French Revolution Explained: Facts, dates and deaths

When did the French Revolution take place and when did it end?

The commencement of the French Revolution lasted for a total of 10 years, beginning on the 5th May 1789, and ending in 1799, when General Napoleon Bonaparte overthrew the revolutionary government. In doing so, he established the French Consulate (with himself as leader).


What was the catalyst that started the French Revolution?

The precise causes of the French Revolution remain a subject of ongoing academic debate. However, the following factors are frequently cited as contributing to its occurrence:

The bourgeoisie harbored resentment towards their lack of access to political power as well as positions of prestige. Furthermore, the peasants exhibited a heightened level of awareness regarding their circumstances and displayed a decreasing inclination to endorse the outdated and oppressive feudal system.

The works of the philosophes were extensively read in France in comparison to any other place, and the involvement of France in the American Revolution precipitated a severe financial crisis for the government, pushing it to the verge of bankruptcy.

France, being the most populous nation in Europe at that time, experienced crop failures across a significant portion of its territory in the year 1788. These failures, coupled with an extended string of economic challenges, contributed to the prevailing discontent among the populace.

The French monarchy, which had lost its perceived divine legitimacy, faced challenges in responding effectively to the political as well as societal forces exerted upon it.

The crushing victory of Americans over the British potentially served as a significant catalyst for the occurrence of the French Revolution as well. The French populace observed that a successful uprising, even against a formidable military force, was achievable. Numerous scholars contend that this factor provided them with the spark to engage in acts of rebellion. The government that was recently established in the United States also served as an outline for French reformers.


Where did the Revolution take place?

It’s widely accepted that the French Revolution officially “kicked off” on June 14th. On this day, rioters stormed the Bastille in an attempt to secure gunpowder and weapons. This date is also commemorated in France as a national holiday too, reinforcing its significance.


French Revolution Summary

Prior to the outbreak of the French Revolution, the populace of France had been divided into distinct social categories known as “Estates.” The First Estate consisted of the clergy position, encompassing church leaders. The Second Estate consisted of the nobility, while the Third Estate covered the general population.

The majority of people belonged to the Third Estate. The burden of taxation was primarily borne by the Third Estate, whilst the nobility enjoyed lavish lifestyles and monopolised prestigious positions of authority.

At the onset of the revolution, delegates hailing from the lower ranks initiated the formation of the National Assembly, wherein they asserted their demands for specific rights to be granted by King Louis XVI. Subsequently, the group swiftly assumed leadership over the nation. Over the course of time, the labels of the governing body underwent modifications, evolving first into the Legislative Assembly and subsequently into the National Convention.

The historical period commonly referred to as the Reign of Terror, starting on 5th September 1793 and ending on 27th July 1794, represents the darkest phase of the French Revolution. Throughout this period, an individual by the name of Robespierre assumed leadership roles within the National Convention and the Committee of Public Safety. In order to suppress any resistance towards the revolution, he advocated for the implementation of a regime characterised by a state of “Terror.”

Legislation came into effect, stating that people who were suspected of engaging in treasonous activities could be captured and subjected to capital punishment through the use of the guillotine. Numerous individuals, among them Queen Marie Antoinette as well as a significant number of Robespierre’s political adversaries, were subjected to execution.

Following the conclusion of the Reign of Terror, a subsequent governmental structure known as the Directory was established. The Directory exercised governance until Napoleon assumed power.


Who won the Revolution?

The final phase of the revolution occurred in 1799, as a result of General Napoleon‘s successful overthrow of the revolutionary government, subsequently leading to the establishment of the French Consulate, with Napoleon assuming leadership.


How many people were killed?

The precise estimation of casualties resulting from the French Revolution is impossible owing to the limitations of record-keeping practises employed during that historical period. However, contemporary estimates suggest that the total number of people affected ranges between 30,000 and 40,000, at the very least.

This figure is likely to be conservative. Between the years 1789 and 1799, a notable surge in execution rates occurred, particularly during the Reign of Terror, spanning from 1793 to 1794. This period witnessed a significant rise in the number of people who were caught and subsequently executed, with some people disappearing indefinitely.

If one were to consider the inclusion of individuals from the clergy, aristocracy, wealthy nobility, and military personnel, it is likely that the estimated figure approaches approximately 100,000 people.


What happened after?

On the 9th November 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte orchestrated a coup d’├ętat in response to mounting dissatisfaction with the existing leadership. This coup lead to the dissolution of the Directory and Bonaparte assuming the position of France’s “first consul.” The incident in question signifies the conclusion of the French Revolution along with the commencement of the period known as the Napoleonic era.


Why was the French Revolution so important?

The French Revolution is widely recognised by historians as a pivotal moment in European history, as well as in America, where its ideas significantly influenced the drafting of the Declaration of Independence as well as the subsequent American Revolution. The renowned motto “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity” advocated for the inherent right of people to enjoy liberty and fair treatment.

The aftermath of the Revolution had significant implications throughout France and the broader European continent. Numerous significant transformations took place during this period, including the collapse of the monarchy, societal shifts characterised by the ascent of the middle class, as well as the rise of nationalist sentiments.

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