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The Enlightenment and the French Revolution

By mplindsay May 23, 2013 731 Words
Maloy Clark
European History
Period 2

What connection exists between the Enlightenment and the French Revolution?

The Enlightenment was a movement that took place in the eighteenth century. It occurred when the writers and critics at that time established new philosophies about change. Science, reason and common sense began to take the lead in society and it’s attitudes and actions. Basically, the Enlightenment brought about new ideas and ways of thinking in regards to politics, society and religion. Trust in all areas began to be challenged. Traditional beliefs were re-examined and re-established. These Enlightenment ideas about politics, society and religion helped to formulate the strategies of the French Revolution.

One crucial idea that arose from the Enlightenment came from John Locke and stated that the government must get its power from the people, and in return the government must protect its people and their property. Other ideas included the divine right theory being rejected. Philosophers began to believe the universe was not governed by chaos but instead followed a fixed set of laws. The beliefs of the Christian church and their validity were challenged. And because of this a new period of atheism and secularism began. Human rights, citizenship and democracy were all fundamental aspects of the Enlightenment period. All of these new “enlightened” ideas helped to spur the French Revolution. A famous slogan during the revolution was “liberty, equality, fraternity.” Men wanted to be treated equal. Revolutionists battled for a government by the people and for the people. They wanted a government where all men had the right to vote and all citizens were equal before the law.

During this period of Enlightenment the common people of France began to be enraged over the constant indifference, incompetency and self-indulgence of King Louis XVI. Because of new ideas they were adamant that absolute monarchy should come to an end. The French Revolution began in 1789 and lasted for ten years until 1799. So in the end, the period of the Enlightenment did indeed spur on challenges of traditional beliefs which in turn lead to a revolution to change the old ways for new ideas which encompassed equality, citizenship and inalienable rights.

The French Revolution (French: Révolution française; 1789–1799), was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France that had a lasting impact on French history and more broadly throughout the world. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed within 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.[1] 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.

Amidst a fiscal crisis, the common people of France were increasingly angered by the incompetency of King Louis XVI and the continued indifference and decadence of the aristocracy. This resentment, coupled with burgeoning Enlightenment ideals, fueled radical sentiments, and the French Revolution began in 1789 with the convocation of the Estates-General in May. Monarchical France was ruled by Louis XVI, who was an absolute ruler (had all the power to himself). For instance when he built the Palace of Versailles he stripped the country of its budget entirely; this would never have been allowed in a representative form of government.

The most important connection between the Enlightenment and the French Revolution was the spirit of challenging the old regimes. Everything else is details. Yes it was a part of what caused the revolution,

The Enlightenment inspired the ideas or equality, liberty and fraternity which are basic tenets of the French Revolution. To create a state of equality, it would mean the complete overthrow of the powers of the time (the monarchy, the aristocracy and the clergy).

But the monarchy was also in trouble at the time because of weak leadership by Louis XVI and debt that had accumulated since the Louis XIV's financial support of the American war of Independence. By 1789 there was also widespread famine and increasingly high taxes on the peasants.

The Estates Generale were joined to solve the issues but the Third Estate declared themselves the National Assembly and drew up the Right of Man and the Citizen which embraced all the ideas of the Enlightenment and  

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