A brief rundown of the revolution in France

France In Revolution - Duncan Townson

This is basically a highschool textbook that covers the French Revolution from the economic crisis to just before the rise of Napoleon. While it is difficult to put a start date on many of these things (the revolution itself began in 1789, but had it roots in events that went back hundreds of years) the endpoint is basically 1800, the year that Napoleon crowned himself emperor of France.

My first exposure to this book was when I was doing year 12 history, and one of the reasons I did it was because I wanted to not only learn about history, but I wanted to write a good essay. I am very grateful for my history teacher for her patience and instruction in helping me write an essay. The other thing about the course was that I began to learn about European history outside of the twentieth century.

In a way until I went back to high school I had only vague knowledge of a revolution in France and some guy named Napoleon who had gone rampaging through Europe and that some Christians referred to him as the first anti-Christ (with Hitler being the second). What this course taught me though was that we cannot necessarily label Napoleon as a bad guy in the way we labelled Hitler. Much of the demonisation regarding Napoleon comes from the British, who were on the other side (and also the victors). Go to France though, and you will discover that Napoleon is still a hero, and you can even visit his tomb (which is an absolute must the next time I am in Paris).

As for the French Revolution, that is one event in history that does fascinate me because it demonstrates what will really happen if there was a bloody revolution. After the monarchy was overthrown, France's problems weren't solved, and while there was the issue of the other European Monarchies all ganging up on France to restore the monarchy (for fear that the whole revolutionary idea would spill over into their realms, which, by they way, it did), there was also the issue of protecting the revolution. Once a new system is been established, there is always the danger that the conservatives will want to revert back to the old, more familiar days, which is one of the reasons that there was a terror, where blood would run through the streets of Paris. It was, in a sense, to protect the revolution and to get rid of those who threatened to take France back to the old days (which it ended up going back to anyway).

One thing that seems to be rarely mentioned is the major event that precipitated the French Revolution: the American Revolution. Remember that French troops fought in the United States against the British, and it was unlikely that the ideas that arose over there were not going to be brought back by the soldiers. Also influencing the thoughts and minds of the people were the writings of the Enlightenment, with people such as Descartes and Rousseu, but while this was an impact and made people think, but in the end the whole revolution came down to one thing: money.

Basically France was bankrupt, and the aristocracy needed money to be able to continue to live their extravagant lifestyle, but did not want to pay for it, so they would tax the third estate (there were three estates in pre-revolutionary France, the first estate being the aristocracy, the second estate being the church, and the third estate being everybody else, but dominated by the merchants and the bourgeoisie because the peasants were too stupid and poor to participate in government). However, the third estate resented always being out voted by the other two estates, but by themselves the bourgeoisie could not revolt and they needed the help of the peasants (which did end up happening mind you). Further, it was not an organised thing, but rather more of an organic event that was triggered, much like a bush fire, by a single spark.

 

Source: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/510548252