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b) Why was there discontent amongst members of the Third Estate by the late 1780s

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Introduction

b) Why was there discontent amongst members of the Third Estate by the late 1780s? (30) The Third Estate was a very mixed group of people, who were neither clerics nor nobility. By far the greatest proportion of this estate, comprising between 80 and 90% of the population as a whole, was peasantry. The remainder was made up of the bourgeoisie and the urban workers. The bourgeoisie (middle classes) is a rather vague term, which is often divided in turn to the haute bourgeoisie, such as the wealthy merchants and tradesmen, and the petite bourgeoisie, such as small shopkeepers and craftsmen (also known as urban workers). Peasants mainly worked as labourers on the land, however some were better off and had managed to acquire land in their own right. Peasants generally led difficult lives in the 18th century that were dictated by the unfair Ancien R�gime. Part of their discontent stemmed from the huge burden of the king's taxes, which fell upon them. The Third Estate had to pay taxes to the state, including the taille, vingti�me, capitation and gabelle. These all increased enormously between 1749 and the 1780's, in order to pay for the wars in which France had become involved. Taxes took between five and ten per cent of the peasants' income, which made it extremely difficult for the poorer peasants to survive. ...read more.

Middle

These financial burdens significantly increased the hardships of peasants, which caused a great deal of discontent by the late 1780s. Taxes applied to all members of the Third Estate, but for the wealthier members of the bourgeoisie, these would not have been such a burden. However the heaviest burden to the peasants was often not taxes, the tithe or feudal dues, but rents. These increased greatly in the second half of the 18th century as a result of the increase in population, which rose from 22.4 million in 1705 to 27.9 million in 1790. This would have made the peasants lives much more difficult and therefore would have contributed to the discontent amongst peasants in the late 1780s. Many of the peasants were laboureurs, they grew enough food to feed themselves and in a good year had a small surplus. Although the majority of peasants had some land, it was not enough to live on. In order to survive they worked as day labourers and wove cloth in their homes. If there was a poor harvest, it is likely than many of the peasants would starve, as there was no working system to feed the poor and hungry. The poorer peasants had no hope of improvement and lived in a chronic state of uncertainty. ...read more.

Conclusion

This was a 'village' built for Marie Antoinette in her Versailles Palace, as it was well known that she liked to dress up as a shepherdess! The king and queen's extravagances had reached a high by the late 1780s, which was another cause of the discontent. Therefore, the different members of the Third Estate had varying reasons for their discontent, but it is not surprising that either group was discontent. For the peasants, I think it was the financial burden that caused the main discontent. I believe that the unfair system of taxation under the Ancien R�gime would have caused much discontent throughout the 18th century, but it was the increase in rents, which was the most important cause of discontent specifically in the late 1780s. For the urban workers, I think that the bad living and working conditions caused a lot of discontent overall but it was specifically the steep increase in prices which was the most important cause of their discontent by the late 1780s. Finally, I think that although the wealthier bourgeoisie would be annoyed with the unfair system of taxation that targeted the Third Estate, it would be their segregation from the nobility that would cause the most discontent as many regarded themselves as belonging to the same level of society, yet they could not be involved in running the country, for example. Natalie El kheir ...read more.

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