French Revolution - reign of terror:causes and effects

Committee of Public Safety , French First Republic , September Massacres

The reign of terror, the period in the French revolution when around forty thousand people lost their lives in the name of the revolution was the climax of the French Revolution. The revolution itself was caused by a combination of factors the led to an economic and social crisis that left the French third class little choice but to revolt. There were also more immediate causes of the period of terror such as the downfall of the Girondins and the Sans-culottes taking extreme measures to protect their new republic. The consequences of the period of terror were apparent as soon as the fires of terror had burnt itself out. Many of the very moderates and extremists had been executed leaving the reformers standing on middle ground to eventually form the constitution and build a new republic, this ensured that the revolution had been successful.

In the beginning the French Revolution had been more intellectual, fuelled by the ideas of the enlightenment, but towards the period of terror the revolution had increasingly been shaped by more social and economic factors. (Doyle, 1989, p.392) In 1792, three years after the revolution had started life had not gotten any better for much of the population, in fact life for many of the lower classes was worse than ever. The revolution until now had been staged by the middle class and had therefore mainly benefited this group. Starvation throughout the lower classes was rampant due to inflation of food prices, it was this situation that sparked the next phase of the revolution.

At this time the National Assembly, (the governing body of France at this time) was under increasing pressure from the rest of Europe to restore the Monarchy. By this time Austria and Prussia had, with the encouragement of Louis XVI already declared war on France. (Thomson, 1990, p.34)

The National Assembly who was at this time controlled by the more moderate Girondins had to declare war on Austria and Prussia to maintain their political position....
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