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  • Towards the closing years of 18th century Europe was shaken by the French revolution-considered by many historians as the most important landmark in human history.
  •  Louis XV, who ascended the throne at the tender age of five, neither had the capacity nor the ability to govern the country effectively.
  • Corruption in every government department further deteriorated the living condition of the people.
  • France was threatened by an appalling bankruptcy.
  • The unemployment in Paris caused by industrial depression worsened the situation further.
  • Peasants and urban craftsmen and workers were drawn together in common hostility towards the government, landlords, merchants and speculators and these classes entered the revolution in the context of increasing poverty and hardship rather the prosperity.
  • Though France was the most advanced of all the continental countries in the second half of the eighteenth century, yet socially it had some glaring defects.
  • The First Estate or Clergy constituted less than two percent of the French population.
  • The Second Estate or the Nobles was divided into three sections – country nobles, official nobles and the nobles of the court (courtiers).
  • The Third Estate were financiers, merchants, office holders and professionals who had vested interest and some privileges but many of them suffered from the numerous restrictions on them.
  • The French system of taxation was both unjust and unfair despite the fact that peasants in the neighbouring countries suffered much more than them.
  • The privileged classes did not pay most of the taxes and the burden was naturally shifted on the shoulders of the peasants.
  • The members of the third estate had to pay both the direct taxes (Taille) and a number of indirect taxes.
  • France produced great philosophers during the eighteenth century like John Locke, Voltaire, Montesquieu, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Diderot.
  • The king was forced to accept that his powers would be thereon checked by the constitution.
  • On the night of 4th August, 1789 France passed the law for abolishing the feudal system.
  • The National convention, which met in September 1792, began to draft a new constitution. It abolished monarchy and declared France as a Republic.
  • During its ten year course the French Revolution brought about far reaching changes.
  • The Jacobin club was formed and its members were small shopkeepers, artisans such as shoemakers, pastry cooks, watchmakers, printers, servants and daily-wage workers and led by Maximilian Robespierre.
  • On August 10, the Jacobins attacked the Palace of Tuileries. The king’s guards were killed and for several hours the King himself was held as a hostage.
  • The newly elected assembly, which came to be called as the Convention, abolished hereditary Monarchy on 21 September, 1792.
  • Robespierre’s Government followed a policy of severe control and punishment.
  • July 1794 Robespierre was convicted by a court and arrested and sent to the guillotine the very next day.
  • When the Jacobin government fell the power passed on to the wealthier middle classes.
  • The political instability of the Directory paved the way for military dictatorship of Napoleon Bonaparte.
  • In 1794 t the Convention passed a law to free all slaves in French overseas possessions which was reintroduced when Napoleon Bonaparte became the emperor of France in 1804.
  • The Revolutionary government brought forth many changes in the lives of men, women and children in France.

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