1. The French Revolution passed through distinct stages, each of which can be found in every major
revolution (** See Crane Brinton's sheet on Stages of a revolution **).
2. Old regimes overthrown by revolution are not only corrupt and bankrupt, but incapable of defending
3. Revolutions occur in societies in which poverty is a factor, but not always extreme poverty.
4. A revolution will continue until the needs of all segments of society are met.
5. The French Revolution was a collision between a decadent aristocracy and a rising middle class.
I. Causes of the Revolution:
A. Failure of Enlightenment despots in France to satisfy all social classes.
B. Dissatisfaction with the Ancien Regime.
C. High taxation of the poor to support the luxurious lifestyle at Versailles and of the upper clergy.
D. Social class unrest --> vast social inequality (Three Estates); no real social mobility.
E. The government isolates itself from the problems of the poor.
F. War debts --> eventual financial collapse.
G. Ideas of the Enlightenment.
II. Phases of the Revolution:
A. absolutism --> Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
B. limited constitutional monarchy --> Legislative Assembly (middle class is in charge).
-- Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.
-- Civil Constitution of the Clergy.
-- Constitution of 1791.
C. First French Republic --> National Convention
-- king and queen executed.
-- France engaged in foreign wars against the First Coalition.
D. radical phase --> "Reign of Terror" under Robespierre
-- Committee of Public Safety.
-- Sans-culotte (revolt of the lower classes in the cities).
E. Thermidorean Reaction --> Directory
-- weak, with little support outside of the military.
-- government in the hands of the property owners who did nothing to relieve the problems of
the lower classes (conservative reaction to the radicalism of the Terror).
F. The Consulate --> "enlightened" despotism of Napoleon Bonaparte
III. Results of the French Revolution:
A. Democratic ideals established --> Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite!
B. Intensified French nationalism.
C. The French Revolution influenced peoples throughout the world.
D. A society and a political structure based on rank and birth had given way to one based on civil
E. Representation was established as a principle of practical politics.
F. Eliminated feudal obligations of peasants, destroyed guilds, and other obstacles to the growth of
French industry and agriculture.
ADDITIONAL TERMS TO KNOW: