Causes of the French Revolution
(M. AamirSultan) There were many causes of the French Revolution, the uprising that brought an end the Ancien régime and the reign of King Louis XVI. France in 1789, although facing some economic (and especially fiscal) difficulties, was one of the richest and most powerful nations in Europe; further, the masses of most other European powers had less freedom and a higher chance of arbitrary punishment. At the time Louis XVI called the Estates-General of 1789, he himself was generally popular, even if the nobility and many of the king's ministers were not.
Absolutism and privilege
France in 1787 was, at least in theory, an absolute monarchy, an increasingly unpopular form of government at the time. In practice, the king's ability to act on his theoretically absolute power was curtailed by the (equally resented) powers and prerogatives of the nobility and clergy, remnants of feudalism. Similarly, the peasants covetously eyed the relatively greater privileges enjoyed by townspeople
The large and growing middle class — and some of the nobility and of the working class — had absorbed the ideology of equality and freedom of the individual, brought about by such philosophers as Voltaire, Denis Diderot, Turgot, and other philosophers of the Enlightenment. The example of the American Revolution showed them that it was plausible that Enlightenment ideals about governmental organization could be put into practice. Some of the American revolutionaries, such as Benjamin Franklin, had stayed in Paris, where they were in frequent contact with the French intellectuals; furthermore, contact between the American revolutionaries and the French troops who had assisted them resulted in the spread of revolutionary ideals to the French. Many in France attacked the undemocratic nature of the government, pushed for freedom of speech, and challenged the Roman Catholic Church and the prerogatives of the nobles. In the French Revolution "the bourgeoisie was the class that really headed the movement.
France in 1789, although facing some economic (and especially fiscal) difficulties, was one of the richest and most powerful nations in Europe.
France had over 28 million inhabitants. In Europe, only Imperial Russia had more (37–41 million) and it was a poor country. All of Europe, outside of Russia, counting France and the British Isles, had a total of about 141–147 million. (p. 941) France was amongst the most urbanized countries in Europe if one considers communities over 2,000 to be urban (and of slightly above average urbanization if one holds to a minimum of 5,000). The population of Paris was second only to London (approximately 500,000 vs. 800,000), and the country had six of Europe's 35 largest cities. France had 260,000 square kilometres under cultivation; the entirety of Europe outside Russia — that qualifier will apply unless otherwise noted — had no more than 100 million. France had 5.3 million of Europe's 30 million male peasants. In 1800, the earliest date for which good statistics are available, only the Netherlands and British Isles exceeded France (in its 1789 borders) in agricultural productivity per unit area. France ranked roughly even with Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands and significantly behind only the British Isles in its level of industrialization. Because France would have constituted about 14% of the continental European product (again excluding Russia) at the time. He does not believe that data is available to do a reasonable comparison to Britain. The per capita GDP of France would have been equivalent to about US$200–205 at the 1960 value of the United States dollar, 6–10% above the (non-Russian) European average of the time. It is also possible, that 13 years in to the Industrial Revolution, the French regime arrived at the same conclusion like the soviet...
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