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HIS109Y1 lecture notes from academic year 2010-11

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Kenneth Bartlett

HIS109 Dec. 1/2010 The French Revolution I Fundamental principles upon which the ancien regime was built was described by political observers and activists as being unfair, unjust, irrational and unnatural Points of demarcation significant event in European history, broke from traditions, perceptions and ideas associated with the old regime New ideas in their place were driven by enlightenment ideals Enlightenment ideals travelled across the continent becoming Europe-wide However natural rights, & popular sovereignty generated into a new kind of tyranny (Napoleon) What did France look like on the eve of 1789? Was archaic, vestige of its feudal past Was divided into three estates: 1) Clergy: Least numerous, influence of rationalism made the Roman Catholic Church an extremely unattractive career choice for spiritually conscious men and women Controlled lands exempt from regular forms of taxation, and these lands were poorly cultivated Dramatic variations in wealth and status within the clergy Aristocratic clergy often didnt visit these lands, preferred to stay in the courts because the idea of clerical living didnt appeal to aristocrats Clergy were against these aristocratic bishops Angry because they had to gave up their wealth not to help the poor & disadvantaged, but to maintain the lives of these aristocrats To peasants who needed more land, and to landlords who disliked the idea of mort main land (or dead hand) the church was seen as an oppressive group within society 2) Nobility: Most functions of the nobility no longer had any meaning (having to answer to the king meant they had less power, particularly in the countryside where they traditionally they had power) Left land to rapacious bailiffs, if they could afford to live in Versailles Were divorced completely from the people who paid their way The nobility was anything but a single, uniform class: At the top the great aristocrats (nobles of the swords Noblesse de lepee): had great power and privilege due to close ties to the crown (could ask the kings for favours at a particular time, happened regularly for those with access to the king, if in need of money they were willing to sell one of their surplus sons to an extremely rich bourgeois for example through marriage) Lesser nobility (service nobility Noblee de la robe): were the descendants of rich Parisian families Anxious to be accepted by the upper nobility, tried to compete with their styles of life Usually more enlightened because they came from bourgeois families who were influenced by enlightenment ideals Functioned as a group that provided an instrument for exercising merit, & added rationalist leveling due to their bourgeois background Hobereaux: to maintain status and dignity they didnt work, however they were not wealthy enough to go to Versailles, instead lived in the countryside and were despised by everyone by the nobility who had to recognize them, and by the peasants because the Hobereaux took much of their money to sustain their lifestyles 3) Everyone else: Peasants, urban dwellers, lawyers, merchants, artisans (often who were wealthy) Better off than any other group on the continent Feudalism and serfdom were not abolished, but they had worn away due to absolutism and because serfdom is an inefficient way to cultivate property; only existed in backward regions and on the estates of the church Advantage was that they were able to sell surplus food for example There were also disadvantages, which came from an archaic tax structure, refused to adopt new farming techniques that were coming from England because French peasants were extremely conservative Rise in fertility and better survival rate resulted in an enormous increase in the rural population over population caused dislocation and anger because there wasnt enough money to buy land, also angered that the lands of the clergy were being badly run and cultivated Too little property available for sale, unable to create a wealthy class of successful farming peasants Many taxes, had to pay fees (tides) that they had to pay to the church, there were also pay manorial dues angered and annoyed the rural classes Wanted more land & a fair system of taxation because they were the ones who suffered the most, wanted more equitable distribution of wealth Bourgeois: skilled artisans (affected by the ideals of the Enlightenment, hated the structures of the ancien regime even thought they didnt suffer as much as the peasants) Above them were lawyers; & above lawyers were tax farmers and international merchants Increasing Dissatisfaction with the Monarchy: Anger directed towards the royal government King appointed ministers everything led back to the palace of Versailles Gap between the governed and the governors, there was nothing that allowed for dissent to happen all of this meant that the anger of an entire population was directed towards the monarchy (king and his court at fault for everything) Marie Antoinette was meddlesome, & extremely extravagant, didnt know what to make about what was going on at the court (couldnt understand why people were saying that she couldnt have as much fun anymore), also; she cared more about her native Austria Problems became increasingly visible, thus it was becoming obvious that France was approaching financial collapse and bankruptcy Increasing problems due in part to tax farming, & the structure of French life under the ancien regime Financing wars of glory led to the chronic deficit of the crown th Louis 15 kept kingdom afloat by borrowing mon
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