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French Revolution Sources

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Introduction

Source A Origin: * an excerpt from Travels in France, written by 18th-century English economist Arthur Young Purpose: * the purpose of Young's work was to serve as a guide for the English people of France's plight -->the excerpt specifically illustrates the Third Estate's living conditions * as such, it is unlikely that Young had an agenda when releasing Travels in France Values: * because Young was vastly credited for being largely objective in his various works, Travels in France is perhaps one of the less biased foreign accounts on the immediate time prior to the French Revolution * Young's work was published directly after the French Revolution, thus its contents are likely to be more accurate in capturing the hardships of the proletariat * during Young's travels though France from 1787 - 89, he had many first-hand interactions with the French people during the buildup to the French Revolution; hence, his journal acts as an excellent primary source when determining the reasons for the early French Revolution * despite Young's educated status, he acknowledges France's grossly unequal taxation system (an educated man's perspective on the poor's struggles instead of a peasant's perspective) ...read more.

Middle

draw sympathy to France's Third Estate * garner support for socialist policies in France * the original text dates back to 1924, shortly after WW1, which left France in utter devastation; hence, Lefebvre likely had a socialist agenda when writing this work Values: * Lefebvre's work was the result of 20 years of research into the role of the peasantry during the Revolutionary period, so it is likely that he picked up much information * as Lefebvre is reknowned for coining the term "history from below", in addition to the former point, it could be said that the information contained is likely one of the more accurate portrayals of the finer details of the French Revolution * Lefebvre's comprehensive research grants a new perspective of the peasant on insight into the meeting of the Estates-General of 1789 - one of the immediate causes of the French Revolution Limitations: * Due to the Marxist ideology of Lefebvre, his work is heavily distorted and biased to favour the peasantry of France, evident through his sarcasm: "The King wanted to hear the voice of his people in order to right all wrongs. ...read more.

Conclusion

* unlike other, more factual works about the French Revolution, Sieyes' text grants a more philosophical insight into one of the key causes of the Revolution, showing the poor's discontent with a grossly inadequate governmental system * Sieyes shows that the framework for the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen existed well before the document itself, as did more radical ideas: "What is a nation? A body of associated living under common laws and represented by the same legislative assembly, etc.... Because of these special rights, the nobility does not belong to the common order." Limitations: * Sieyes was educated in a largely humanist school of thought, heavily influenced by John Locke; as such, he often favoured the poor and held egalitarian views of society, thereby marring his words with an adamant anti-absolutist bias * Sieyes' text is further sullied by the vice of distortion, as he frequently paints a utopian portrait of a fully functioning, egalitarian France with nary a mention of the likely arduous transition that such an event would require * A further folly of his writing is his fragmentation, which ignores concrete evidence and opposing points of view, substituting it with one-sided, petty philosophical meandering and political musings. ...read more.

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