Main Causes Behind French Revolution

There are various reasons behind the French Revolutions. Collectively we can categorize them into few important causes as follows:

Social: French society was divided into three different estates. The clergy, nobility and the third estate. The third estate includes overwhelmingly large number of the total population. It consisted of merchants, businessmen, lawyers and peasants. As Sieyes argues the Third Estate to be “Everything”, yet they couldn’t enjoy the rights and privileges as much as the others did. Such class system created a social divide among these estates.

Political: The concept of absolute monarchy was an increasingly unpopular form of government at that time. King’s ability to act based on his absolute power brought anything but misery to the large part of the population who were becoming impatient from their sufferings. On the other hand the American revolutions also influenced or fueled the French revolution. American success to overthrow the powerful British rule made the French public optimistic and encouraged them to fight for their own rights and freedom.

Lamartine Rejecting Red FlagLamartine in Front of the Town Hall of Paris Rejects the Red Flag on 25 February 1848.

Economical: In French society, it was the third estate that were required to pay taxes which was imposed by the king. Whereas the other groups (clergy and nobility) were exempt from it yet enjoyed the greater facilities. The economical gap between the third estate and others were so large that ordinary citizens even failed to have financial capability to ensure their meals. The financial crisis that came from debt didn’t stop the King Louis XVI and his family along with other estates from throwing lavish party and spending tax payer’s money for their own causes. King’s egoistic decision to help Americans literally bankrupt their economy while his countrymen and women were suffering. Such decisions created anger among the citizen and paved the way for revolution to make change.

The Enlightenment: During this time, philosophers were able to make people aware of their rights and liberties. Their logical reasoning to question the role of the king and the other estates over the masses were well accepted which not only make the citizens angered but to take actions to make social changes for themselves and for the country at large. As Soboul mentioned,”The progress of the Enlightenment had undermined the ideological foundations of the established order, at the same time that it was expressing the class consciousness of the bourgeoisie, and its good conscience.”

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