Storming of the Bastille

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  • The Bastille was the symbol of the King’s despotic power, which was demolished during the French Revolution by the French people. 
  • The commander of the Bastille was killed and the prisoners were released (there were only seven of them), in the armed fight.

A Society of Estates

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  • During the old regime, french society was divided into 3 estates.
  • The first two estates were the clergy and the nobility which had many privileges since birth and the third estate included peasants, artisans, merchants , etc. that had to pay all the taxes.

The Spider and the Fly

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  • The above image shows a poor fellow bringing everything , grain, fruits, money, and salad. The fat lord sits there, ready to accept it all . He does not even care to grace him with a look.
  • The nobleman is the spider , the peasant the fly.

The Tennis Court Oath

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  • On 20th June members of the third estates met in the hall of an indoor tennis court of Versailles and declared themselves as a National Assembly and swore not to disperse till they had drafted a constitution for France to limit the powers of the monarch .

The spread of the Great Fear


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  • The map shows how bands of peasants spread from one point to another.

The Political system under the Constitution of 1791

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  • The National Assembly completed the draft of the constitution in 1791 intending to limit the power of the monarch .
  • Instead of concentrating powers in the hands of one person , these powers were now separated and assigned to different institutions - the legislative , executive and judiciary .
  • This made France a constitutional monarch.

The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen

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  • The constitution of France began with the Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizens.
  • Rights such as the right to life , freedom of speech , freedom of opinion , and equality before the law , were established as natural and inalienable rights , that is, they belonged to each human being by birth and could not be taken away
  • It was the duty of the state to protect each citizen’s natural rights .

A sans-culottes couple

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  • A large group among the Jacobins decided to start wearing long striped trousers similar to those worn by dock workers, to set themselves apart from the fashionable sections of society , especially nobles , who wore knee breeches .
  • It was a way of proclaiming the end of the power wielded by the wearers of knee breeches.
  • These Jacobins came to be known as the sans-culottes.

Nanine Vallain, Liberty

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  • This is one of the rare paintings by a woman artist . The revolutionary events made it possible for women to train with established painters and to exhibit their works in the Salon , which was an exhibition held every two years. The painting is a female allegory of liberty – that is, the female form symbolises the idea of freedom.


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  • The period from 1793 to 1794 is referred to as the Reign of Terror
  • Robespierre followed a policy of strict control and punishment .
  • All those whom he saw as being ‘enemies’ of the republic ex-nobles and clergy , members of other political parties , and even members of his party who did not agree with his methods – were arrested , imprisoned and then tried by a revolutionary tribunal.

Festival by the revolutionary government to mobilise loyalty

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  • The revolutionary government sought to mobilise the loyalty of its subjects through various means – one of them was the staging of festivals like this one.
  • Symbols from civilizations of ancient Greece and Rome were used to convey the aura of a hallowed history .
  • The pavilion on the raised platform in the middle carried by classical columns was made of perishable material that could be dismantled .

Parisian women on their way to Versailles

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  • This print is one of the many pictorial representations of the events of 5 October 1789 , when women marched to Versailles and brought the king back with them to Paris .

The life of a revolutionary woman – Olympe de Gouges (1748-1793)

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  • Olympe de Gouges was one of the most important of the politically active women in revolutionary France.
  • She protested against the Constitution and the Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen as they excluded women from basic rights that each human being was entitled to.
  • So, in 1791 , she wrote a Declaration of the Rights of Woman and Citizen , which she addressed to the Queen and to the members of the National Assembly , demanding that they act upon it. 
  • In 1793 . Olympe de Gouges criticised the Jacobin government for forcibly closing down women’s clubs . She was tried by the National Convention , which charged her with treason. Soon after this, she was executed .

 Women queuing up at a bakery

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  • Most women of the third estate had to work for a living . They worked as seamstresses or laundresses , sold flowers , fruits and vegetables at the market, or were employed as domestic servants in the houses of prosperous people.
  • Most women did not have access to education or job training . Only daughters of nobles or wealthier members of the third estate could study at a convent .
  • Working women had to care for their families, that is, cook , fetch water , queue up for bread and look after the children .

The emancipation of slaves

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  • This print of 1794 describes the emancipation of slaves .
  • The tricolour banner on top carries the slogan: ‘The rights of man’ .
  • The inscription below reads: ‘The freedom of the unfree’ . A French woman prepares to ‘ civilise ’ the African and American Indian slaves by giving them European clothes to wear .

The patriotic fat-reducing press

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  • This anonymous print of 1790 seeks to make the idea of justice tangible.

Marat addressing the people

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  • Marat, a journalist , addressing the people . This is a painting by Louis-Leopold Boilly.
  • He was an unofficial bond with the radical Jacobin party that came to power after June 1793 with his journal, L'Ami du Peuple (Friend of the People).

Napoleon crossing the Alps, painting by David

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  • In 1804 , Napoleon Bonaparte crowned himself Emperor of France .
  • He set out to conquer neighbouring European countries , dispossessing dynasties and creating kingdoms where he placed members of his family.
  • Napoleon saw his role as a moderniser of Europe .
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Davneet Singh

Davneet Singh has done his B.Tech from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. He has been teaching from the past 14 years. He provides courses for Maths, Science, Social Science, Physics, Chemistry, Computer Science at Teachoo.