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001 French Revolution.doc

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Vasilis Dimitriadis

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For any revolution you need: Political crisis Social crisis/turmoil Economic crisis With less than these, you cnanot have a revolution. You can have riots or uprisings, but no rev. French Revolution is an example and a paradigm for France had been an absolutist monarch since 16thc; as long as they were successful there was little domestic opposition. Louis XIV was even successful in foreign policy; seeking absolute security even menaced all of his enemies. French Parliament was nev- er called in, so he could rule however he pleased. But in the second half of his reign, he was defeated in wars repeatedly. By time Louis XVI was around, there was a deap-seeated problem: opposition form those would wanted to reinstate the parliament, and they had found their voice criticizing Louis XV and XVI for their absolutism. Fighting wars pissed off their own people even if they were trouncing the English in the latter part of the 18thc. They brough the country into debt and the people wanted to bring back the parliaments, challening the authority of the king. The political crisis wasn’t enough for a rev though; there was also a social crisis. France had four castes; monarchy, clergy (1st estate), nobility (2nd estate, 5% of pop) commoners (3rd estate, 80-85%). Overall pop, 20-23 mil. By the time Louis XVI was facing off the challenge of pol change, social problems grew: commoners wanted more power, wanted say in the affairs of the state, but the pol struc- ture was built in a way that denied them the chance to state an opinion. Economic system was in such shambles that Louis had to call the state generals Parliament three parts: 290 members for 1st, 270 for 2nd, 270 for 3rd... Any law had to be approved by every estate, but it was hard to get a unanimous vote when the clergy/nobility had no interest in giving the 3rd estate more power. Then Louis allowed a concession allowing more than 500 to represent the 3rd estate... Everything breaks down and the estates don’t want to work together anymore. NOBODY EVER GIVES UP PRIVILEGES VOLUNTARILY. ONLY FORCE COMPELS ONE TO GIVE UP POWERS. Louis XVI was pious but poorly-spoken and meek, the Bush of the French Rev. It took him seven years to consummate his marriage to Marie Antoinette. By the time 1789 came and the crisis hit France (The Estates General), he was the butt of every joke. Meanwhile, Marie Antoinette was clear-minded and hellbent on maintaining the power... But she doomed it further by implicating the rest of Europe (particularly her brother) and ended up hurting more than helping. “The National Assembly”/The Tennis Court Oath (June 20th, 1789) They stormed the Bastille on July 14th, 1789, which was not only a prison but an arse- nal. They expected to find arms (esp. Gunpowder) but they didn’t find much... Even so, the date became symbolic. Everything culminated in a full-blown revolution! Results: • Monarch turned from absolutist to constitutional • Louis agreed to veto power and to abide by rules set up by parliament. • Eliminated feudalism • Obligations of commoners to feudal landlords, kings and church are terminated • Everyone became “equal” in the eyes of the law -- August 26th: Rights of Man and Cit- izen. The law applied to everyone; a lowly peasant had the same right as an aristocrat or even the king. • It was a slap in the face to the rest of Europe, most of which had absolutist monar- chies... France’s change was both an example and a challenge to the rest, for their pop- ulations to do the same. Marie convinced Louis to flee France, and then they challenged the socialist state from outside... They almost got through France
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