The French Revolution

The french revolution lasted from 1789-1799 and was a successful revolt by the people which resulted in the execution of the king and the collapse of the Old Regime. Until the revolution, French political politics was marked by absolute power and little to no say in governmental affairs by the people. Although lack of political voice and rights was a major point of contention and contributed to the civil unrest, there were also many economic factors which caused strife and eventually culminated in the start of the french revolution.

The economic unrest which characterized the Old Regime under Louis XVI erupted into economic crisis in the late 1780’s. Much of this resulted from the lack of national financial infrastructure under the Old Regime which had neither a national bank nor centralized national treasury. Additionally, the tax system was quite unbalanced with citizen’s paying vastly different amounts with the wealthy clergy and nobility paying far less taxes than the common peasants.   Furthermore, the monarchy was notorious for spending beyond it’s means and depleted the tax money reserves being forced to borrow from other countries at high interest rates to finance wars and security measures. As a result, half of France’s annual revenue was spent paying off the massive national debt incurred under the Old Regime. 

Meanwhile, Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette led an extravagant lavish lifestyle right up until the outbreak of the french revolution and their subsequent execution by guillotine. In fact, prior to the start of the french revolution, growing unrest and anger among the French people was obvious. Starving peasants protested outside of Versailles admonishing the monarchy for living beyond France’s means while its citizens starved. In fact, historical myth states that Marie Antoinette responded to the plight of the starving and bread shortage with a nonchalant “Let them eat cake.”

The french revolution succeeded in overthrowing the absolute power governmental structure which had ruled over France throughout the ages. And although it would be years before France had a permanent stable form of government, the french revolution provided hope to the people and was a testament of civil action fueled by political unrest.