HIST 1010 Chapter Notes - Chapter 20: Maximilien Robespierre
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November 17th & 19th, 2014
Week 11: The French Revolution and the Napoleonic Era, 1789-1815 –
Chapter 20 page 449-470:
The French Revolution and the Fall of the Monarchy:
The financial problems of the French monarchy forced Louis XVI to call the
Estates-General. People from all walks of life hoped the Estates-General would
provide relief for their problems. A crisis over voting procedures prompted the
Third Estate to leave the Estates-General and form the National Assembly. The
storming of the Bastille demonstrated that a new political reality was emerging in
which the king was no longer in control of events. Rioting in the countryside
sparked by fear of aristocratic conspiracy forced the National Assembly to
abolish the system of privileges. Six thousand Parisian women forced Louis XVI
and his family to return to Paris. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen
and the Constitution of 1791 encapsulated the goals of the first phase of the
revolution. War, fiscal crisis, and counterrevolutionary activity pushed the
revolution into a new and more radical phase.
Experimenting with Democracy, 1792-1799:
Starting in 1792, the watchword of the revolution changed from liberty to equality.
The working people of Paris pushed for popular democracy. The Convention
abolished the monarchy and carried out the trial and execution of Louis XVI.
Under the leadership of Robespierre, the Jacobins dominated the revolutionary
government and orchestrated the Reign of Terror. The fall of Robespierre in the
Thermidorian Reaction led to the creation of the Directory. Military defeats and
corruption undermined the Directory and created the conditions for Napoleon’s
rise to power.
The Reign of Napoleon, 1799-1815:
Napoleon’s victories in Italy and his Egyptian campaign made him a hero in
France. In 1799 he was part of a successful coup that toppled the Directory. At
first consul, he consolidated his power by maintaining domestic peace and by
reestablishing relations between France and the Catholic Church. A series of
military victories made Napoleon the master of Europe. Napoleon had himself
crowned emperor. He carried out a series of reforms, most notably of the legal
system. His decision to invade Russia in 1812 was the beginning of the end.
Defeat in Russia led to abdication and exile on Elba for Napoleon in 1814. After
escaping Elba, Napoleon tried one last time to reclaim control of Europe in 1815.
He was defeated at Waterloo and exiled again, this time to Saint Helena in the