| French society
| * A cycle of royal power being limited by uneasy constitutional monarchy.—then abolition and replacement of the French king, aristocracy and church with a radical, secular, democratic republic—in turn becoming more authoritarian, militaristic and property-based. * Radical social change to forms based on Enlightenment principles of citizenship and inalienable rights, as well as nationalism and democracy. * Rise of Napoleon Bonaparte * Armed conflicts with other European countries
| The French Revolution (1789–1799), was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France that had a major impact on France as well as all of Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years. French society underwent an epic transformation as feudal, aristocratic and religious privileges evaporated under a sustained assault from radical left-wing political groups, masses on the streets, and peasants in the countryside. Old ideas about tradition and hierarchy - of monarchy, aristocracy and religious authority - were abruptly overthrown by new Enlightenment principles of equality, citizenship and inalienable rights. Causes
The government of King Louis XVI of France faced a fiscal crisis in the 1780s. Adherents of most historical models identify many of the same features of the Ancien Régime as being among the causes of the Revolution. Economic factors included hunger and malnutrition in the most destitute segments of the population, due to rising bread prices (from a normal 8 sous for a four-pound loaf to 12 sous by the end of 1789), after several years of poor grain harvests. Bad harvests (caused in part by extreme weather from El Niño along with volcanic activity at Laki and Grímsvötn in 1783–1784), rising food prices, and an inadequate transportation system that hindered the shipment of bulk foods from rural areas to large population centers contributed greatly to the destabilization of French society in the years leading up to the Revolution. Another cause was the state's effective bankruptcy due to the enormous cost of previous wars, particularly the financial strain caused by French participation in the American Revolutionary War. The national debt amounted to some 1,000–2,000 million livres. The social burdens caused by war included the huge war debt, made worse by the loss of France's colonial possessions in North America and the growing commercial dominance of Great Britain. France's inefficient and antiquated financial system was unable to manage the national debt, something which was both partially caused and exacerbated by the burden of an inadequate system of taxation. To obtain new money to head off default on the government's loans, the king called an Assembly of Notables in 1787. Meanwhile, the royal court at Versailles was seen as being isolated from, and indifferent to, the hardships of the lower classes. While in theory King Louis XVI was an absolute monarch, in practice he was often indecisive and known to back down when faced with strong opposition. While he did reduce government expenditures, opponents in the parlements successfully thwarted his attempts at enacting much needed reforms. Those who were opposed to Louis' policies further undermined royal authority by distributing pamphlets (often reporting false or exaggerated information) that criticized the government and its officials, stirring up public opinion against the monarchy. Many other factors involved resentments and aspirations given focus by the rise of Enlightenment ideals. These included resentment of royal absolutism; resentment by peasants, laborers and the bourgeoisie toward the traditional seigneurial privileges possessed by the nobility; resentment of the Church's influence over public policy and institutions; aspirations for freedom of religion; resentment of...
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