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The French Revolution Class 9 Social Science Notes

The French Society during the Late 18th Century

The French Society Comprised:
1st Estate: Clergy
2nd Estate: Nobility

3rd Estate: Big businessmen, merchants, court officials, peasants, artisans, landless labourers, servants, etc.
Some within the Third Estate were rich and some were poor.
The burden of financing activities of the state through taxes was borne by the Third Estate alone.

The Struggle for Survival: Population of France grew and so did the demand for grain. The gap between the rich and poor widened. This led to subsistence crises.

The Growing Middle Class: This estate was educated and believed that no group in society should be privileged by birth. These ideas were put forward by philosophers such as Locke English philosopher and Rousseau French philosopher. The American constitution and its guarantee of individual rights was an important example of political theories of France. These ideas were discussed intensively in salons and coffee houses and spread among people through books and newspapers. These were even read aloud.

The Outbreak Of The Revolution
The French Revolution went through various stages. When Louis XVI became king of France in 1774, he inherited a reasury which was empty. There was growing discontent within the society of the Old Regime.

1789:Convocation of Estates General. The Third Estate forms National Assembly, the Bastille is stormed, peasant revolts in the countryside.
1791A constitution is framed to limit the powers of the king and to guarantee basic right to all human beings
1792-93 France becomes a republic. Jacobin Republic overthrown, a Directory rules France.
1795 A new Convention appointed a five-man Directorate to run the state from 26 October, 1795
1799   The Revolution ends with the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte. 2

Time Line: The French Revolution

1770s-1780sEconomic decline: French Government in deep debt.
1788-1789 Bad harvest, high prices, food riots
1789, May 5 Estates-General convened, demands reforms.
1789, July 14 National Assembly formed. Bastille stormed on July 14. French Revolution starts.
1789, Aug. 4 Night of August 4 ends the rights of the aristocracy.
1789, Aug. 26 Declaration of the Rights of Man
1790  Civil Constitution of the Clergy nationalises the Church.
1792  Constitution of 1791 converts absolute monarchy into a constitutional monarchy with limited powers.
1792  Austria and Prussia attack revolutionary France
1793  Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette are executed.
17921794  The Reign of Terror starts. Austria, Britain, the Netherlands, Prussia and Spain are at war with France. Robespierre’s Committee of Public Safety repels back foreign invaders. Executes many “enemies of the people” in France itself.
1794 Robespierre is executed. France is governed by a Directory, a committee of five men.
1799 Napoleon Bonaparte becomes the leader.

Women’s Revolution
From the very beginning, women were active participants in the events which brought about so many changes in the French society. Most women of the third estate had to work for a living. Their wages were lower than those of men.

In order to discuss and voice their interests, women started their own political clubs and newspapers. One of their main demands was that women must enjoy the same political rights as men. Some laws were introduced to improve the position of women. Their struggle still continues in several parts of the world.

It was finally in 1946 that women in France won the right to vote.

The Abolition Of Slavery
There was a triangular slave trade between Europe, Africa and Americas. In the 18th century, there was little criticism of slavery in France. No laws were passed against it. It was in 1794 that the convention freed all slaves. But 10 years later slavery was reintroduced by Napoleon. It was finally in 1848 that slavery was abolished in the French colonies.

The Revolution And Everyday Life
The years following 1789 in France saw many changes in the lives of men, women and children. The revolutionary governments took it upon themselves to pass laws that would translate the ideals of liberty and equality into everyday practice. One important law that came into effect was the abolition of censorship.

The ideas of liberty and democratic rights were the most important legacy of the French Revolution. These spread from France to the rest of Europe during the 19th century.

In 1804, Napoleon crowned himself emperor of France. He set out to conquer neighbouring European countries, dispossessing dynasties and creating kindgdoms where he placed members of his family. He saw his role as a moderniser of Europe. He was finally defeated at Waterloo in 1815.

The French Revolution Class 9 Social Science Notes

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