Roots Of The Modern World
The French Revolution of 1789 was the catalyst for many significant changes in the French society. Previous to such drastic actions, the political, social and economic conditions was less then content and the citizens demanded change in the system. The affected merchants, peasants, artisans and workers were first introduced to the concept of enlightened thinking, and thus also the American Revolution intrigued and sparked the most important rebellion attempted in French history. Therefore it is suffice to say the most decisive causes of the French Revolution is social injustice, economic burdens and the introduction of enlightenment to the third estate.
One important cause of the French Revolution is the substantial economic burdens on the less fortunate as the government imposes tallies in injustice amounts when compared to the nobility and upper class-men, which has caused the less fortunate to develop torment and to lament the bureaucratic systems in place. This can be seen in (Document 1) in an adapted excerpt, Author Young describes his travels in France from 1787 to 1789, as he illustrates a picture of poverty and extreme transgression taking place. On September 5th, 1788, Young quotes: “the people seem very poor indeed. The children are terribly ragged”. (Document 1) This, although abstract, is a first indication of the impoverishment the citizens faced. The phrase: “the children are terribly ragged”(Document 1) is a implication of economic burdens as clothing is viewed in society as a necessity to human beings, as it shows respect to both one’s image and others to at least be shown in presentable clothing. However here due to the hardships endured, the parents of children could not even afford to buy or make proper clothing for their most precious ones. A second example comes below in which Arthur Young recall: “The lack of bread is terrible. Stories arrive every moment from the provinces of riots…. The price of bread has risen above people’s ability to pay”. (Document 1) This extract presented the suffering and it’s consequences in much more detail. As it is shown, another essential elements of human life: food is now in dire deprivation. Furthermore it is revealed“the price of bread risen above people’s ability to pay”, ( Document 1) this is caused by the rise in tallies, that has lowered income among the third estate, in turn this has compelled shopkeepers to raise prices of items in store, and generated starvation among the masses. This vicious cycles continues, and the consequences are displayed with riots in the provinces.
An additional cause to the French Revolution is extreme social injustice among the different hierarchies among the French people. This difference in social status has caused the middle and working class to be alienated and to be manipulated and persecuted with discriminatory policies. One could be demonstrated in the diagram which shows the three French estates in 1789 and the land each held during the old regime. As it accurately shows the first and second estate, mainly resides the clergy and nobles, has in total of 45% of the land among 3% of the total population(Document 2). Whereas a shocking comparison to the third estate, with the middle class, peasants and the working class which makes up 97% of the population only own 55% of the land(Document 2). This establishes the limited circumstances and rights a third estate citizen had at the time, as they were seen as almost scum in the eyes of the nobles, and had no support from the government to take control of their own livelihoods. The grievances of the people can also be exemplified in (Document 3), in the excerpts from eh cahiers brought to the estates general, listing the changes which should be made to improve the third estate. In the account it is strongly recommended to: “tax to be granted by the estates general for a limited time”(Document 3) and “tallies be borne equally by all classes”. (Document 3) These are significant economic improvements, as the taxes and tallies are massive burdens casted among the third estate. In turn solving this issue could stop the vicious cycle implied in (Document 1) when the unjust taxes drives both prices and hunger up to a breaking point.
The final nail on the coffin for the French Revolution is the enlightenment of the middle and working class people. As can be seen in document 4 and 5, the poverty forced people to relook at the systems in place and the other examples of change in events such as the American revolution to adjust the current situation. Document 4 by historian Albert Mathiez claims leadership of the revolution should befall on the shoulders of the middle class, he quotes: “the middle class is sensitive to their inferior legal position”,(Document 4) this is appropriate as the middle class, although persecuted is enlightened and educated enough to lead and educate the working class to rebel who according to Mathiez at this moment: “were just beginning to learn to read”(Document 4) and were: “incapable of starting and controlling a revolution”.(Document 4) However a different point of view was proposed by Lord Acton, a professor at Cambridge University. Acton quotes: “the conditions of France alone did not bring about the overthrow of the monarchy… The ideas of the philosophers were not directly responsible for the outbreak”.(Document 5) Here Lord Acton is implying the actual sufferings and hardships of the French people were not substantial enough to have started the revolution based on this, the philosophy and enlightenment were not in place for such a complicated action to take place. However Lord Acton nominates the American Revolution as the actual sparking point. This theory is undoubtedly plausible due to the inexperience and lack of education in that society, a staggering amount of people were just beginning to learn how to read, let alone lead such a convoluted event. They needed a example to solidify their actions.
The French Revolution is a excellent illustration of justice triumphed tyranny, of enlightened thinkers bringing advanced ideas inside a trailing society. All three causes had significant impacts on France, the economic burdens laid massive hardship and suffering on the people of the third estate. The demonstration of bias in society made the middle and working class leaving control of their lives in the hands of others and not their own. Finally the decisive factor is the induction of enlightened thinking installed in the minds of the people, for them to subsequently apply the knowledge into revolting over a bureaucracy that had them persecuted for years, and the American Revolution influenced and gave the French an example to model their own revolution after. Therefore to suffice to convincingly state the three most important catalysts of the French Revolution is the economic burdens, the tendentious and persecuted society and the installment of forward thinking.