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History Lecture Notes 21.doc

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Ken Bartlett

History Lecture Notes 21 THE FRENCH REVOLUTION I A.R. Turgot C. de Calonne Nolesse de l’epee Noblesse de la robe Hobereaux Cahiers Bastille The Outbreak of Revolution The Ancien Regime was now defined as “unnatural” – contrary to the laws of nature - The Revolution was a true demarcation event; perhaps most significant European event up to this point - How did the ideas of life, liberty, property, and freedom lead to tyranny and oppression? Lead-up to the French Revolution: • 25 million French citizens; divided into the three estates • Clergy: Least numerous (100,000~150,000). The Roman Catholic Church was very unpopular in France, due to the anti-clerical ideas of the Philosophes, and the monopoly on all progress of the nobility (owned 10% of land, which was very badly cultivated, and was still run by serfs). There was hierarchy even within this estate. The lower clergy was the poor, and the great clergy came almost exclusively from aristocratic families. Most of these high clerics rarely even visited their dioceses, being closer to their aristocratic life than their clerical one. The granting of free gifts to the king (as a sort of protection money) was given to subvert the st responsibility of taxation. All this made the 1 estate highly disliked • Nobility: (Approx. 400,000) Owned perhaps a quarter or possibly up a third of all the land. The Absolutist policies made their feudal responsibilities and privileges meaningless. They were now a self-indulgent group of courtiers. The rich, greedy bailiffs who took over the nobility’s land were oppressive towards the commoners. This estate was also divided. The highest aristocrats were descendants of ancient feudal families (Noblesse de l’epee), and thus they held great influence and power. Their proximity to the crown meant they could ask for favours from the king, usually money and property. They also held great names to sell through marriage, receiving enormous dowries. They were awful people. The Noblesse de la robe were descendants of rich, provincial bourgeois families; they had bought occupations with noble titles attached to them. They attempted to compete with the higher nobles, but at the same time they were more educated, held Enlightenment ideals, and thus functioned as a wealthy, rational leverage of this class. The hobereaux were at the rock bottom of the nobility. They were disgraced nobles who lived in isolated, dilapidated houses, and refused to work to keep their aristocratic dignities. They were hated by the nobles because they were an embarrassment, and they were hated by the commoners because they were vile, vicious people. • Third estate: 98% of France, 80% of whom worked the land, and the rest who were artisans, shopowners, and merchants. Contrary to popular belief, the French third estate was quite well off compared to the rest of the continent. Feudalism and serfdom had not been legally abolished, but had merely faded away due to new institutions. Individual farms were very small, but served to feed their diet. Their disadvantages were partially their own faults; they refused to adopt new farming techniques from England, and refused to grow new crops due to tradition. Still driven by tradition, they overpopulated the rural areas, which exacerbated the effects of limited resources. Almost the full weight of taxation was burdened upon the peasants. They also had to pay tithes. They sought a more equitable distribution of wealth. The 8% of the third estate were the bourgeois; they held about the same amount of land as the nobility, but th
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