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Was the French revolution a Bourgeoisie revolution?

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Introduction

Was the French revolution a Bourgeoisie revolution? This essay will consider both Marxist and revisionist viewpoints on whether the French revolution was a Bourgeois one. In order to do this I will look at both perspectives separately. Marxism is a clear-cut view of the French revolution. It gives a central role to the Bourgeoisie for being the main inspirators for its cause. This is due to the fact that it was widely believed to be them who stood to gain the most. Lefebvre was the main and most revered of all Marxist historians. His belief is that the year 1789 was the one in which the Bourgeoisie took power. They had been waiting for centuries in order to do this, according to Lefebvre, and when they had finally reached sufficient numbers and wealth they took the initiative. They owed most of their success to a shift of what was considered important in society. In medieval society, the landed Aristocracy had dominated. They owed much of their success and wealth to the land. This is not the case in the eighteenth century when the impetus changed and economic power, personal abilities and confidence became more desirable than land.1Although the Bourgeoisie was growing in vast numbers, the Nobility had one thing over on them, Social Status. This leads on to the main crux of the Marxist argument, that there was a class struggle between the Nobles and the Bourgeois. ...read more.

Middle

The reality is, that the percentage of Bourgeoisie in the Estates-General who was involved in Commerce and Industry was only 13%, whilst the rest were minor government office holders and lawyers of some sort.5 This certainly does not tally with the Marxists view that a Revolutionary Bourgeoisie overthrew an outdated feudal system. The Marxists also stereotyped the Nobility. They are far from being the feudal, outdated, impoverished and debt laden they have been shown to be by the Marxists. They are in fact astute, meticulous managers of their estates and also adhered to the Bourgeois believed virtues of thrift, discipline and strict management to family fortune. A Revisionist historian Robert Foster discovered this crack in the traditional view of the Nobility when he studied the Nobility in Toulouse. Far from enjoying the fiscal privileges many Marxist have liked to claim, the Nobility were in fact highly taxed - it was the Commercial Bourgeois who really benefited from the important tax exemptions, so Revisionist Betty Behrens believes. Another interesting fact about the Nobility was that they too, were involved in Commerce and Industry. Nogaret found that more and more Nobles were investing in Industry and that they behaved more like the Bourgeoisie. In fact there appears to be no clear contrast between the Nobility and the Bourgeoisie. Not many can deny that the Bourgeoisie holds the main bulk of the wealth in Commerce and Industry, yet so have the nobles invested and gained a large profit from this trade as-well. ...read more.

Conclusion

His theme is that the revolutionary Bourgeois was mainly a declining class of Lawyers, Professional men, and Officers, not the businessmen of Commerce and Industry. In Conclusion to this essay, the question, "Was the French revolution a Bourgeoisie revolution" has been fully explored. It has been established that many Marxist viewpoints did not tally with the actual evidence later presented by the Revisionists. The Marxists straightforward, simple analysis of the Bourgeois role in the French Revolution was not correct. Cobban believes that the term "Bourgeoisie" is ambiguous. The Bourgeois theory is that they are a class of capitalists, yet those of the Revolution were Landowners, Rentiers, and Officials. Lefebvre said that the Revolution marked the end of the struggle of the Aristocracy against the Monarchy and the rise of the Bourgeoisie to triumph over both. It is true that the abolition of privilege and noble status meant the destruction of the last holy relics of a vanquished social order, yet Lefebvre was wrong when he said Feudalism was replaced by Capitalism. Instead, France was to be ruled by men of property, not men of birth. Notables rather than Nobles. . 1 Doyle, W Origins of the French Revolution (Historical Association London 1980) P7-8 2 Murphy, D Europe 1760-1871 (HarperCollinspublisher 2000) p74 3 Murphy, D Europe 1760-1871 p75 4 Cobban, A Historians and the Cause of the French revolution (Oxford university press 1946) p37 5 Doyle, W Origins of the French Revolution p12 6 Doyle, W Origins of the French Revolution p21 7 Murphy, D Europe 1760-1871 p76 8 Doyle, W Origins of the French Revolution p21 ...read more.

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