The French Revolution Origins

The origins

The origins of th eFrench Revolution stemmed from a variety of conflicts, from facing a bleak economic situation, to failures of the monarchy, social stratification that was extremely downcast on the common people, and the effects of the enlightenment.

Here's a brief overview of the Revolution, but we are going to go a lot deeper into the causes.

Monarchical Failures

A lot of the social and economic issues being faced in France before the revolution were due to failures from the three last kings of France before the revolution, Louis XIV, XV, and XVI.

Louis XIV was raised under tutelage that the king was to have absoute power from divine right, but had a duty to rule for the people. In this, he consolidate a lot of power for the crown, which under a weak king would crash. He weakened the nobles by selling titles and forcing them to live in Versailles, the palace he had created outside of Paris. He lavishly spent money, which caused a colossal debt to accumulate and be passed down for the next two generations to deal with. The creation of Versailles and being at war, and losing, for 3/4 of his rule was the large reason for the debt.

After the death of Louis XIV, rule passed to Louis XV. He was seen very negatively due to his promiscuous behaviors, but worked to reform a lot of the French system. The Mauchault Reforms took away a lot of the privileges from the nobles, which irked them. The last major act that Louis XV did was issue the Royal Edict. This destroyed corporate privileges and exiled the parlement, the Paris court. This Maupeau Parlement replaced the court with people who held similar beliefs to him and is seen as the last attempt to protect the monarchy.

Louis XVI just wanted to be liked. This led to the overturn of the Royal Edict and a lot of wish washy policies in general. He never stood firm, which made him lose public favor and wasn't seen as committed to France. He called the Estates General, a national political assembly, but had no plan of action for them. As the revolution progressed, he attempted to flee and was eventually executed.

Social Structure

In France leading up to the Revolution, society was divided into three orders. The first estate was e clergy, the second, nobles, and the third estate was everyone French lawyer Loyseau wrote a treatise on the orders in the 1600s, which describes their existence and composition in detail. These orders were based on prestige and the first two had privileges that exempted them from a lot of struggles and caused the burden of the state to rest on the third estate, which was the majority of the people. When Louis XVI called the Estates General, the first and second estates didn't work with the third, causing a deadlock.

In order to keep the assembly from doing anything the third estate was locked out of the meeting room. They decided to meet in a tennis court, and vowed to not disassemble until a constitution was written. This oath of the tennis court is depicted in the painting in the background. This was a step in the direction of mob rule and the shift of power towards the third estate that became the signature of the revolution.

Economic Crisis

Constant war and lavish lifestyle without a means of repayment led to the development of a huge debt in France in the late 18th century. The way the state handled this crisis helped add to the social upheaval.

There was an increase of population due to better agriculture, the increase of philanthropy, and a time of civilized war. But this was met with an economic recession and bad trade deals. The cost of bread alone was 80% of a family's income.

The French government dealt with this debt in different ways at different times. There were tax reforms, but the taxes were different in different areas. The pays d'estat, regions acquired through conquest, had less of a financial responsibility. The Eden Treaty flooded France with cheap textiles which didn't help the situation.

The state ended up relying on asignants to pay their internal debts. This was a paper currency that was mass produced, so there was rampant inflation. The members of the National Assembly were paid in grain rather than this.

What's to Come

With all these factors, the Revolution continued to become more radicalized. We will se blood, betrayal, conquest, and defeat in the coming lessons.


Oath of the Tennis court -, Louis XIV -, LouisXV -, Louis XVI -, Versailles -, Asignant -, pays -, Marat -

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