Eighteenth-century France experienced overlapping tensions that erupted in revolution in 1789. First, theEnlightenment contributed to an environment in which revolution was possible by its insistence on reforming institutions to comply with standards of reason and utility. Furthermore, it coincided with the rise of public opinion, which undermined the absolutist notion that political decisions required no consultation or tolerated no opposition. Second, the French state faced bankruptcy because of a regressive and inefficient tax system as well as participation in the Seven Years War (1756–1763) and the War of American Independence (1775–1783). Third, France witnessed endemic political strife in the eighteenth century. Technically absolutist monarchs who ruled by divine right and who exercised sovereignty without the interference of representative institutions, French kings in reality met with opposition to their policies from the noble magistrates of the highest law courts (Parlements), who resisted fiscal reforms in the name of protecting traditional rights from arbitrary authority. Finally,... [continues]
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