DBQ Essay: What were the major causes of the French Revolution? (Discuss three.)
The major cause of the French Revolution was the disputes between the different types of social classes in French society. The French Revolution of 1789-1799 was one of the most important events in the history of the world. The Revolution led to many changes in France, which at the time of the Revolution was the most powerful state in Europe. The Revolution led to the development of new political forces such as democracy and nationalism. It questioned the authority of kings, priests, and nobles. The Revolution also gave new meanings and new ideas to the political ideas of the people.
The French Revolution was spread over the ten year period between 1789 and 1799. The primary cause of the revolution was the disputes over the peoples’ differing ideas of reform. Before the beginning of the Revolution, only moderate reforms were wanted by the people. An example of why they wanted this was because of king Louis XIV’s actions. At the end of the seventeenth century, King Louis XIV’s wars began decreasing the royal finances dramatically. This worsened during the eighteenth century. The use of the money by Louis XIV angered the people and they wanted a new system of government.
The main cause of the Revolution was the differences between the three social classes that existed in France at that time. There was a severe amount of injustice in the tax system (doc.1). The third estate paid the highest taxes, while the first and third paid low taxes or none at all. The rent was to high, and the price on bread was above people’s economic ability to pay (doc.1). Although the third estate made up most of the population of France, it owned less land then the first and second estate (doc.2).
While the main cause of the French Revolution was the social inequality, there were other reasons, which caused the French to revolt. One was the idea’s of the Enlightment. The middle class of France was fortunately very educated and was able to inform others of their rights (doc.4). This allowed the lower class to understand why they should revolt against their current form of government. Something that also influenced the French was the American Revolution (doc.5). Lord Acton felt that the condition the economy of France was in did not alone bring the overthrow of the monarchy, he didn’t believe that the ideas of philosophers were not directly responsible for the outbreak, but that the Declaration of American Independence was the direct cause of the French Revolution (doc.5).
However, there was another important factor during these times. France suffered from harsh economic problems. Poor farm harvests by farmers hurt the economy, and trade rules from the Middle Ages still survived, making trade difficult. However, the most serious problem was the problem facing the government during this time. The French government borrowed much money to pay for the wars of Louis XIV. Louis still borrowed money to fight wars and to keep French power alive in Europe. These costs greatly increased the national debt, which was, at the time, already too high.
Between the years of 1789 and 1794, French life had changed dramatically. There were changes in the lifestyle of the people, as well as in clothes and art. The monarchies were gone, and the king no longer ruled. The National Assembly abolished all feudal customs and ended all slavery.
This time in French History was important to the people of France because of the different types of government they had. Socialism, liberalism and nationalism all were results of the French Revolution. It gave people the idea that if they tried, they could reorganize a society whenever it was needed. The greatest legacy of the French Revolution, however, was that people could change anything that they wanted with political ideas, words and laws.