The French Revolution was spread over the ten year periodbetween 1789 and 1799. The primary cause of the revolution was thedisputes over the peoples' differing ideas of reform. Before thebeginning of the Revolution, only moderate reforms were wanted by thepeople. An example of why they wanted this was because of king LouisXIV's actions. At the end of the seventeenth century, King Louis XIV'swars began decreasing the royal finances dramatically. This worsenedduring the eighteenth century. The use of the money by Louis XIVangered the people and they wanted a new system of government. Thewritings of the philosophes such as Voltaire and Diderot, werecritical of the government. They said that not one official in powerwas corrupt, but that the whole system of government needed somechange. Eventually, when the royal finances were expended in the1780's, there began a time of greater criticism. This sparked thepeasants notion of wanting change.
Under the Old Regime in France, the king was the absolutemonarch. Louis XIV had centralized power in the royal bureaucracy, thegovernment departments which administered his policies. Together,Louis XIV and the bureaucracy worked to preserve royal authority andto maintain the social structure of the Old Regime.
At this time in French history, the social classes played animportant role in the lives of the people. The social structure ofFrance was divided among three groups: the First Estate, the SecondEstate, and the Third Estate. Each social group had a varied type ofpeople within their structure, which presented the different views ofthe people.
The First Estate was the Church. During the ancien regime, thechurch was equal in terms of its social, economic, and spiritualpower. The First Estate owned nearly 10 per cent of all land inFrance. It paid no taxes but, to support church activities such asschool running and caring for the poor, they collected a tithe, or atax on income. About one-third of the entire clergy in France servedas parish priests. Also included in this estate were the nobles. Someof the nobles lived in luxury in major cities in France, such asVersailles or Paris. Parish priests usually lived a hardworking life.
This Estate was the minority of the people in France, havingapproximately 1 to 2 per cent of the population.
The Second Estate in French life was the nobility. They enjoyedextensive rights and privileges. They made up less than 2 percent ofthe population. They, like the First Estate, paid hardly any taxes.
Economically, the nobility was characterized by great land wealth.
Nobles were generally the richest members of the society. Typicalsources of income were rents and dues for the use of their farms orestates. The First and Second Estates were grouped together becausethey had similar political beliefs.
The Third Estate consisted of the commoners. It included thebourgeoisie, peasants and city workers. The bourgeoisie, or themiddle class, were by far, the wealthiest. In the bourgeoisie, therewere the merchants and manufacturers, lawyers, doctors and otherssimilar to those types of professions. Peasants made up the largestgroup within the Third Estate. They were forced to pay hefty taxes,tithes to the church, and rents to their landlords for the land thatthey lived on. The last group within the Third Estate were...