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The Impacts of the French Revolution

The French Revolution

The ‘French revolution’ was an era of political and economic turmoil in France. The Revolution led to wars that spread to the neighboring countries and across Europe, which lasted for 10 years from 1789 to 1799. Napoleon Bonaparte carried out the conquest after the revolution and carried out the enlargement of the French territory through major parts of Europe. The revolution practically overthrew the monarchy system and created a democracy that gradually culminated into dictatorship. Napoleon established his principles in major areas he conquered in Europe and this brought about both positive and negative effects in France and the conquered areas[1].

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Among these are waves of conflicts and wars that extended from Europe to the Middle East region. It all stated in the year 1789, when King Louis xvi changed the parliament to deal with a large national debt. A division was made in parliament, as many did not support this. The king tried to deny this but he was opposed by a crowd and destroyed the royal prison. Constitutional monarchy was formed but the king and the queen decided to flee the country but were arrested and put in custody ending the monarchy system summarily[2]. Robespierre became the controller of the government between 1793 and 1794, many of French nobles and other enemies were dismissed. Robespierre was also withdrawn from leadership and a new body was formed under the leadership of Napoleon who introduced corruption and dictatorship. This led to various effects that slowly culminated into wars. The main cause of the revolution has not been established yet but it evidently points out to political instabilities and France’s desire to increase its stake in Europe. The paper will study the French revolution and its effects in France and parts of Europe.

Causes of the War

Economic

One of the main causes of the revolution was France’s desire to increase its political interests and the financial crisis that the country had faced during wars in Europe. The economic interests of the country were associated with the fact that French had lost much of its finances in the American Revolution wars and therefore was trying to look for ways to recover through expanding its territories in Europe[3]. Other economic aspects of the war included France’s competition with Britain and other European neighbors in industrialization, and economical superiority.

Social

Social aspects were influenced by the countries condition during the 18th century, which was very miserable. The society was divided into classes comprising the Nobles, the Clergy and Common People. The Clergy managed churches and educational institutions of the country, and were exempted from tax. This group lived in extravagance at the expense of common people[4]. The Noble were also regarded as important and special citizens in the country, with much of their life reflecting many privileges. The two groups enjoyed life and never paid any heed towards the plights of the common people who were poor. There occurred another group known as the Third Estate, which consisted of lawyers, doctors, philosophers and businessmen, who felt left out in the government affairs. This group influenced by inciting the common people against the government citing for their rights and other common benefits leading to a revolution.


Political

France was at the center of autocratic monarchy during the 18th century and the time of revolution. The monarchies declared themselves as the untouchables and representatives of God, together with their spending, lack of attention to their subjects, the economic condition of the country became weak, and it sowed seed for the revolution in the country[5]. The major reason as to why the revolution came into effects was the fact that the political structure of the country was weak and never paid attention to its people and their needs especially during the country’s economic crisis. Another disadvantage of the monarchy system of governance was its autocratic nature, which favored the ruling class and disregarded the common citizens. Much of the revolt was from the lower class citizens who had been oppressed by the system and wanted a change to a more democratic system of government.

The Revolution started in France and extended to its neighboring states, creating political tension and instabilities that lasted for 10 years. In the wake of the revolution, the king was dethroned and the monarchy system done away with, giving rise to the democratic government led by Napoleon. This would later transform into a war that spread all across Europe as Napoleon was determined to conquer the whole of Europe.

Effects of the Revolution in France

The Revolution greatly impacted France in its ideas and events in the country. Before the Uprising, people in France had no power and voice as the system operated on a bureaucratic state. However, after the revolution, the democratic government was put into place, which gave people freedom and liberty. The monarchy leadership had violated the new system put the plights of common people at the fore, and helped to restore the rights of the people. During the monarchy system, the country experienced divisions due to classes brought by the royal system. Due to the revolution, the country’s economic status improved as a result of reduced spending unlike the one experienced by the king and queen’s lavish and extravagant lifestyle. From a general point of view, the revolution abolished the feudal system that had many privileges to few individuals from the royal family and other few upper class individuals, which led to equal distribution of resources among all citizens irrespective of social classes[6]. The impacts were majorly experienced in the systems of governance

Many French citizens were also affected by Revolution due to the political tension created in the country as a result of instability and wars. Some of the French citizens settled in neighboring countries such as Britain, Germany and Austria. There also many recorded deaths in France as a result of the political standstill, which is said to have lasted for 10 years. During the first 9 months of the terror, tens of thousands of people lost their lives either form direct executions or from the inter-political clashes. In Paris alone, more than 16,000 people were killed, and from general statistics, more than 30,000 people were killed across the country within that short time. For the ten years of war, there were reported to be more than 1.4 million deaths from the Revolution and the Revolutionary wars across France. The wars also left impact in French’s national ideas such as the introduction of equality of languages, freedom of thought and expression, which were among the ideas missing in the feudal system of governance. Additionally, the introduction of separation of powers in the arms of government, suppression of internal tariffs and other economic restraints gave citizens the much-needed reprieve. Another impact was the reformation of the civil and penal law systems, which gave rise to social and cultural rights such as mixed marriages and education to all classes of citizens. Such rights and privileges had been restricted to the lager population as state privileges were limited to classes of people. The Revolution saw France make important reforms in the country’s infrastructure by developing educational centers, transport systems and other public works.

The Revolution also brought about the establishments of the rule of law, by reviving the parliamentary system that had been abandoned more than 100 years ago. This system further facilitated the introduction of some of the Revolutionary ideas such as liberty and fraternity that promoted freedom, democracy and other aspects such as good governance making France to be a breeding ground of democracy in the entire Europe[7]. The land ownership had been a major issue bridging much crisis in the country for a long time, however, the revolution influenced new reforms on the land ownership issue and encouraged the idea of private ownership of land. This idea gave peasants and the poor an opportunity to own land in France. The parliamentary system in turn gave birth to the emergence of political parties and subsequent democracy that never existed in the country before.

Religiously, the rights and privileges of the church more especially the Catholic Church were scraped and reduced to a bureau governed by the government. Initially, the Catholic Church had been regarded as an important arm of the government for its involvement in running government affairs. During the outbreak of the Revolution Catholicism was the official religion in the country with unlimited autonomy over the authorities. French had a population of 28 million people and almost 90 percent of that was catholic, which simply meant being French is being catholic. The church also had its members as upper class citizens, who enjoyed various rights such as tax exemption and other noble privileges[8]. However, in the wake of the Revolution, much of these had been done away with due to the major changes that accrued from the establishment of a centralized government. The decline of the church’s dominance in France created an impact much felt throughout the country. It has to be remembered that most of the social services in the country were initiated by the church. Some of these activities included schools, hospitals and other institutions. However, with the changes in the feudal system, abolition of the church’s power to collect tithes and scrapping of all its privileges, the Catholic Church lost its autonomy in France.

The Impacts in Europe

The French Rebellion differed greatly from other Revolts in its course for not only aiming at benefiting the country but all humanity. Therefore, the impacts of its subsequent war were felt across Europe, particularly in Britain, Germany, Italy and Russia. Europe trembled by a surge of revolutions which made the whole continent unstable. Nevertheless, more so was the French Revolution, which affected German coalition and the Austrian Domain into southeastern Europe and Italy. The objectives of revolutions were to create a constitutional independent state with fairness before regulation and the close of privileges for the few, this meant to make changes in extreme European governments’ autocratic type of leadership. The wars were also aimed at creating democracy and establishing the rule of law. Napoleon’s intentions were to accumulate wealth and power, which made him to seek the formation of a vast empire. The process of revolution and its wars affected the European states socially, economically and culturally. Economic crisis included the effects of decreased cereal yields and potato disease which almost brought famine due to the increased populations as a result of immigrations and the looting carried out by Napoleon and his troops[9]. Additionally, the prices of foodstuff rose in most of Europe nations due to political instabilities, which made it hard for agricultural activities to thrive. There were experienced “food riots” in Germany and France. Employment opportunities declined due to factories close down as a result of war, and the rate of borrowing increased leading to insolvency of the governments due to debts. The wars further led to internal feuds because of financial crisis, enmity created from the competition for resources.

Social pressures were also experienced in certain line of work like public servants, journalists, doctors, lawyers and entrepreneurs who felt estranged by the political instability and were frustrated by lack of job prospects[10]. Since these people were educated, they wanted to be included in decision-making process, hence ending the dominance of societal classes by creating a system that involved all classes of people.

The revolution war’s positive effects were also experienced as follows; there was affirmation of rights of residents, who after the war they were entitled to freedom of expression and speech and law was controlled in National Assembly. Beneficiary countries of such reforms were Italy, Russia and Austria. Napoleon further established national government, brought reforms in banking, established an organized educational system and students learned unvarying theories in the respective countries. The war also created a rise in several rights movements that successfully championed for the rights of people and good governance. Due to political unsteadiness, immigration occurred from France and other European nations that were affected by the revolution wars, who later settled in different locations across the continent. These groups created the spread of intercultural practices in Europe and intermarried with the existing communities, increasing their population in the continent and bridging the differences between communities and countries. Other negative effects of the revolution include the loss many lives in Europe. Most people who died during the war were innocent women and children, and the military personnel the perished in the war.

Italy was another country that was affected by French revolutionary wars and they affected its economical welfare by bringing rational structure of taxation, improving the economy of the nation and making the programs of law better. More religious and knowledgeable acceptance was felt in Italy after French revolution, which had not been felt for a long time[11]. All barriers that hindered Italy from its growth were brought down making Italians enlightened due to improved education system and good governance. Switzerland also earned lasting effects such as fairness of citizens before the law, liberty of thought and devotion and Swiss citizenship was also attained. Separation of powers was experienced where old governments were abolished and autonomy created. Tariffs were blocked and other excessive taxes reduced, changed public and penal law, allowed marriages between Catholics and Protestants and ended the existing religious rivalry, which enhanced justice and peace.

The Revolutionary Wars Impacts

These were physical encounters that degenerated from the Revolution in France spreading in the entire country and throughout Europe. Initially, the intentions of the conflicts were to preserve the Revolution, which attracted resistance leading to confrontations. The military conflict of the Revolution was led by Napoleon Bonaparte, the French Emperor from 1804 to 1814 and a result of the Revolution, who managed to achieve much success in the military conquest in France and throughout Europe. Napoleon was a military general who elevated into power after a military coup on 9th November 1799 famously known as ‘Coup of 18-19 Brumaire’. The breakout of the war marked a dramatic turn of events in the Revolution as it determined the course of the revolution and its magnitude in the country and Europe[12]. The war lasted for 10 years from 1789 to 1799, and as it could turn out, it consumed more than 1 million people and many other atrocities associated to the war across the continent.

Apart from killings and deaths, the wars had tremendous effects in France and Europe. Some of the impacts brought about by the war were both economic and social in nature. Evidently, the wars consumed much of the country’s finances and greatly rendered the nation’s coffers empty. Firstly, the war had several phases referred to coalitions, as there was the first coalition, war of the second coalition, battle of Valmy and the Siege of Toulon. The wars began between France and Britain in 1803 after the end of the treaty of Amiens. The war later spread to Italy, Germany, Russia, Sweden, Spain, Portugal and Austria[13]. The wars changed the military formations of France by increasing its strength and mighty through increased personnel and advanced weaponry. Napoleon Bonaparte deployed more than 500,000 men and women of war during the conquest, making his army the strongest in Europe therefore guaranteeing him victory in all his endeavors[14]. Napoleon was a man of great wisdom, skill and strategies so to speak liked and admired by his own armies who were ready to fight not only for France but for him. Through him, the country established and strengthened the national guard, which was meant to protect the achievements of the Revolutionary wars and the country’s borders.

Other impacts left by the wars in France include the increased resources from the conquered states, which was used to build the economy of the country. The building of the economy led to a stronger military, which would be used to expand France’s territories further. There was also experienced a decrease in the population of people in France due to the deaths of civilians and military personnel during the war. The revolution and subsequent wars led to a deteriorating relationship between France and its neighboring states in Europe, which felt that the policies employed by France threatened their interests. That was the main reason as to why Britain allied with Austria and Russia against France.

The revolutionist used several methods to criticize the monarchy regime and those who were against the reforms, at the same time inspire and encourage the pro revolutionists. Among the methods employed was the use of poems, songs, images and artworks that associated with the positive effects of the revolution.


Conclusion

The French revolution was caused by political weaknesses and economic crisis in France. The revolution was simply an uprising that was meant to raise the plights of the neglected groups in society. However, the uprising grew into being a widespread war in France and the entire Europe. The revolution brought many changes in the country particularly, the change in the system of governance, politics, religion and the freedom and rights of the citizens. Through this revolution, the monarchy was overthrown and the republic government put forth. The revolution gave birth to a war known as the France revolution wars, which took place in Europe led by Napoleon Bonaparte. This led to many deaths and reforms in major states in Europe.

References

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