Why Was There a Revolution in France?

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By the 1780’s, France was in great trouble. The country was almost bankrupt, there was famine and the third estate were becoming frustrated and angry. This created the build up towards revolution. In this essay I will look at the political, social and economic situation of France to try and identify why the revolution happened.

During this era, there were many new political ideas about equality and freedom. This was called ‘The Enlightenment’ and was written about by French authors like Voltaire and Rousseau. Also, the example of the American Revolution showed that these new ideas could be put into practice. This resulted in the spread of revolutionary ideas and encouraged the French to think about fighting for their freedom. Another political cause of the revolution was that King Louis XVI ruled ‘absolutely’. This meant that he could make most of the decisions himself without having to get the approval of politicians. He was also in charge of the three estates. The first and second estate enjoyed special privileges and did not have to pay tax even though they were the richest. The third estate, the business, middle class and peasants, which was also the largest, did not have any power. They worked hard and had to pay taxes. Although they were the largest group, they had the fewest representatives in the Estates General. They thought this was unfair and wanted to change the system.

There were also social causes of the Revolution. For example, most people in France depended on agriculture and farming. However, in the years 1787-1789, there were 3 bad harvests when the crops failed. This led to grain shortages which meant that the price of bread rose hugely. In fact by 1789, it had risen by 88%. People still had to pay taxes so they couldn’t afford to buy food which led to starvation. Many people lost their jobs and moved to the cities to find work. As a result, the cities were filled with masses of hungry, frustrated...
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