The French Revolution was one of the defining events of modern European history. It was a social process, at times unspeakably violent, that radically transformed France, effectively ending the era of feudalism and laying the foundations of Modern France. Despite the Romantic idea of a popular uprising inspired by the ideas of liberty and equality, the French Revolution, while ending a political system based on hereditary rights and privileges, by no means instituted a democratic form of government. The social structure of the ruling elite changed, but the country was still ruled by an elite, which means that the political system remained based on inequality. Therefore, when Napoleon abolished the Republic and instituted his personal dictatorship, and eventual imperial rule, it was not a break in the sequence of political events. The Revolution also brutally suppressed any opposition, which is evident in the violent treatment of rebellious peasants. Democracy was just an idea. The French Revolution's legacy was not democratic society but the first modern European state: unified, centrally organized, and far more efficient in its use of violence than the ancien regime.
When war went badly, prices rose and the sans-culottes — poor labourers and radical Jacobins — rioted; counter-revolutionary activities began in some regions. This encouraged the Jacobins to seize power through a parliamentary coup, backed up by force effected by mobilising public support against the Girondist faction, and by utilising the mob power of the Parisian sans-culottes. An alliance of Jacobin and sans-culottes elements thus became the effective centre of the new government. Policy became considerably more radical, as "The Law of the Maximum" set food prices and led to executions of offenders. This policy of price control was coeval with the Committee of Public Safety's rise to power and the Reign of Terror. The Committee first attempted to set the price for only... [continues]
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