We will explore the Background of the French Revolution in this Post.
French Revolution Background
The timeline of French Revolution began in 1789, but its roots go back to the 17th century. In 1649, Charles I was tried and convicted of high treason, and he was beheaded. After his death, the revolutionaries abolished the monarchy and set up a republic that represented the interests of the bourgeoisie.
The war against English absolutism inspired the French nobility. This led to a series of revolts called La Fronde from 1648-1653. These revolts were a way for the nobility to show their dissatisfaction with the monarchy, which had gained more power under the reigns of Henry IV (1589-1610) and Louis XIII (1610-43), both of the Bourbon dynasty.
The uprisings, in which bourgeois and popular urban sectors also participated, were finally crushed by the troops of Louis XIV (1643-1715), who was a teenager at the time, so his prime minister, Cardinal Mazarin, ruled…
During his long rule, the so-called Sun King disciplined the nobility. He put them in the Palace of Versailles and made them dependent on royal favors. This situation continued during the government of his successor Louis XV (1715-1774).
However, his grandson, Louis XVI (1774-1789), faced defeat in the Seven Years’ War (1756 – 1763) as well as the expenses in the American war of independence (1776 – 1781) generated significant debts for the French monarchy.
In response to the problematic situation, the French monarchy increased taxes and supervision to get more money to support the monarchic regime. As if such problems with the bourgeoisie were insufficient, France still had a large part of its population living in the countryside, under old medieval traditions and requirements.
The oppression of the noble landowners (protected by the monarchy) against the peasantry opened up another focus of tensions that would be exacerbated by the supply crisis that hit France just before the revolution. From 1787 onwards, bad harvests caused a tremendous increase in food value.
The debts’ bankruptcy led Louis XVI’s ministers to ask the nobles to start paying taxes. The refusal of the nobility, waiting for an opportunity to regain lost privileges, forced the king to convene an assembly of the estates of the kingdom, which had not been convened since 1614. But this meeting did not serve the interests of the rebellious nobility; The so-called Third Estate used it to expose their claims.
In this way, we realized that the most numerous social group (peasants) and the most prosperous (bourgeoisie) were dissatisfied with the regime. Despite their dissatisfaction, these two groups could not have their demands met by the government.
Only the members of the so-called First Estate (clergy) and the Second Estate (nobility) had enough influence to have their interests served by the figure of the king. With this, a great possibility of change would come to take over all of France at the end of the 18th century known as the French Revolution.