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The French Revolution
Transcript of The French Revolution
Napoleon's downfall began with his attempts to conquer Russia. The preoccupied armies could not prevent several subjugated European countries from regaining their sovereignty. Napoleon soon surrendered to allied European forces after a series of defeats over Europe. He was exiled twice, until he died in St. Helena, a British island in 1821.
CAUSE 1: The Enlightenment
Enlightenment ideals such as "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," greatly affected the American Revolution, and it, in turn, had a significant impact on the French people. It represented a successful case of a people's efforts to achieve true freedom, freedom that the French populace coveted for themselves. They were suppressed by the monarchy, and many Enlightenment thinkers and philosophers entertained the idea of a revolution and nurtured the budding hope of the increasingly desperate middle and lower class French population.
EVENT 3: Starvation at Home and Abroad
The French Revolution was not the only source of strife running rampant for the struggling people. In addition to the civil war battles within, France also faced numerous foreign wars, with Austria, Prussia, Britain, Holland, Spain, and more. The demands of supporting multiple war fronts - on top of droughts and crop failures - led to severe food shortages. With the new law mandating the death penalty for anyone found hoarding food, the French middle and lower classes sturggled to survive off of what little they had left for themselves.
EFFECT 1: Napoleon's Rise to Power
Napoleon's reputation as a leader - recognized for his part in the French conquest of Egypt - promoted him to general. He hungered for power, and conspired with two of the five directors of the Directory to overthrow the other three leaders of the government. The coup replaced the Directory with a three-person Consulate. Beginning in 1799, Napoleon was the First Consul, and in August 1802, he declared himself the sole Consul for Life. Ultimately, Napoleon crowned himself emperor and the pope consecrated the coronation.
CAUSE 3: The Burden of Taxes
The increasing burden of taxes placed on the already struggling people only exacerbated the growing discontent within the general French population. To deal with this problem, the king convened a meeting of the Estates General, but solving France's financial problems proved difficult in face of the greatly misrepresented Third Estate. The wealthiest continued to be largely exempt from taxation responsibilities, while the poorest classes were expected to contribute the most for their nation.
EVENT 1: The Fall of the Monarchy
The incensed revolutionaries soon organized a complete overthrow of the current French monarchy that placed themselves in power. They sought to eradicate any remnants of the previous Old Regime. They instated rash and controversial laws - including the division between "active" and "passive" citizens, the suppression of Christianity, and the complete eradication of the aristocracy.
The French Revolution
CAUSE 2: The Ancien Régime
EVENT 2: The Reign of Terror
EFFECT 2: Napoleon's Rule
Also known as the Old Regime, this long-time rule of the monarchy and aristocracy (from 15th to 18th century France) instated an enormous economic gap between them and the majority of the French population. Stressed under difficult living conditions, the poor were further strained and enraged by the increasing taxes whose only purpose was to support war and the luxurious lifestyle fo the nobles. Desperate, and struggling to survive, the common folk of French society turned to numerous protests and demonstrations to overcome their poverty-stricken lives.
The new revolutionary government created a Committe for Public Safety, and the newly instated head Robespierre took this as an opportunity to enforce his new Reign of Terror. The guillotine delivered punishment to any and all dissenters of the new government and even those "indifferent" to the cause were harshly persecuted. Tens of thousands of the French population were decapitated. Men, women, and children alike - some aristocrats and others ordinary citizens - were potential targets for execution and worse.
After Napoleon crowned himself emperor, he established his own lavish court and new order of nobles and aristocrats, essentially recreating the monarchy overthrown by the revolution. His demands for money from the public were as onerous as the hated taxes imposed by the former king. Napoleon sought more and more power and developed a desire to conquer and become emperor of all of Europe.