“Liberty, equality, fraternity, or death; - the last, much the easiest to bestow, O Guillotine!”
-- Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
Reflect upon your lifetime. Was there ever a moment where you felt mistreated, or unequally represented? Maybe it’s that your boss listens to your other coworkers and not you. Or that you feel like the government is listening to corporative powers and not the people. Inequality fosters resentment. How would you feel if your voice wasn’t heard? The concept of inequality is not exclusive to the French Revolution. In fact, these variations are seen within our modern relationships, social structures, and political structures—a few of which are outlined above. In regards to the French Revolution, the misrepresentation felt among the Third Estate at the end of the 18th century was a factor of the outbreak of the Revolution. However, this sentiment of unfairness alone was not the most influential in starting the Revolution, but rather it was the imbalances within the social population that had the greatest effect. While many historians focus on the discrimination of the Third Estate—frequently labeled as the commoners or peasantry of France—the social troubles within France were more extensive than those felt by the commoners. Although the Third Estate made up for over 2/3 of France’s population in the 1780s and focusing on the Third Estate shows how most of France’s population was reacting to pre-Revolution times, this perspective does not allow for a holistic perspective of social relations. Instead, by looking at the outbreak of the Revolution through a more wide-set scope, I believe that we can see that the French Revolution was a result of the under-represented population of the Third Estate, but more so due to the breakdown of power within the three estates and how that worked into France’s political system of the time.
Before we analyze what factor most influenced the start of the French Revolution, it must be acknowledged that although many factors had a role in the outbreak of the Revolution, not all factors were equally responsible. I believe that the political and social discrepancies within the country of France were the most significant element in leading up to the French Revolution. As explained before, many historians believe that the French Revolution was a result of the tensions felt within the Third Estate. This emphasis on a singular group in France’s political system limits one’s ability to fully analyze the tensions of the time. Instead, by taking place during a period of Enlightenment, the time of the French Revolution was a dynamic point in European History. Many accredit this enlightening as being what allowed the French commoners to evolve from being obedient laborers of the state to leaders of a countrywide revolt. However, regardless of what infused a sense of revolution in France’s societally-recognized lesser class, without general stratification of the country and the...