Social factors also contributed to the outbreak of revolution, many of these came from the estate system of the Ancien Regime. As mentioned previously, the members of the third estate were dissatisfied with their payment of all taxes. The third estate were the people who did most of the work in order to keep the country going in the sense that they collected the raw materials and processed them. They resented the fact that they were working extremely hard yet receiving very little privilege. They were a large percentage of the population and the unrest here meant that there was a sizeable group of people on the edge of revolution. The feeling among the peasants had built over a long time. Their situation did not suddenly change but the amount of people in their situation was growing rapidly, along with the growth of the French population as a whole.
Other factors affecting the outbreak of revolution were intellectual factors. The Enlightenment acted as a framework for the revolution. People began to realise that they the right to be treated equally and question the way society was arranged. The parlements quoted the philosophes in the 1760s and 1780s yet the French monarchy had not yet begun to challenge them. Some new ideas which got back to the French people came from soldiers coming home from the American War of Independence. They had seen how a revolution had happened and that it was the people’s right to choose, they had seen the idea that there should be no taxation without representation. They also now knew that a revolution could occur by force as had happened in America. It gave the French people the hope and confidence to start insisting that some of these new ideas were practised.
Also, the French monarchy held some responsibility. There is much debate over the role of Louis XVI. Some historians saw the way that Louis was not in touch with the real world. He lived a pampered life in Versailles and did not see how the rest of his country was living. He believed in his divine right and wanted to be an absolute monarch as his predecessors had been. Other historians however, believe that Louis’s appointment of Turgot show his intentions to work with the ‘enlightened’. They blame the actions of the first and second estates as they forced Turgot out of office and wanted to protect their own interests. Louis could be too over the top when dealing with situations such as the exile of the Paris Parlement in 1788, he mostly had to back down on these sorts of situations. He seemed to be extremely indecisive which did not help with his wish to keep absolute power. Louis left things until it was too late and did not appear to have any sort of foresight when dealing with situations such as the dismissal of Necker. Marie Antoinette, Louis XVI wife did not help the situation either. She was disliked by the press who printed false stories about her which the public widely believed. It is also thought that she encouraged Louis to hold back on change.
Various short term factors also contributed to the outbreak of revolution in 1789. The immediate cause was France’s bankruptcy which was announced on 16 August 1788. Bankruptcy was imminent due mostly to the massive expenditure on wars and interest payments. By the 1780s over half of royal revenue was spent on interest payments. Calonne had tried to get the country out of financial trouble, however his only action was more borrowing. This removed immediate trouble at the time but caused more problems in the near future. After the announcement of bankruptcy the monarchy finally conceded defeat and the Estates-General was called. This meant that the various groups in society were forced together to discuss their aims, they never expected this to spark of a revolution.
In conclusion, it was not just the economic crisis which caused the revolution in 1789, but a variety of factors which are all linked. The economic crisis began with poor harvest and France’s aggressive foreign policy. Without these two factors France may not have been facing such economic hardship. Also, these factors lead to new ideas from America and gave people confidence to act on ideas coming from philosophes during the enlightenment. The economic crisis led to hardship among peasants and built up bad feeling, this led them into taking notice of what was said by philosophes in pamphlets and speeches. The Ancien Regime was also an important factor as it meant that the richest people were not contributing to the economy, this was another contributing factor to the economic crisis. Many people were unhappy with the way the monarchy was working. Louis XVI seemed to leave everything until it was too late and people did not trust him. Also Marie Antoinette was seen as influencing Louis and stories about her were being spread through the media. Social, economic and intellectual factors all combined to bring about the French revolution in 1789. No one cause was more important than another, as without all of the factors combining to bring about revolution, it may not have happened.