French revolution
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  • French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars

    •  product of the dysfunctional society characterized by Feudalism
  • Reasons behind French Revolution

    • 1.Three Estates

      • 18th  century France was divided into three classes or estates.
      • Clergy was the first estate,
      • Nobles were the second estate
      • third estate, included the middle classes, the artisans, the city workers and the peasants.
    • Clergy was the largest landowner in per capita terms
    • The Nobility had a monopoly on all the important official positions in the government service, the army, and other public offices.
    • the Clergy and the Nobles did not pay any taxes and did no productive work
    • Within the peasants, there were further subdivisions
      • in the form of landowner peasants, tenants and landless laborers.
    • Though economically middle classes were important, they enjoyed very little social prestige and political rights in the society
    • Third Estate did not have voting rights
    • 2.Unpopular Monarchy & financial troubles

      • King Louis XVI was an inefficient ruler with poor intelligence
      • wife Marie Antoinette who interfered in the appointments of officials.
      • King also showed favoritism in appointing officials (nepotism) 
      • Under King Louis XVI, France was in financial trouble due to costly wars like the Seven Year War.
    • American Revolution had pushed France to bankruptcy as France had aided the Americans against Britain.
    • While France supported the American Revolution (which aimed self-rule, liberty, equality and democracy for the people), the way the Monarchy ruled in France was an anti-thesis to the ideas that formed the foundation of the American Revolution
    • 3 Role of Enlightenment Thinkers

      • revolutionary Enlightenment thinkers made the French Revolution more than just an outbreak of violence.
        • Rationalism
        •  happiness could be achieved by removing the prejudices prevailing in society.
        •  they focused on Secularism as they either denied God or ignored him in their discussions.
      • Voltaire believed that all religion was absurd as it was against the logics of reason. Atheists and Materialists gained popularity as it was emphasized that man’s destiny lay in his own hands
      • principles of Laissez Faire and No Taxation without Representation were stressed which brought the Nobility under criticism
      •  ideas of democracy were propounded by thinkers like Montesquieu and Jean Rousseau.
  •  Events in French Revolution of 1789

    • Royal Tennis Court.
    •  goal was to draw up a constitution for France in which the Third Estate could also have voting rights
    • King sent in troops to dispel the leaders of third estate, the people got enraged and they went on to break open the Bastille Prison.
    • After Bastille event, the National Assembly started legislating and it adopted the now famous document of French Revolution, called the Rights of Man and Citizen.
    • They abolished Feudalism, removed the Roman control on the French Church and curtailed the powers of the Church so as to reduce their influence in polity.
    • major ideas enlisted in the Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen:
      • All men are born free and equal.
      • Equality before law
      • Principle of innocent until proven otherwise
      • All people were eligible to the public offices
      • Freedom of speech and press
      • Right to private property unless the public welfare necessitates to infringe this right
      • society has a right to demand accountability from each civil servant
      •  document gave the term nation its modern meaning i.e. a Nation is sum total of the people residing in a territory and not the territory itself
        • From the idea of Nation followed the idea of sovereignty of the people. Thus people were the source of all power and authority, and there cannot be any ruler above the people but only a Republic
    •  French revolutionary wars were fought from 1792 to 1802, by France, against the absolute monarchies of Austria, Prussia and Savoy (Italian State)
    • 1793, the King and the Queen of France were executed and then France declared a pre-emptive war against Britain, Holland, Spain and Hungary.
  • Jacobins & Napoleon

    • To qualify as a voter, a person had to have income above a certain threshold
      • Aristocracy was now replaced by the Bourgeois and the conditions of the peasants and city workers did not improve as they had expected.
    • Soon after, in 1793, the radical Jacobins came to power in France. They made the Right to Vote unconditional by removing the income clause
    •  Robespierre, the leader of the Jacobins was the man behind, what came to be known as, the Reign of Terror, where the regime sought to execute via guillotine all those who opposed the revolution. The King and the Queen were executed in 1793.
    • Soon the guillotine was used to punish anyone voicing dissent. Under the Jacobins, France descended into anarchy with little scope for the Rule of Law.
      • Many Jacobins were also executed. Soon the Jacobins themselves turned against Robespierre and the Reign of Terror came to an end with his execution via guillotine.
    • Bourgeois again came to power and their government was called Directorate
    • In 1795 they rewrote the constitution reinstating the conditional Right to Vote
  •  In 1799, Napoleon, in a coup, brought France under military rule. He declared himself the Emperor a few years later and the Monarchy was restored in France.
    • years between 1803 and 1815 are known for Napoleonic wars, wherein the French fought against rest of Europe and brought the ideas of French Revolution to the conquered territories
    • Napoleon’s forces abolished serfdom and modernized the administration of the conquered territories in Europe
    • Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo
    • the monarchies in rest of the Europe helped the old dynasty to come to power in 1815.
    •  the monarchy could never restore its control to the level witnessed prior to the 1789 revolution and soon France saw four waves of revolutions to finally become a Republic in 1871
  •  Impact/Constructive Criticism of French Revolution

  • Pros

    •  impact not just on France, but rest of the world
    • wars with France weakened the European colonial powers like Spain and Portugal and their colonies in South and Central America declared themselves as independent republics
    • Central America, inspired by the French Revolution, Haiti gained freedom from the French itself in 1804 through an armed revolt that began in 1792
    • Simon Bolivar
      • Haiti gave protection to Simon Bolivar when he fled South America during his struggle for independence from France.
      • Simon Bolivar from 1813 to 1824 liberated many South American countries and later tried to organize them into a US type federation in form of Gran Columbia.
    • freed Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia from the Spanish rule through an armed revolt
    • The abolition of Slavery after French revolution was the first move against this repressive system
    •  destruction of feudalism in France
    • The privileged classes i.e. the first and the second estate, were abolished
    • Jacobian constitution, which although never came into effect, was the first genuinely democratic constitution
      • It gave the right to vote to all, and even the Right to Insurrection, which implies the right to revolt or rise against the government.
      •  Government under the Jacobin constitution had the responsibility to give work to all and ‘Happiness’ of people was to be overarching state policy.
    • Under Napoleon’s rule, the Napoleonic Code as a civil code for France, was introduced and some of its provision like merit based recruitment to government jobs and focus on clearly written law, continue to effect the present legal system in France and other nations
    •  French Revolution inspired movements against colonialism in colonies around the world, while movements for democracy and self-rule rose in whole of Europe.
    • rise in workers solidarity was later seen all across Europe especially in the industrialized Britain
  • Cons:

    • French Revolution had limited success in achieving its objectives.
    • post-revolution regime failed to resolve the grievances of the workers, who were the main force during the uprising of 1789,
    • Reign of Terror under the Jacobians was a mass slaughter characterized by nothing but brute force and breach of rule of law.
    • Napoleon, due to his continuous warfare resulted in rise of nationalism in the invaded territories and he came to be perceived, not as a liberator, but a conqueror