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HIST 1001 Lecture Notes - French Revolution, Liberal Democracy, Great Fear

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HIST 1001
Hal Goldman

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Lecture 23, French Revolution
Louis XVI (D. 1793)
Liberal Democracy
Ancient Regime
Estates General
Bastille (July 14, 1789)
National Constituent Assembly (1789-1791)
The Great Fear (Summer 1789)
Declaration of the Rights of Man (1789)
Civil Constitution of the Clergy (1790)
Legislative Assembly (1791 – 1792)
National Convention (1792-1797)
Marie Antoinette (D. 1793)
The Mountains
Maximilien Robespierre (D. 1794)
Georges Jacques Danton (D. 1794)
Committee of Public Safety
Sans Culottes
The Terror (1793-1794)
Total War
After Louis XIV’s death, nobility in France began to reinfiltrate the church
In the 1750s France was strapped for cash, but was on the defensive on the attempts by
the nobility that had tried to gain the power they lost during the King’s reign
In 1789, France was the most important state in Europe, largest population, 24 million
people, would not be surpassed until 1800 when Russia surpassed it
French was international language of diplomacy, no educated man or woman in Europe
or North America could be fully educated unless they spoke and read French
Was cultural centre of Europe
Russian changed the language of the Russian court to French, many spoke French
better than they spoke Russian
The events that unfolded in France had enormous impact
Revolution was important because of where it happened in France
Everyone was influenced by the French revolution, it was the corner stone of revolution
In 1789, France was divided into 3 estates:
The Clergy; priests, monks, bishops, nuns, etc. About 100,000 members
The nobility; descendants of medieval knights, dukes, barons, who had made their living
off fighting, about 400,000 people (1/60th population of France)
Together, the first and second estate controlled 1/3rd of land in France
There were distinctions and tensions within the first two estates -> represented
enormous power and wealth in France, they ran the country
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Everyone else, commoners were part of the third estate, 23 and a half million people
Not merely traditional, they were legal, taxes, etc depended on which estate that you
belonged to
French society with ridged distinctions reflected old fashioned feudalism
Most important service that one could offer would be ability to fight and ability to pray
Bright energetic people could excel
Commoners: If we create all the wealth, how come we have to pay all the taxes while the
nobles and church men do not have to?
Critiques of the catholic church, it’s privileged position in French society
Abstract intellectual ideas with the real experiment of democracy in America, watched
carefully in France, educated commoners and members of the clergy and nobles, it
feuded the idea of revolution
Ability to see 13 new states governing themselves without a king or queen, rather the
people govern themselves
These would be reformers wanted a legal system that treated everyone fairly “equal
justice under law”
No one could be immune from the law
Wanted to have a say in the governing of the country
Wanted to be free from arbitrary restraints
Did not want the economy hampered by unfair taxes or artificial monopolies imposed by
the government
Adam Smith – best system is one where everyone is on equal opportunity
These ideas, equality under law, broad political participation and protection of property
under power (1789) Ratified
Many French classmen and liberal nobles wanted this as well
Members in middle classes advocated for change
In 50 years prior, ordinary people were falling behind, population grew, agricultural
production had not come up, increases in price of bread (a staple food of the poor)
recurring recessions in France squeezing the common people
Liberal middle class commoners
Unrest among poor due to growing hunger
Both of these groups were sources of agitation and unrest
Sometimes their interests aligned and they worked together
Resulted in bloody conflict
King and Queen were beheaded
The French were in deep debt
French monarchy spent its money on things that did not help the population, 50% of
budget was to pay off the debt
1789, Louis was in terrible debt, Nobles paid no taxes, but had great wealth, Louis had
to ask them for wealth, in exchange they wanted power
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