Causes of the French Revolution and the Consequences: Enlightenment, Economic Crisis, Social Crisis, Political Crisis, and Napoleonic Empire

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Causes of the French Revolution

  • The influence of the Enlightenment: French thinkers and the bourgeoisie supported the Enlightenment and tried to put these ideas into practice
  • The economic crisis -> the French state was bankrupt caused by:
    • The participation in wars
    • The royal extravagance (luxury parties and luxury goods)
  • The social crisis -> the 3 estates were discontented:
    • The nobility and the clergy wanted to protect their privileges. They refused to pay. Ministers were demanding this reform
    • The bourgeoisie wanted to abolish absolutism and vote
    • Petite bourgeoisie and the peasantry suffered economic crisis -> causes:
      • Poor harvest
      • Wars
      • High taxes
  • Political crisis -> Louis XVI governed France as an absolute monarch and opposed meetings of the Estates General

The Napoleonic Empire

  • Napoleon Bonaparte gradually increased his power: he declared himself Emperor of France (1804)
  • He took important reforms:
    • Domestic policy:
      • Civil code (laws for all citizens)
      • Civil marriage
      • Divorce
      • Public education
    • International policy:
      • Important military victories over other European countries
      • He abolished absolute monarchy in the lands that he conquered
  • Napoleon was defeated in the Battle of Waterloo (1815)
  • In 1815, the Ancien Règime was re-established

The Consequences of the French Revolution

  • Political changes:
    • New forms of government:
      • Republics
      • Constitutional monarchies
  • New constitutions based on:
    • Popular sovereignty
    • Separation of powers
    • Suffrage
    • Civil rights
Economic changes:
  • All citizens now had to pay taxes
  • New laws guaranteed private properties and free trade
Social changes:
  • The estates system ceased to exist

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