains could not keep pace with the demand. So the price of bread which was the staple diet of the majority rose rapidly. Wages did not keep pace with the rise in prices. So the gap between the poor and the rich widened. Added to this long years of war had drained the financial resources of France.


To meet its regular expenses, King Louis XVI had to increase the taxes. Only members of the third estate had to pay taxes.


On 5 May 1789, Louis XVI called together an assembly of the Estates General to pass proposals for new taxes. The first and second estates sent 300 representatives each, while the third estate sent 600 members.


Members of the third estate demanded that voting now be conducted by the Assembly as a whole, where each member would have one vote. The king rejected this proposal, members of the third estate protested.


The third estate, due to their large number viewed themselves as spokesmen for the whole French nation. They declared themselves a National Assembly and wanted to limit the powers of the monarch.


Dissatisfaction rose among the poor as the price of bread rose due to a severe winter and hoarded supplies. Majority in the 3rd Estate revolted against the King and the Nobility. At the same time, sensing trouble the king ordered troops to move into Paris. On 14 July, 1789 the agitated crowd stormed and destroyed the Bastille, the fortress-prison, leading to the outbreak of revolutionary protest in France.


Which groups of French society benefited from the revolution? Which
groups were forced to relinquish power? Which sections of society would
have been disappointed with the outcome of the revolution?

The wealthier middle class people who were educated benefited from the Revolution. The fall of the Jacobin government allowed them to seize power. A new constitution was introduced which denied the vote to non-propertied sections of society.
The Clergy were forced relinquish power. The Assembly passed a decree abolishing the feudal system of obligations and taxes. So, members of the clergy too were forced to give up their privileges. Tithes were abolished and lands owned by the Church were confiscated.

Women were disappointed with the outcome of the revolution as it reduced them to be passive citizens. Their demand for the right to vote, to be elected to the Assembly and to hold political office did not materialise.


Describe the legacy of the French Revolution for the peoples of the world
during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

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 nineteenth century, where feudal systems were abolished. Colonised people reworked the idea of freedom from bondage into their movements to create a sovereign nation state. Tipu Sultan and Rammohan Roy are two examples of individuals who responded to the ideas coming from revolutionary France.


Draw up a list of democratic rights we enjoy today whose origins could be
traced to the French Revolution.

The Constitution of 1791 began with a Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen.
The origin of many of the rights we enjoy today could be traced to the Declaration of the Rights of Man, constituted after the French Revolution.

The Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen
1. Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. (Right to equality)

2. Every citizen may speak, write and print freely; he must take responsibility for the
abuse of such liberty in cases determined by the law. Liberty consists of the power to
do whatever is not injurious to others. (Freedom of speech, expression and thought)

3. The source of all sovereignty resides in the nation; no group or individual may exercise authority that does not come from the people.(Right to vote and be elected for political offices.)

4. Since property is a sacred and inviolable right, no one may be deprived of it, unless a legally established public necessity requires it. (Right to property).

5. The aim of every political association is the preservation of the natural and inalienable Rights of man; these are liberty, property, security and resistance to oppression. (Right to resist oppression).

6. Law is the expression of the general will. All citizens are equal before it. No man may be accused, arrested or detained, except in cases determined by the law. The law has the right to forbid only actions that are injurious to society.( Right to justice & security)
Rights such as the right to life, freedom of speech, freedom of opinion, equality before law, are rights we enjoy to this day.


Would you agree with the view that the message of universal rights was
beset with contradictions? Explain.

The message of Universal Rights was beset with contradictions. The revolutionary journalist Jean-Paul Marat felt that the Declaration of Rights was biased. Jean-Paul Marat felt that the Constitution drafted by the National Assembly had given the task of representing the people to the rich. He felt that the poor were suppressed and the wealthy influenced the law. He felt that the Constitution was available only for the rich and the poor were deprived of their rights.

Camille Desmoulins wrote that some people believed that Liberty was like a child, which needs to go through a phase of being disciplined before it attains maturity.

He felt that it was quite the opposite and that liberty was happiness, reason, equality, and justice. He said that the Declaration of Rights should establish liberty to all.

Robespierre’s views were totally contradictory to that of Camille Desmoulins’. He felt that to establish and consolidate democracy, to achieve the peaceful rule of constitutional laws, one must first finish the war of liberty against tyranny. Robespierre said that terror is nothing but justice, swift, severe and inflexible; … and is used to meet the most urgent needs of the fatherland.

The women also challenged the Universal Right saying that their was discrimination on the basis of gender.


How would you explain the rise of Napoleon?

The fall of the Jacobin government allowed the wealthier middle classes to seize power. A new constitution was introduced which denied the vote to non-propertied sections of society. It provided for two elected legislative councils. These then appointed a Directory, an executive made up of five members. However, the Directors often clashed with the legislative councils, who then sought to dismiss them. The political instability of the Directory paved the way for the rise of a military dictator, Napoleon Bonaparte.

In 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte 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. Napoleon saw his role as a moderniser of Europe. He introduced many laws such as the protection of private property and a uniform system of weights and measures provided by the decimal system. Initially, many saw Napoleon as a liberator who would bring freedom for the people and Napoleon Bonaparte rose in stature.

Test Your Skills Now!
Take a Quiz now
Reviewer Name