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The French Revolution
Transcript of The French Revolution
THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
In 1774, Louis XVI of the bourbon family of kings ascended the throne of France at the age of 20.
Under him, France helped America in gaining their independence from Britain.
France was experiencing financial instability due to the long years of wars fought by her and the cost of maintaining an extravagant court at the palace of Versailles.
Taxes were increased for meeting the expenses of maintaining an army, the court and running government offices or universities.
In the 18th century, the french society was divided into 3 estates...
THE STRUGGLE TO SURVIVE
The population of France
rose from about 23 million in 1715 to 28 million in 1789.
This led to rapid increase in demand for food grains.
Production of grains could not keep with the demand. So, the price of the food rose rapidly.
Many people who get very less wages could not keep pace with the rising prices.
So the gap between the poor and the rich widened.
A GROWING MIDDLE CLASS ENVISAGES AN END TO PRIVILEGES
The 18th century witnessed the emergence of social groups, termed the middle class, who earned their wealth through an expanding overseas trade and from the manufacture of goods that were either exported or bought by the richer members of the society. In addition to merchants and manufacturers, the 3rd estate included professions such as lawyers or administrative officials. All of these were educated and believed that no group in the society should be privileged by birth. Rather, a person's social position must depend on his merit. These ideas were put forward by philosophers such as John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau.
The first two estates enjoyed certain privileges by birth which also excluded them from paying any taxes to the French government.
The members of the third estate had to pay taxes to the State that included a direct tax called taille and a number of indirect taxes levied on the articles of daily consumption.
Peasants served in the fields and houses of the privileged classes and they also built the roads and served in the army.
The Church collected taxes known as tithes from the peasants.
In his 'Two Treaties of Government', Locke sought to refute the doctrine of the divine and absolute right of the monarch.
Jean Jacques Rousseau
Rousseau carried the idea forward, proposing a form of government based on a social contract between people and their representatives in his book 'The social contract'.
In 'The spirit of laws', he proposed a division of power within the government between the legislative, the executive and the judiciary. This model of government was put into force in the USA, after the 13 colonies declared their independence from Britain.
Outbreak of the Revolution
On 5 May 1789, Louis XVI called an assembly of the Estates General for passing proposals for new taxes.
The Estates General was a political body which had the representatives of all three estates.
The 1st and the 2nd estates sent 300 representatives each, who were seated in rows facing each other on 2 sides, while the 600 members of the 3rd estate had to stand at the back.
Louis XVI waned to continue the old practice of voting i.e., according to the principle that each estate has 1 vote but the members of 3rd estate refused. They demanded that each member should have 1 vote.
When the king rejected this proposal, they walked out of the assembly in protest.
HOW A SUBSISTENCE CRISIS HAPPENS...
The poorest can no longer buy bread
Increased number of deaths
On 20 June, the representatives of the 3rd estate declared themselves a National Assembly and swore not to disperse till they drafted a constitution for France that would limit the powers of the monarch.
They were led by Mirabeau and Abbe Sieyes.
Mirabeau brought out a journal and delivered powerful speeches to the crowds assembled at versailles.
Abbe Sieyes, originally a priest, wrote an influential pamphlet called- 'What is the Third Estate?'
A severe winter caused a bad harvest. The price of bread rose.
On 14 July 1789, the fortress prison of Bastille was destroyed by the crowd, protesting against the increasing prices of essential commodities.
Rumours spread saying that the manor had hired bands of brigands who would destroy their ripe crops.
Peasants in several districts attacked chateaux with hoes and pitchforks.
A large number of nobles fled from their homes and migrated to the neighbouring countries.
Louis XVI finally recognized the National Assembly and agreed that the constitution will check his powers thereafter.
On 4 August 1789, the National Assembly abolished the feudal system, feudal privileges and taxes. Members of the clergy were also forced to give up their privileges, tithes were abolished and lands owned by the Church were confiscated.
The Estates General
The National Assembly
Louis XVI accepts the constitution
FRANCE BECOMES A CONSTITUTIONAL MONARCHY
The National Assembly completed the draft of the constitution in 1719.
The powers were now within the hands of the legislature, executive and judiciary.
The Constitution vested the power of making laws in the National Assembly which was indirectly elected.
Only men above 25 years of age who paid taxes equal to at least 3 days of a labourer’s wage were given the status of active citizens and were allowed to vote.the remaining men and all women were classed as passive citizens.
The Constitution began with a Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizens.
Rights such as the right to live, freedom of speech, freedom of opinion, equality before law, were established as ‘natural and inalienable’ rights. These were protected by the state.
THE DECLARATION OF RIGHTS OF MAN AND CITIZEN
The eye within a triangle radiating light:
The national colours
The broken chain:
Snake biting its tail to form
The Law Tablet:
The law is same for all and all are equal before it
The bundle of rods or fasces:
Strength lies in unity
The winged fairy:
France becomes a
Louis XVI entered into secret negotiations with the king of Prussia.
Rulers of other neighbouring countries were worried by the developments of France and made plans to send troops to put down the events that are taking place there.
Before this could happen, the National Assembly voted in April 1972 to declare war against Prussia and Austria.
They saw this as a war of people against kings and aristocracies all over Europe.
Marseillaise was one of the patriotic songs sung by them. It was composed by poet Roget de L'Isle. It was sung for the first time by the volunteers from Marseilles as they marched into Paris and so got its name. The Marseillaise is now the national anthem of France.
Roget de L'Isle
The Revolutionary wars
They brought losses and economic difficulties to the people.While the men were away fighting, women were left to cope up with the tasks of earning a living and looking after their families.
Large sections of people continued with the revolution and formed numerous political clubs such as the Jacobins.
The Jacobin Club
It got its name from the former convent of St Jacob in Paris.
Its members belonged mainly to the less prosperous sections of the society.
Their leader was Maximilian Robespierre.
A large group among them decided to start wearing long striped trousers similar to those worn by dock workers. This was to set themselves apart from the fashionable sections of the society, especially nobles, who wore knee breeches.
These Jacobins came to be known as the sans-culottes, literally meaning 'those without knee breeches'.
Sans-culottes men also wore the red cap that symbolised liberty.
On 10 August 1792, the Jacobins entered the Palace of the Tuileries, massacred the king’s guards and held the king as hostage for several hours.
The Assembly voted for imprisonment of the royal family.
Elections were held and all men of 21 years and above, regardless of wealth got the right to vote.
The newly elected assembly was called the Convention.
On 21 September 1792, it abolished the monarchy and declared France a republic.
On 21 January 1793, Louis XVI was executed publicly at the Place de la Concorde and queen Marie Antoinette met with the same fate shortly after.
A DIRECTORY RULES FRANCE
The fall of the Jacobin government allowed the wealthier middle classes to seize power.
A new constitution was introduced.
Voting right to the non-propertied sections of the society was denied.
The new constitution provided for two elected legislative councils.
These councils appointed an executive consisting of five members, called the Directory.
The Directory was formed for avoiding the concentration of power.
Differences arose between the Directory and the legislative councils which paved the way for the rise of a military dictator, Napoleon Bonaparte.
Women were disappointed that the Constitution of of 1719 reduced them to passive citizens.
They demanded the right to vote, to be elected to the assembly and to hold political office because only then their interests would be represented in the government.
The revolutionary government introduced state schools. Schooling was made compulsory for all girls, marriage could not be forced upon and divorce was made legal.
During the Reign of Terror, laws were issued for closing women’s clubs and banning their political activities.
Things became worst whenever drought or hail reduced the harvest. This led to a subsistence crisis.
Their ideas, were discussed intensively in salons and coffee-houses and spread among people through books and newspapers. These were frequently read aloud in groups for those who could not read and write.
THE REIGN OF TERROR
The period from 1793-1794 is known as the Reign of Terror.
Jacobins under Robespierre practiced a policy of severe control and repression.
Those suspected as the ‘enemies’ of the republic were arrested, imprisoned and then tried by a revolutionary tribunal. These included ex-nobles, clergymen, members of other political parties and those who criticized the Jacobin’s rule.
They were guillotined if the court found them guilty.
Robespierre’s government imposed a maximum ceiling on wages and prices.
Meat and bread were rationed.
Peasants were forced to sell their grain at the prices fixed by the government.
All citizens were required to eat the pain d’egalite (equality bread) and discard the use of expensive white flour.
All French men and women were henceforth called Citoyen and Citoyenne not anymore, Monsieur and Madame.
Churches were shut down and their buildings converted into barracks or offices.
It is a device consisting of 2 poles and blade with which a person is beheaded.
It is named after Dr Guillotin who invented it.