The French Revolution was a watershed movement that began in 1789 following Napoleon’s elevation and ended in 1799. It was marked by far-reaching social and political upheavals that inevitably contributed to the overthrow of the empire and the emergence of democratic republicanism. It is possible to roughly identify the major causes of the French revolution as democratic, religious, economic, weak government, and social antagonism. The paper discusses three key causes of the event in an effort to expound on the subject, including economic distress, notably the 1789 agrarian calamity, popular antagonism between the aristocrats and the bourgeoisie, and political conflict between monarchy and aristocracy due to the exploitative tax structure which brought about bankruptcy in France.
To begin with, the French Revolution was fueled by a major economic crisis in the late 1789. Royal debt increased because the government spent more money than it could raise from taxes. Taxes were high, and so were the prices of commodities which in turn translated into low wages. The revolt was driven by lower classes of families that were forced to pay taxes despite the poor services and high inflation (Aftalion 34). Taxes were issued based on social class and privileges such as voting were given to the chosen few. Ministers who were on the throne had little problem with spending public resources on personal pleasure and grand palaces. This can be elaborated by the giant palace of Versailles with which costs almost decimated the treasury. Following this misappropriation, population growth slowed down, and there was less production of goods which eventually resulted in recession (Aftalion 55).
The ultimate reason for the Revolution was the up-rise of public antagonism between the aristocracy and bourgeoisie. The 18th century saw enlargement of the middle-class and the bourgeoisie develop themselves during growth of local and international trade. Enlightened by new skills, ideology, and amerced wealth, the middle class overthrew the French Monarchy (Shaw 56). As a result, the aristocracy lost its rights, and the middle-class became more powerful making it the master of French society for a whole century. The Bourgeoisie begrudged the developing gap between aspiration and achievement. The opposition between these two parties resulted in alliance of the peasantry, urban proletariat, and the bourgeoisie against central power.
In the 18th century, France was classified as a feudal society that was ruled by an absolute monarchy. The Bourbon monarchs lived in the palace of Versailles (Hanson 37). Nobility also gave the first blow to the monarchy which made it a part of reactionary posture to the French Revolution. The public were not happy with the fact that the government was a complete monarchy, and, therefore, it meant that whatever King Louis XVI said had to be done. Also, the immediate cause of the revolution was the bankruptcy faced by the government due to the heavy expenditure on the army during the 7 years of war. The expenses substantially increased because France financed America in the fight for independence against the British. Political insubordination was fortified by the constituents of the Third Estate which brought about annihilation of the existing regime (Hanson 65). More so, the heavy taxes levied on the middle class led into resentment by the first two estates.
To conclude, the French Revolution resulted in more equity, democracy, and a more intrusive administration. The paper analyses three main causes of the French Revolution classified under social, economic, and political factors. The three causes identified include antagonism between the aristocracy and bourgeoisie, economic crisis prior to the revolution, and political conflict between the monarchy and nobility.
Aftalion, Florin. The French Revolution, an Economic Interpretation. Cambridge [England: Cambridge University Press, 1990. Print.
Hanson, Paul R. Contesting the French Revolution. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. Print.
Shaw, Matthew J. Time and the French Revolution: The Republican Calendar, 1789-Year Xiv. Woodbridge, UK: Royal Historical Society/Boydell Press, 2011. Print.