Enlightenment and the French Revolution

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Enlightenment Influence on Political, Social and Cultural Policies of French Revolutionary Period. The age of enlightenment led by influential intellectuals during the 18th century Europe greatly inspired the French citizens, especially the peasants, leading to the revolutionary period culminating from 1789 to 1799. The enlightenment is hailed as the foundation of today’s western political and intellectual culture.1 Growth of liberal democracies and democracies, the spread of secularism, invention of total war and the development of modern ideologies all mark their foundation during the French revolutionary period. Factors identified to have stimulated the war are mostly economic. Immediately before 1789, majority of the nation’s destitute citizens experienced hunger and malnutrition due to rising bread prices and several years of poor grain harvest due to El Nino rains and volcanic activities at Laki and Grimsvotn. A poor transportation system hindered shipment of bulk foods from the country side to the populous urban centers. Also, France had effectively become bankrupt after participating in the American Revolutionary War for 7 years and losing its colonies. These factors destabilized the French society leading to resentment of King Louis XVI rule which culminated in the revolution. Enlightenment ideals led to resentment of royal absolutism; resentment by laborers, peasants and the bourgeoisie toward the traditional privileges possessed by the nobility; aspirations for freedom of religion; resentment by the poorer rural clergy toward the aristocratic bishops; resentment toward the church’s influence over public policy; hatred of queen Marie-Antoinette who was seen to be spendthrift while the majority was languishing in abject poverty; aspirations for social, political and economic equality. Furthermore, the French people were angered by King Louis XVI decision to fire Jacques Necker, who had been...
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