The French revolution is a prominent event in European history. It had a major impact on the political landscape of France and literally uprooted the age-old traditions in the empire. The movement began in 1789 and concluded with the ascent of Napoleon Bonaparte. Widespread discontent with the monarchy and economic policies of King Louis XVI led to the historic revolution.
France was bankrupt by the end of the 18th century. The country had been long involved in the American revolution and the extravagant spending of King Louis XVI led the country to utter poverty. To make things worse, the common people of France were tormented by the continuous cycle of poor harvest, widespread cattle disease, and the rising prices of bread. People were dissatisfied and this made them revolt against the monarchy.
The French revolution witnessed several iconic events. Some of the prominent ones are:
Rise of Third Estate
The population of France changed over a period of time. Non-aristocratic members constituted a major part of the Third Estate. Much to their dismay, the third estate was not given equivalent powers. By 1798, they began to rally for equal representation. They demanded voting rights by head and not by status. However the nobles were not ready to share their privileges and powers.
There was rising hostility between the three orders regarding the voting rights of the third estate. The title of the national assembly was decided at an indoor tennis court and the famous ‘Tennis Court Oath’ was taken by the members of the third estate.They vowed not to disperse until constitutional reform had been achieved.
Bastille and Great Fear
The national assembly moved ahead with their works. The capital city was engulfed in violence and fear. Rumors of an impending military coup were doing rounds. People of Paris were scared. Rioters broke into the Bastille fortress to collect gunpowder and weapons. This marked the beginning of the French revolution. The revolutionary fear had its impact across the empire, peasants ceased the opportunity, they vent their frustrations by looting and burning homes of tax collectors and landlords who had exploited them over the years. The agrarian revolt came to be known as the ‘Great Fear’ and forced the national assembly to abolish feudalism in August 1789.
Declaration of Rights
The declaration of the rights of man and of the citizen was adopted by the national assembly in August 1789. As per the declaration, the ancient regime was supposed to be replaced with a system based on equal opportunities, freedom of speech, sovereignty and people’s government.
The period of violence during French revolution was called the ‘Reign of Terror’. King Louis XVI was sent to death for treachery.
The first bicameral legislature of France was created by the national convention in 1795. The five-member directory was given the executive power. But, the members of the directory were inefficient and were accused of corruption. They were in the midst of a financial crisis as well. In the 1790s, the majority of the directory members had given away most of their powers to the military generals. In the year 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte staged a coup after getting frustrated with the French leadership. He appointed himself as France’s “first consul” and abolished the directory. This marked the end of the historic French revolution.
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