Causes of the French Revolution

Political and Social Inequalities

France still practised feudalism in the 18th century. The nobles and clergy enjoyed special privileges. They did not have to pay taxes. The common people did not have power and freedom in politics. They worked hard and had to pay heavy taxes. The nobles and clergy made up the First and Second Estates in the Estates General. The common people (i.e. the middle class (bourgeoisie), peasants and artisans) made up the Third Estate. The nobles and clergy could outvote the common people easily though the Estates General was always not called by the king, who ruled as an absolute monarch. The common people became discontented with the privileged classes.

Bankruptcy of the Government

Louis XIV had spent too much. His successors did not cut down expenses. Louis XVI also failed to improve the financial situation. He dismissed ministers who tried to introduce financial reforms. By 1789, the government was bankrupt.

Influence of the Enlightenment and the American Revolution

The ideas and writings of Enlightenment thinkers like Montesquieu, Voltaire, and Rousseau became widespread. The French people were inspired to go against their king.

The suucess of the Americans to overthrow British rule encouraged the French to fight for their freedom.

Outbreak of revolution 1789

When Louis XVI finally called the Estates General to solve financial difficulties, the Third Estate did not agree with the unfair system of the Estates General. They formed the National Assembly to make a constitution. People were afraid that the king would suppress the National Assembly. They were also discontented that the king dismissed Necker, the popular Finance Minister. The hungry Parisians, who suffered from bad harvest, burst out their anger by attacking the Bastille prison (for political prisoners). The Fall of Bastille started the French Revolution. It spread out to other parts of France.