French Empires Essay

1612 words - 7 pages

The French empire has often been perceived as being one of the most difficult empires to define as a total whole (SOURCE). There is no such thing as one coherent history of the French empire, but rather the Empire could be divided up into roughly three different individual empires. One can distinguish between three different French empires as starting with the period of the rule of the ancién regime, known as the Kingdom of France, lasting from 1594 to 1789. Subsequently, one can distinct the empire as created by Napoleon I as a second empire which lasted from 1804 to 1814 (and a brief restoration in 1805), which was the first to be actually named an empire, and finally the second French empire, founded by Napoleon's nephew Napoleon III which lasted from if 1851 to 1948. This paper draws a comparison between the French empire during the time of the ancién and regime and the French empire led by Napoleon I to show that both empires should be seen as being so different they cannot be considered to be one empire. It will do so by examining several characteristics of empires, showing both similarities and differences in the portrayal of these characteristics.
One of the most intricate social and political upheavals during the second half of the 19th century that fundamentally changed France as well as the world (SOURCE) and that marks the transition from one empire to another was the French Revolution between 1789 and 1799. Over this ten year period the people of France – more specifically those not belonging to the classes of the nobility, aristocracy and the bourgeoisie, but rather the working classes – grew increasingly frustrated with the rule of the monarchy of the house of Bourbon and the inequality facilitated by this regime. During the ancién regime the population was divided over three estates, distinguished as the clergy, the nobility, and the commoners. The living standards of those of the working classes – the commoners, or third estate – were significantly lower than those of the higher classes. These differences were experienced harshly because of the economic crises that the empire suffered throughout the 19th century(SOURCE): as the first and second estate were largely exempted from taxes, the third estate was highly taxed and thus practically responsible for producing the wealth experienced by the other estates. So when crises hit, the third estate was always hit hardest as their taxes were increased dramatically to maintain the wealth of the other estates. More importantly, whereas the first and second estate had direct representation in the judicial bodies of the empire, the third estate did not and so their voices were barely if not at all heard. The before mentioned crises found their foundations in the engagement of the empire in several costly military endeavors, most notably the Seven Years War and the American Revolutionary War, as well as in persistent crop failures which damaged a partially agriculture-dependent...

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