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What were the causes of the French Revolution? The French Revolution began due to many different reasons.

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What were the causes of the French Revolution? The French Revolution began due to many different reasons. The French Revolution of 1789 had many long-range causes. Political, social, and economic conditions in France contributed to the discontent felt by many French people-especially those of the third estate. The bad harvest of 1788, the weakness of Louis XVI, the financial crisis of 1789, the ideas of the enlightenment, the failure to bring in reform and also the structure of French Society. I believe that the state French society was in, is the main reason why revolution broke out in France. Under the Ancien Regime, French Society was divided into three estates. The first estate consisted of clergy. They included archbishops, bishops, abbots, parish priests, monks and nuns. They were exempt from taxation. However, the Assembly of the clergy, dominated by bishops, negotiated with the King to make an annual payment to the crown, know as the "don gratuit". It was always much less than they would have paid in normal taxation and was under 5% of the clerical income. They made up 2% of the population. The First Estate owned nearly 10 per cent of all land in France and therefore was the single largest landowner in France. ...read more.


Reform was needed so badly and when it failed it was a major blow to the third estate. Louis XVI was a weak and ineffective king and this also led to revolution. Sacking Necker was a big mistake by Louis, as it seemed like he was supporting the privileged and not the people. Also, he was seen as being weak and indecisive and often changed his mind. Louis was married to Marie Antoinette, which was very unpopular with the French people. Not only was she unpopular because she was Austrian, a rival of France, but also because she was frivolous, arrogant and ran up massive gambling debts. There was a bad harvest in 1788 due to an extremely wet spring. This resulted in a massive increase in the price of bread. Between August 1788 and Spring 1789, the price of bread rose from 9 sous per loaf to over 14 sous per loaf, an increase of 155%. This had a huge effect on the third estate as most of their diet consisted of bread. It deeply antagonised them and resulted in workers spending 88% of their wages on bread. Also, wine prices collapsed because of over production. ...read more.


The ambitions of the bourgeoisie was another important factor. The middle class were anxious to gain some political power, as they currently didn't have any. Also, there were now educated people in the third estate, such as doctors and lawyers, where there hadn't been in the past. Louis XVI called the Estates General in 1789 in the hope that they would approve new taxes. However, the new taxes were opposed as the first and second estate had been exempt from taxation and were not willing to start paying taxes now. They could outvote the third estate by two to one as each estate only had one vote. Even though the third estate had 578 representatives, they were unable to outvote the first two estates, as there was no voting by head. In conclusion, the most important factor in causing the French Revolution was the way in which French society was structured. The fact that only the poorest, the third estate, had to pay taxes was extremely unfair. Also, the fact that they had almost no political power annoyed them greatly. The failure to reform and the fact that Louis was a weak king were also very important, as Necker may have been able to reform the tax system had it not been for his indecisiveness. ...read more.

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