The Contribution of Socio-Economic Classes to the Events in 1800: Europe

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Described as “the divine distribution of men into different ranks, and at the same time uniting them into one society” (Gladstone, 1896), the socio-economic class order formed the structure and foundation of society in Europe. Consisting of three distinct entities and with a strong correspondence between economic prosperity and social standing, it would also serve as the backdrop for which historical phenomena would occur. Europe’s social order was not just the environment in which these events would materialize, but also a fundamental causal factor in three notable events; The French Revolution (1789-1799), The French Revolution of 1848 and Britain’s Industrial Revolution (1750 onwards). However, the origins of these events were also contingent upon other circumstantial factors.

The roots of the first French revolution, arguably, are in The Enlightenment; the period of the philosophers. New philosophies advocating human rationality came to form by the mid 1700’s and were propelled into popular thought after the isolated, and highly charged, Jean Callas incident . Philosophers like Voltaire found the perfect vehicle in this incident to question the arbitrary use of power so prevalent in French society. The monarchy and the presence of the Social Order soon came into question. Across Europe, cafes sprung out to host discussion centered on the common theme of reason. Society cleaved toward enlightened ideas of rationality, equality and liberalism, leading to the growing questioning of the existing monarchial power structure. Alternative political ideologies for the state, from personalities like Rousseau and Locke, sprouted and undermined the legitimacy of the monarchy. While The Enlightenment is responsible for creating pressure from society against the monarchy, these ideas would have been impotent without suitable ground. The socio-economic categorizing of European society is a more fundamental cause of the first French Revolution because it provided this...
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