The Main Causes of the French Revolution

After doing the reading on the greatly disputed arguments as to why the French Revolution occurred, I personally believe that it was mainly economical and political.  In the past, historians used to see the French Revolution as an outcome of the social tension between the bourgeoisie and the nobility.  During this time in France, the parlements were able to transform their right of registering laws and edicts into a veto on progressive royal legislation.  Therefore the aristocracy ended up controlling the highest offices in the government.  Because of this the bourgeoisie were no longer able to advance to the major political institutions, but instead became alienated.  For a long time many historians believed these series of events caused a revolution between the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie.  Like many modern historians, I disagree with this stance and believe that the Revolution was inevitable based on the state of France’s economy, but also the political opposition against the king.

The major war debt France faced caused not only economic problems, but also political opposition against the king led by the judicial courts.  Firstly, the war of the Austrian Succession created major debt for France.  The king wanted to make everyone pay taxes, but the higher classes didn’t want to pay high taxes because they were used to being taxed lightly, therefore the Parlement of Paris forced this act to be retreated.  Secondly, the  King tried emergency taxes to aid in the debt caused by the Seven Year’s War, but the Parlement of Paris protested saying the king’s power is limited to protecting liberty.  Fed up with actions of the Parlement of Paris, the King appointed the Maupeou parlement that agreed to taxing the privileged groups.  In addition, a new king took over the thrown and tried to appoint an Assembly of Notables to administer taxes.  This failed because these high ranked clergy men opposed the new tax.  The king tried to exile the judges but protest swept the country, therefore causing the king to bow down to public opinion.  Based on these series of events, one can see that the King was losing its power and control over the people of France, which ultimately aided in the beginning of the French Revolution.

Not only did France’s debt cause major political opposition against the king, but also these economic difficulties played a huge role in the cause of the revolution.  Firstly, France’s debt increased because they were forced to finance enormous expenditures during the American war with borrowed money which in turn increased debt.  Unfortunately, the government could not declare bankruptcy forcing creditors to accept greatly reduced payments on debt, because the money was in the hands of the aristocratic and bourgeois, not the monarchy.  Lastly, the king could not print money for inflation, they had no central bank, no paper currency, and no credit, therefore it was hard to gain gold loans.  The only way to raise money was to increase taxes, but this was only possible through major reform.  As shown by these numerous misfortunes France faced economically, it is logical  to see that the French Revolution was caused mainly by political and economic problems, rather than the social conflict between the bourgeoisie and the nobility.

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One Response to The Main Causes of the French Revolution

  1. Tarantulasaurus Rex says:

    This article is very intriguing. I really like your work on it.
    However I do not agree that Louis the 16th was the only one to blame.
    Everyone before him had something to do with the downfall of the monarchy.

    Dang, though, you did a good job.

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