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France Change Over Time Essay (French Revolution)

1174 words - 5 pages

*As the title indicates, this is a change/continuity AP essay written for World History class. Vaguely, the essay question was: Describe change and continuity in France from the mid-1700s to the mid-1800s.*Like many other European nations in the 1700's, France experienced a dramatic shift of sentiments against the monarchy, nobility, and Catholic Church as the people, fired by rousing new Enlightenment ideals, began to question authority and emphasize the need for equality, liberty, and democracy. The social and political changes in France were best characterized by three different periods - the weak monarchy of King Louis XVI and the subsequent period of confusion after his removal from power, the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte and his downfall, and the new order brought about by the Congress of Vienna; central to these changes were Enlightenment influence, nationalism, and France's relations with other countries. However, despite the great social upheavals of this time period, gender roles remained more or less unchanged and although women had begun to rouse the idea of women's rights, little changed in the way that society viewed women because men still held economic power.France was the most advanced country of Europe in the 1700's, home to many leading philosophers such as Voltaire and Montesquieu. Despite its prominence, it was experiencing domestic instability and civil unrest. The aloof King Louis XVI paid little attention to what was happening outside his opulent court and was unable to control the rebellions when they started cropping up. Goaded by Enlightenment ideas, the lower classes began to demand equality and liberty. When their demands were not met, they stormed the French prison Bastille on July 14, 1789 and the revolution was truly underway. The National Assembly became the dominant political power, taking away the feudal privileges of the First and Second Estates and establishing control over church lands. It created a limited constitutional monarchy, giving Legislative power to the Assembly. Wary of rebellions within their own borders, Austria and Prussia attempted to preserve absolute monarchy in Europe by quelling the French revolution. The Legislative Assembly responded by setting aside the Constitution of 1791, deposing the king, and creating a new governing body. A consequent Reign of Terror ensued during which the Jacobins, and later on Robespierre, gained power and instituted a period of wide spread executions and radical policies. It was during this period that use of the guillotine became popular. Eventually, the Reign of Terror was overthrown and a moderate government under the Directory was installed. This period saw France change from an absolute monarchy to a period of radical rule then finally to a more moderate form of government. Throughout this, women played a key role in facilitating the spread of ideas by opening their salons to Enlightenment thinkers, creating an environment for new philosophies to form and...

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