Causes of the French Revolution: A Deep Dive

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Causes of the French Revolution

The Influence of Enlightenment

French intellectuals and the bourgeoisie supported Enlightenment ideas and tried to put them into practice. For example, they demanded that all French subjects be free and equal under the law.

The Political Crisis

In France, the Estates General brought together representatives of the realm to advise the king on important issues, such as tax increases. Both the clergy (1st Estate) and nobility (2nd Estate) had 300 representatives and one vote in the Estates General. The middle class and peasantry (3rd Estate) had 600 representatives and only one vote.

King Louis XVI governed France as an absolute monarch and opposed meetings of the Estates General. For that reason, the Estates of the Realm could not present their demands or try to limit the king's power.

The Economic Crisis

The French state was bankrupt as a result of its participation in military conflicts, such as the American War of Independence. The royal family also spent large amounts of money on palaces, luxury goods, and extravagant parties. To improve the country's finances, Louis XVI's ministers suggested that he increase taxes, even for the privileged upper classes.

The Social Crisis

By the late 18th century, all three estates of the realm were discontent with the crown but for different reasons. The nobility and the clergy wanted to protect their traditional economic privileges. They refused to pay the taxes that the king's ministers were demanding.

The peasantry and middle class were also discontented. The upper-middle class wanted to abolish the absolute monarchy because it didn't allow them to participate in government. The middle class was suffering from economic difficulties caused by wars. The peasantry also suffered from an economic crisis as a consequence of war. In addition to these problems, the middle class and peasantry were angered by the luxurious lifestyle of the royal family and court.

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