Describe the circumstances leading to the outbreak of revolutionary protest in France
Points to Remember:
Answer to be written:
The following are the reasons that led to the outbreak of revolutionary protest in France:
- Social Inequality: French society in the eighteenth century was divided into three estates , and only members of the third estate used to pay taxes . The members of the first two estates, the clergy and the nobility had certain privileges by birth most important was the exemption from paying taxes to the state. The burden of financing the state through taxes was borne by the third estate alone.
- Subsistence Crises: The population of France was 23 million in 1715 which rose to 28 million in 1789 . This led to a rapid increase in the demand for food grains . Production of grains could not keep pace with the demand which led to the increased price of bread. This widened the gap between the rich and the poor . Things became even worse when the harvest got reduced by drought or hail. This led to a subsistence crisis.
- Rise of Middle Class: The social groups , termed middle class emerged in the eighteenth century, they earned their wealth through expanding overseas trade and the manufacture of goods such as woollen and silk textiles that were either exported or bought by the richer members of society. In addition to merchants and manufacturers, the third estate included professions such as lawyers or administrative officials . All these were educated and believed that no group in society should be privileged by birth . Ideas like social equality, a society based on freedom, and representatives were increasingly discussed in coffee houses and salons.
- An empty treasury : Long years of war had drained the financial resources of France. France had helped thirteen American colonies to gain independence from their common enemy, Britain . The war added more than a billion livres to a debt that had already risen to more than 2 billion livres . So to meet its regular expenses , like the cost of maintaining an army , the court , and running government offices or universities , the state was forced to increase taxes.
- Tax increase: On 5 May 1789 , Louis XVI called together an assembly of the Estates General to pass proposals for new taxes . The third estate was represented by more prosperous and educated members . Members of the third estate demanded that voting now be conducted by the assembly as a whole , where each member would have one vote . But the king rejected this proposal . As a sign of protest, the members of the third estate walked out of the assembly.