The French Revolution was a time of turbulent social and political unrest in France lasting from 1789 to 1799. In three years the country changed from being ruled by an absolute monarchy to a country which embraced the new enlightenment principles of equality, citizenship and personal rights. The people of France wanted their society to change and spent ten years to achieve it. The changes they made not only impacted their country, but much of the continent of Europe as well.
What caused the French Revolution?
There are four main causes of the French Revolution and each played a part different part in the developments of the revolution. The major contributor was the poor and unfair treatment of the lower class of citizens, known as the peasants or Third Estate. The peasants had to work very hard to survive and in most cases had to resort to criminal activity to feed their families. They had no say in the government of France and were unable to influence the course of the country. The clergy and nobility of France had many privileges and rights that the peasants did not have. Those in a privileged position did not have to pay taxes, were able to own land and did not have to work as much or at all. The first and Second estate (Clergy and nobles) were able to influence the government and often did so in negative ways. The large majority of the French population felt this to be unfair and oppressive and chose to protest and fight for their rights and privileges.
Another factor that played a part in the French Revolution was the massive debt that the country had accumulated. The King of France was spending more money than the country had causing the country to experience a lack of food. It also lead to the Third Estate being taxed more money.
The citizens of the Third Estate also perceived a lack of interest and care by the royal family for their situation. They saw no change in the way that the government ran and in fact were more highly taxed than ever. They thought that their ruler did not have the best interests of all his citizens at heart and was not a good leader.
Finally due to the American Revolutionary War the French population had had quite a lot of contact with American citizens. These revolutionary ideals were passed to the people of France where they were adopted. The general populace of France had heard of the success of the Americans and knew it was possible to overthrow a government that did not serve the people. They began to embrace the enlightenment ideals of writers such as Montesquieu, Voltaire, and Rousseau and started to find the courage to go against the King.
These four factors combined lead to an uprising of citizens looking to create a new and improved France. They worked in many ways to develop a new France, both socially and politically.