History - Year 10
Assessment Activity: Essay on French Revolution
By Debajyoti Chaudhuri KM10
Q: To what extent were the financial difficulties of the government the cause of the French Revolution
To a large extent, the financial difficulties of the government were the cause of the French Revolution. A major cause was the economic crisis and financial debt accumulated by the French Government which brought national unrest leading to revolution. The financial and taxation structure of the French Government was unjust and discontented the majority of the people, especially the poor Third Estate, and drove them to revolt. The immense poverty and lack of food for the common French people ...view middle of the document...
The economic crisis and financial debt accumulated by the government only increased the flaws of the financial and taxation system, which were one leading cause of the French Revolution.
The financial and taxation system was unjustly designed to benefit the upper classes of the French population. In the 1770’s, under the Old Regime, the people of France were divided into estates (Gershoy, 1957). The First Estate was the Clergy while the Second Estate consisted of the nobility. They collectively made up three percent of the population, owned thirty percent of the land and paid almost no taxes. However Gershoy (1957) indicates that the Third Estate consisted of over ninety – seven percent of the population and although they owned about sixty percent of the land, much of their earnings were paid to other estates in the form of numerous taxes. This money was lavishly enjoyed by the other estates, while the poor Third Estate was forced to pay extravagant taxes and therefore having a meagre livelihood. This resulted in the Third Estate developing feelings of resentment to the other estates. The Third Estate wanted a fair and representative taxation system for all people and this brought them to rebel against the monarchy (Halsall, 2000). Even though, the taxation system was a reason for the large Third Estate’s disgust at the monarchy, the poverty and food crisis they had to endure due to this flawed financial system sparked them to overthrow the present regime and cause a revolution.
Poverty and the lack of food supplies clearly sparked revolution as the starving common man was continually motivated by his hunger to change his fortunes. A series of crop failures in the late 1780’s caused a shortage of grain, consequently raising the price of bread, 67 percent in 1789 alone (Kwintessential Ltd., 2004). Because bread was the main source of nutrition for poor peasants, this led to widespread starvation and unrest, mainly in the Third Estate. Contributing to the peasant unrest was the fact that the nobility had bountiful amounts of bread to enjoy. (French Revolution Causes: An Economic Crisis, 2011) Many peasants were relying on charity to survive, and France became crowded with the hungry, destitute, and the disaffected, an ideal environment for revolution. It came to the point where if people did not take matters into their own hands, they would starve to death. Motivated by hunger, the 'bread riots' began, which Wilde (2011) believes were the first manifestations of a roots-based revolutionary sentiments, followed by The Storming of the Bastille and The March on Versailles. Poverty and food shortages indeed sparked revolution but other factors such as Enlightenment Ideas made it all possible.
Financial difficulties of the government were not the sole cause of the French Revolution but were accompanied by poor leadership, enlightenment ideas and a breaking down social structure. Bhattacharya (2005) proposes that a strong leader...