What caused the French Revolution? – Tom Mullaney
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What caused the French Revolution? – Tom Mullaney

October 25, 2019


What rights do people have,
and where do they come from? Who gets to make decisions for others
and on what authority? And how can we organize society
to meet people’s needs? These questions challenged
an entire nation during the upheaval
of the French Revolution. By the end of the 18th century, Europe had undergone a profound
intellectual and cultural shift known as the Enlightenment. Philosophers and artists promoted
reason and human freedom over tradition and religion. The rise of a middle class
and printed materials encouraged political awareness, and the American Revolution had turned
a former English colony into an independent republic. Yet France, one of the largest and richest
countries in Europe was still governed by an ancient regime
of three rigid social classes called Estates. The monarch King Louis XVI
based his authority on divine right and granted special privileges
to the First and Second Estates, the Catholic clergy, and the nobles. The Third Estate, middle class merchants
and craftsmen, as well as over 20 million peasants,
had far less power and they were the only ones
who paid taxes, not just to the king,
but to the other Estates as well. In bad harvest years, taxation could leave peasants
with almost nothing while the king and nobles lived lavishly
on their extracted wealth. But as France sank into debt due to
its support of the American Revolution and its long-running war with England, change was needed. King Louis appointed
finance minister Jacques Necker, who pushed for tax reforms and won public support by openly
publishing the government’s finances. But the king’s advisors
strongly opposed these initiatives. Desperate for a solution, the king called
a meeting of the Estates-General, an assembly of representatives
from the Three Estates, for the first time in 175 years. Although the Third Estate represented
98% of the French population, its vote was equal to each
of the other Estates. And unsurprisingly, both of the upper
classes favored keeping their privileges. Realizing they couldn’t
get fair representation, the Third Estate broke off, declared themselves
the National Assembly, and pledged to draft a new constitution
with or without the other Estates. King Louis ordered the First
and Second Estates to meet with the National Assembly, but he also dismissed Necker,
his popular finance minister. In response, thousands
of outraged Parisians joined with sympathetic soldiers
to storm the Bastille prison, a symbol of royal power
and a large storehouse of weapons. The Revolution had begun. As rebellion spread
throughout the country, the feudal system was abolished. The Assembly’s Declaration
of the Rights of Man and Citizen proclaimed a radical idea for the time — that individual rights and freedoms
were fundamental to human nature and government existed
only to protect them. Their privileges gone,
many nobles fled abroad, begging foreign rulers to invade France
and restore order. And while Louis remained as the figurehead
of the constitutional monarchy, he feared for his future. In 1791, he tried to flee the country
but was caught. The attempted escape shattered
people’s faith in the king. The royal family was arrested
and the king charged with treason. After a trial, the once-revered king
was publicly beheaded, signaling the end of one thousand
years of monarchy and finalizing the September 21st
declaration of the first French republic, governed by the motto
“liberté, égalité, fraternité.” Nine months later, Queen Marie Antoinette, a foreigner long-mocked
as “Madame Déficit” for her extravagant reputation, was executed as well. But the Revolution would not end there. Some leaders, not content
with just changing the government, sought to completely transform
French society — its religion,
its street names, even its calendar. As multiple factions formed, the extremist Jacobins
lead by Maximilien Robespierre launched a Reign of Terror to suppress the slightest dissent, executing over 20,000 people before the Jacobin’s own downfall. Meanwhile, France found itself
at war with neighboring monarchs seeking to strangle the Revolution
before it spread. Amidst the chaos, a general named
Napoleon Bonaparte took charge, becoming Emperor as he claimed to defend
the Revolution’s democratic values. All in all, the Revolution
saw three constitutions and five governments within ten years, followed by decades
alternating between monarchy and revolt before the next Republic formed in 1871. And while we celebrate
the French Revolution’s ideals, we still struggle with many
of the same basic questions raised over two centuries ago.

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  1. thank you for explaining it soooooo well!!!!! I've always found the French Revolution to be soooooo interesting!!!!!

  2. Short, concise and addressing most essentials of the story. Can’t really say I learned much myself, but certainly of value for those who are short on time but still want to know the basics of the revolution.

  3. I think one of the biggest thing they forgot to mention was how Robespierre was one of the most influential figures at the forefront of the revolution, like he essentially got it started, he had great morals at first, he wasn’t just some guy who started the terror at the end of the revolution lmao (although he did flip a switch on his morals near the end, which got him beheaded as well rip)

  4. When will the world stop believing leftists stories ? Please, don't you see it's a myth for children you just heard ? The truth is so far away from that. This is just pure republican propaganda.

  5. i'm actually french i've studied these motherfuckers revolutions during almost all my scolarity
    idek what i'm doing here

  6. Lies lies big lies!! Middle class (merchants and business classes) wanted to capture authority over Europe. They used farmers for it. They conspired against the dynasty and hijacked European power. Napolean was just a puppet.
    Earlier it was kings and nobles, later it became merchants and business aristocrats.

  7. Every attempt to change the government in EVEL ways,..can make disasters to the people in self. They will be another opportunity for the next EVEL government replacement, it's NEVER end, unless the people make it the change it in good ways.

  8. Louis XVI wasn't bad, he was just incompetent of ruling to stabilize the state or controlling them nobles. He was a man of many things but the ruling the Kingdom of France wasn't one of them. He would've made a better keysmith or a locksmith than a king.
    And Mari Antoinette wasn't the kind of person to say 'Let them eat cake.'
    She was a person who liked simple things than the French Aristocrats, although still being simple among the nobles still looked like noble to the people's eye. She was just a princess of Prussia who married the wrong person at the wrong time.

  9. Something you could have perhaps said too (but perhaps the video is too short) is that the State has turned to a police-state's authoritarian regime with a certain repression through fear. Bastille was actually as a political prison because everyone could be jailed just on order.

  10. Yesterday version :
    French people : * can't afford bread *
    Marie-Antoinette : " let them have cake "

    Nowadays version :

    French people : * can't afford fuel*
    Brigitte Macron : " let them have electric cars "
    French people :
    * challenge accepted *
    #GiletsJaunes

    I SWEAR on my LIFE she said this. I am not even kidding 😂 😂 😂 😂

  11. Isn't it an amazing insight into philosophical questions, repetitive insights into human behaviour and the cyclical nature of time all encapsulated in a 5 minute video? Kudos to teded♥️🕊

  12. Such a squeaky clean presentation. There was blood on the streets and it was probably worse when Gadaffi fell.

  13. Marie Antoinette's reputation is actually completely false. She actually attempted to restrain the spending of the nobility during times of hardship, promoted more modest and simple dress styles, and invited children of poorer families to the palace and they played with her children, because she wanted her children to know the average person. She never said "Let them eat cake" and all the paintings of her in fancy clothing were from before the calling of the Estates-General, before the summoning of the Assembly of Notables, even before the hire or dismissal of Jacques Necker. She wasn't a bad person, put the revolution has ingrained into public perception the opposite.

  14. I love these animations that keep me educated about everything. But can you do a video on the People Power Revolution in the Phillipines? I think that would be interesting

  15. Why are these revolutions born not by democratic regimes but by more horrific dictatorships?

    Why is the British revolution, the American revolution can be perfectly transformed, and the privilege is abolished. Is there anything special about Britain and the United States?

  16. Sounds like United States of America, the american people are the only one's who pay heavy taxes and the rich luagh while we suffer. Look at amazon who pays no taxes and so on. Its sad and pathetic as a human race we make each other suffer and act like we are one.

  17. But no King Louis XVI actually raised taxes on the first two estates and actually lowered taxes on the 3rd estate 🙁

  18. What I really would like to know is how the french became sooo posh, cheesy, classist and fashion victims. At some point all went out of hand.

  19. 518 dislikes?!?

    T O T H E G U I L L O T I N E!!!

    Haters: "OoooOooOooHH NooOoooOOOo–"
    😬😬😬😬😬😰😰😰😰😰

  20. Professor of French history here… I love the video but have a correction. It is well known that there were many aristocrats and members of the Church who believed feudalism must end. Many willingly joined members of the third estate when they found they were locked out of their meeting hall. David's painting "The Tennis Court Oath" clearly shows members of the other estates taking part in the celebrations. Plus, they had been writing about this issues for decades. The evening of August 4th was long in coming, but anticipated by many.

  21. as always something that start wiht good intentinos gets ruined. Leaving religion and beheding killing to many people leading to its downfall

  22. The 1870 (not 1871) Republic was the 3rd Republic (now France is at its 5th) and indeed it settled the matter in favor of the people. But until then it was actually a three-way struggle: those who wanted to restore the monarchy, those who wanted to restore Napoleon's empire, those who wanted the people to hold an important stake. A lengthy and hard fought process, indeed.

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