Hello students, today we are going to learn a very interesting chapter French Revolution. What exactly is meant by the term revolution? A revolution is a fundamental change brought about intentionally. When a certain social system inflicts injustice on an individual or the society as a whole, people are aroused to action. Such an action in the form of revolt brings in a new change and the change is for the betterment of the society. This is called a revolution.
We will begin with the French society. The French revolution was an epoch making event of the eighteenth century. It was the greatest event of the 18th century. France was an intellectually and economically advanced nation. There was reign of Bourbon dynasty monarch Louis XIV and at the time of Louis XIV, France was at the height of her glory. Paris was the cultural centre of Europe. During 1714 Louis XIV died and because of his death France began to lose its glory. In the span of nearly 75 years from 1714 to 1789 France lost her prosperity.
Let us see, the French society during the last 18th century. Louis XVI became the monarch, he was born in 1774. He belonged to the Bourbon Dynasty. He was crowned as a French Monarch or the King. He was 20 years old. He was a man of character, very kind, very generous. He was a well wisher of his people. He got married to Marie Antoinette. When he became the king, when he accessed the throne, he found that the treasury was empty. Why was it so? Why was the treasury empty? France had fought several wars and because of these wars there was drainage of financial resources. The cost of maintaining the Versailles palace was extravagant, it was huge. So maintaining the palace was an expensive affair. The debt amounted to nearly 2 million Livres that is French currency during the time of Louis XVI. Why was it so? France helped 13 British colonies in America to gain independence from the parent country from the mother country, Britain. And this war added a billion Livres to the debt. The lenders who gave state credit began to charge 10% interest on loans. The French government obliged and it spent an increasing percentage of its budget on interest repayment, the payment of interest as well as the principal amount. The government increased taxes for meeting the expenses. There were different types of taxes and these taxes were incurred on army, court, government offices or universities. The government increased the taxes for meeting the expenses of army, court and government offices or universities.
Let us understand the French Society. The French society was not based on the principle of quality. It was a society based on inequality, because the society was divided into 3 estates or 3 classes. The first class comprised of the clergy. The second class or the second estate comprised of nobles. And the third estate comprised of the common people, it comprised of all the other people other than the clergy and nobles. So, the third estate constituted big businessmen, merchants, officials, lawyers, etc. It also comprised of peasants and artisans and it also included small peasants, landless labourers and servants. We can see that the third estate did not comprise of a homogeneous group, they were the educated and as well as the uneducated lot in the third estate.
Let us understand the characteristics of each estate. The first estate comprised of the priest and the clergy. Second estate, nobles and landlords. Third estate comprised of doctors, lawyers, workers, government employees, peasants, serfs that means the people who are permanently tied to the land, artisans, craftsmen, professionals etc. The population – the first two estates constituted 10% of the population whereas the third estate comprised of 90% of the population. Property – the first two estates owned 60% of the property whereas the third estate owned only 40% of the property. The social conditions – the first estate was prosperous, hedonistic, pleasure loving. The second estate also rolled in luxuries, and they were also seeking pleasure. The educated class and the third estate was financially sound. The condition of farmers & serfs was miserable as they worked like bonded labourers. The privileges – the first estate enjoyed political and economic concessions. The second estate had reservation in politics, military as well as judicial posts, the posts were all hereditary. The educated class in the third estate was deprived of higher posts.
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