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The French Revolution: Assess The View That The Main Cause Of The French Revolution Was Popular Discontent.

959 words - 4 pages

"Assess the view that the main cause of the French revolution was popular discontent"The main cause of the French Revolution was not popular discontent but rather the financial decline of France's economy together with other minor yet significant events.Popular discontent was an effect brought upon by the financial situation within France, which, for example, can clearly be demonstrated in the March Of The Women of 1789 in Versailles. The decline of the power of the French monarchy, of the First Estate comprising of the clergy and lastly of the Second Estate comprising of the nobility was also due to the reaction to France's poor financial situation. The upper Third Estate, that is, the bourgeoisie and the lower Third Estate, that is, the majority of the population, benefited greatly financially from the revolution (though the bourgeoisie also benefited politically). France's participation in wars prior to 1789 also added to the economic drainage on the country as well as the excess spending of the state's revenue by Marie Antoinette. A bad harvest in 1788 and 1789 led to a serious financial crisis that only agitated peasants even more and stirred up revolutionary ideas, which had been sowed by enlightened figures like Rousseau and Voltaire.The list of reasons of why the economy of France fell leads us into considering firstly the monarchy. According to H.a.l Fisher, Louis xvi did not possess "the clearness of mind (and) the decision of purpose ... which make the statesman". Louis lacked the strength of character to control the nobility or even his wife, Marie Antoinette who spent hundreds of livres daily of the state's money on her wardrobe. Her monetary generosity drove France into deeper financial troubles, evoked a letter of disapproval of her extravagance by her mother and created hatred among the Third Estate who blamed her for completing the drainage of the country.On the search for France's economic decline we must secondly consider the selfish behaviour of the nobility. The nobility of France was a serious problem for Louis who really could not control them. Earlier in Louis's reign Anne Jacques Turgot had been his financial minister and had come to the conclusion that in order to save France from financial ruin, the nobles would have to be taxed . The expense of sustaining the nobility on the state's revenue had began to tell on France's economy and nobles' income were large and had increased over the last few years. The nobility however, had remained tax-free from the beginning of the feudal system so obviously they were not exactly enthusiastic about Turgot's idea. To quote P.M. Jones, "... the concept of honour precluded any significant liability to 'commoner' taxes." They soon got the king to dismiss sensible Turgot and began thinking of creating a little rebellion which would reward even more of the king's power into their hands....

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