History of the French Revolution

History of French Revolution by Discovery YouTube

The French Revolution was the most important event in French history that started on July 14, 1789, and lasted until September 21, 1799. The revolution overthrew the French monarchy and brought on a period of prolonged conflict, first through war with England and later through wars with other European powers. France owes its place as a world power largely to this great period of change. The events during the French Revolution transformed France from an absolute monarchy into a democracy which is now called “the first modern democracy.
The French Revolution was a pivotal event in the history of Europe. It changed the lives of millions of French people, abolished feudalism, and led to the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte. The Revolution ended monarchy in France and established a republic.

The causes of the Revolution were many, but most historians agree on several major factors: The Estates-General became an assembly representing the whole nation after 250 years of being an assembly only for the elite. – The economic crisis which followed was not just restricted to France, but was part of a larger European economic crisis that followed the Seven Years War. – The Great Fear happened in 1789, with peasants revolting against what they believed were unfair taxes by their landlords. – The king surrounded himself with too many advisers who had no power. – There was a lack of clearly defined Revolutionary ideology that could unite the nation.

The French Revolution is an example of an ideological driving force that radicalizes the masses, bringing them to take action. The “dynamism” of the masses causes more extreme actions after time, as the more extreme actions are taken, the less radical appear to be.

The war of conquests which ended feudalism in France was no exception. After the battle of Valmy, revolutionary armies went on to conquer most of Europe under Napoleon Bonaparte’s leadership between 1796 and 1815.

By 1793, the French revolution had progressed to the point of radicalizing many of its participants. The Jacobin faction had taken control of the government. As a result, King Louis XVI was brought to trial on charges of treason in late 1792, and was executed on January 21, 1793.

The new French constitution of 1793 made France a constitutional monarchy with a Legislative Assembly making up the legislature for France’s first republic. The anti-royalist Jacobin leader, Maximilien Robespierre then initiated the Reign of Terror (1793–1794), during which thousands were killed, most by guillotine in Paris, including members of the former nobility who supported an absolute monarchy.

During the Reign of Terror, thousands were executed by guillotine and tens of thousands were imprisoned and sent to the most backward and remote areas of France. Many members of the rich aristocracy who supported an absolute monarchy were executed during the Reign of Terror.

The Jacobin faction tried to make its rule permanent, but was eventually overthrown in 1794 after a successful uprising against them in Paris. The French Directory (1795–1799) was a government formed by five directors: Robespierre, Saint-Just, Couthon, Cambon and Boissy d’Anglas. All members were aimed at eliminating dissent and securing punishment for the counterrevolutionaries.

The Directory soon came under attack from the right. The Catholic Church was declared illegal and those who objected to this were arrested and executed. Robespierre is known as “the most zealous and enthusiastic defender of the religion of the ancient regime, with his Jacobin cult and his worship of virtue.”

There was a fratricidal war between the people of Paris and the rural areas over who hated the most: “”Parisians vs. country folk”” (guerre de pays). (See also: Siege of Paris (October 1795) ). After three months fighting, France had been set on an irreversible course towards dictatorship.

In 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte staged a coup d’état and installed himself as first consul. He initiated a series of reforms including lower taxes and he had an exchange of ambassadors with the United States. The Treaty of Amiens (1802) temporarily ended hostilities between France and the United Kingdom. Napoleon was named emperor in 1804 under the “legal” pretext that Napoleon I was not covered by the constitutional three-term limit. Later, he crowned himself Emperor on December 2, 1804 at Notre Dame de Paris and declared Joseph Bonaparte his heir.

The French Empire was now fully legal under the French Republic. Napoleon began to modernize the country. He established a merit-based education system, nationalized all land, ended feudalism, updated the tax code, expanded the government and separated church and state. He also built a new Paris with streets and monuments designed by architects he personally selected including Jacques-Ignace Hittorff and Jean Chalgrin.

The reign of Napoleon I was considered to be one of France’s most important times in history because it brought about almost 200 years of peace after the end of “ancien régime”. The French period became known as the “Napoleonic Age”.

The Congress of Vienna took place in 1814, after Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo. The primary concerns were to restore political stability in Europe that had been disturbed by Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, post-revolutionary unrest that occurred throughout Europe, the Napoleonic Wars, and to safeguard the interests of the European monarchs against possible future claims through heirs. The Congress also included talks on compensation for France. This resulted in a compromise between Prussia and Austria over conflicting territorial claims; each agreed to cede one third of its pre-war possessions.

The Congress of Vienna was also responsible for the redrawing of Europe’s political map. The number of German states was reduced to 39, with the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire, and all remaining lands were given to the German Confederation. The Austrian Netherlands and Prince-Bishopric of Liège were annexed by Prussia. Switzerland became a confederation. The Duchy of Warsaw, which had been created by Napoleon, was abolished and divided between Russia, Prussia and Austria.

From 1815 to 1848 European countries engaged themselves in wars that started in France with the fall of Napoleon I. The monarchies defeated Napoleon and the Church, which had sided with him ever since the French Civil War. The Concordat of 1801 was an agreement between Napoleon and Pope Pius VII signed during the first year of his reign where he made a deal with the Pope to return to pre-1789 religion in France. This included having a Catholic bishop appointed as the head of every French regional division along with Catholicism being taught in schools.

After his defeat by Prussia, Austria, Russia and Great Britain at Waterloo, Napoleon found himself condemned to exile on Saint Helena Island in July 1815, which was controlled by Great Britain.

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