French Revolution


The late 18th century in France was a period of turmoil and hardship, people were continuously protesting against the current monarch Louis XVI. There was a growing dissatisfaction among the peasants and working class. People pour into the streets against the monarch which turned violent in the morning of 14th July 1789, when a rumour started that the king had ordered the army to open fire on protestors.

Approx. 7000 people decided to form a militia and they started breaking government buildings and destroying them, a group of protestors marched and stormed the state fortress prison, the Bastille, looking for ammunition. The commander of Bastille was killed and all prisoners were freed and the fortress was destroyed. This event was the start of a long revolution that ultimately led to the execution of the king.

There were multiple causes and chains of events that led to the complete transformation of French society and politics. In this article, we have also kept in mind the social environment of 18th-century France.

The Social Environment of 18th-Century France

The society was divided into 3 sections or estate, first were the Clergy, the second was the Nobility, and the third was the rest of society which included big businessmen, merchants, court officials, peasants, artisans, small peasants, servants, etc. the society was in hierarchical form and the members of first two estates enjoyed the privileges of birth.

Both upper states were exempted from any taxes. The taxes were being paid by the third state only. Churches also extracted indirect taxes from the poor peasants. This was one of the main reasons for the growing poverty and dissatisfaction among the majority population.

The growing population in the late 18th century also resulted in poverty and a shortage of food for the 3rd states, as they work in the household of the upper two estates, the shortage of food led to an increase in the price but their wages remain unchanged which badly impacted the livelihood of poor peasants. The bad harvest from the previous year lead to the scarcity of food grains which resulted in riots. At that time France was also struck by an epidemic these certain phenomena resulted in the disarray of the french society, the poor were suffering but the upper classes were untouched by these ill effects and were enjoying their privileges.

The crisis of food grain can be understood from the diagram below −

The Outbreak of Revolution

Amid the increasing prices of goods due to low yield and increased population, the aristocracy was still enjoying its enriches and the origin of the revolution starts when the controller general of finances, Charles de Calonne, arranged the assembly of nobles in February 1787 to discuss the increase in tax to eliminate the budget deficit and he proposed the privileged class should be taxed but the assembly rejected that proposal and called for the meeting of estate generals which represented all the estates. The last estate general meeting was held in1614.

The assembly of estate generals were called on 5 May 1789, by the king, the clergy and the nobility estate sent 300 members each and the 600 members were sent by the third estate, they had to stand at the back of the hall. Earlier it was the rule that each Estate has one vote regardless of their population, and this was the main issue of conflict this time as the third estate demanded that there should be voting based on population, and every member should have his vote. After rejection, they walked out of the assembly.

  • On 20 June the representatives of the Third state assembled at the halls of Versailles and declared themselves as the national assembly and aimed to draft the constitution of France to control the power of the monarch. The first two Estates also joined and the national assembly became the national constituent assembly.

  • While the constitution was written due to worse conditions and shortage of food the angry militia broke into the Bestile and destroyed multiple government buildings on 14 July 1789.

  • In October the assembly introduced the constitution which tried to control the power of the monarch by distributing power to different institutions and ending the concentration of power on the one hand. The national assembly was given the power to make law, and it was indirectly elected. Voting rights were given to males above 25 who paid taxes.

Political System Under the Constitution of 1791

Although the king had signed the constitution, he secretly negotiated with the king of Prussia and other neighboring rulers to send the troops and to put down the national assembly, but before it could happen the national assembly itself declared war on Austria and Prussia in 1792.

And there was the rise of the Jacobins club during this time, it was a political club that belonged to the less prosperous. They were small peasants, shopkeepers, labourers, etc; later that year the assembly met and voted to imprison the royal family, and the reforms brought in voting rights, and all men above 21 regardless of wealth were allowed to vote. The Election happened and the national assembly became the national convention, which abolished the monarchy on 21 September 1792, and declared France as a republic nation.

  • The king judged by the convention was executed for treason on 21 January 1793 and later on October 16, queen Marie-Antoinette was also executed the same year.

  • The period between 1793-1794 is known as the Reign of Terror, Robespierre with his radical views toward the old upper class and even those in his party, who did not agree with his ways, saw them as enemies of the french republic and ordered to execute them.

  • Thousands of people were Guillotined, which was a device for the execution. Robespierre’s government issued harsh taxation and rationing policy, later he was arrested and executed leading to the end of the Reign of terror.

  • With the end of the reign of terror, the National convention was also resolved and a government consisting of 5 person Directory with Bicameral legislation was formed.

  • In 1799 an army general Napoleon Bonaparte seized the power and dissolved the Directory and later on declared himself the ruler of France.


The French revolution is one of the most notable events in history. It was a fight of the common people against the despotic monarch of France. It was the first event in the world where people fought for freedom and liberty. The french revolution became a milestone in the fight for liberty, and all other revolutions in the world were highly influenced by this.


Q1. What were Tithes?

Ans. Tithes were a type of interest tax which was levied by the church. Tithes comprised one-tenth of the agricultural produced.

Q2. What was the main reason for the French Revolution?

Ans. The discrimination against the third estate, depriving the majority of voting rights, and many social hardships faced by the thirst estate was the main reason for the french revolution.

Q3. What were the ideas that rose from the French revolution?

Ans. The Idea of Liberty, Equality, Freedom and Democratic rights originated from the French revolution.

Q4. what was the Jacobins club?

Ans. Jacobins club was an underground society during the french revolution made of common citizens, which played a major role in the downfall of the monarchy in 1792.

Q5. why did the angry mob break into the bastille?

Ans. On the morning of July 14, 1789, an angry mob break into the Bastille and destroy the building because that building showed the dictatorial and oppressive rule of the monarch.