Vaughn, Sydney


The French Revolution was a long awaited dismemberment of the aged political and social structure of France during the years of 1789 to 1799. The decade of bloodshed embedded its defining mark on French history by leading to the abolishment of the French monarchy and the Catholic church’s powerful influence over public policy. Arose a democratic republic centralized around the ideas of nationalism, liberalism, and socialism. The rise of Enlightenment ideals also contributed to the radical social reforms, for France’s traditions of aristocratic elite and Catholic preaching was overridden by new ideas of reason and individualism. During the years leading up to the revolution, the increasingly prosperous elite and aristocrats received privileges that the commoners never came close to “deserving” in the opinion of the wealthy. The lower to middle classes were acutely aware of their standpoint, ensuing their unwillingness to support the French feudalistic system. Amidst this popular resentment, France was economically suffering from its involvement in foreign wars that accumulated immense debts that created a hefty tax system. Two years of drought followed, resulting in poor harvest. In the minds of the lower classes that made up the majority of France’s population, these devastations were vital reasons to transform the old regime. When the unrest of the peasants could no longer be contained, the battle between classes commenced. The flashpoint of the French Revolution took place on July 14, 1789 with the storming of the Bastille, a prison in Paris that symbolized the tyranny of the French monarchy. Mobs of revolutionaries captured the Bastille after a bloody fight, launching the end of the old regime and the entrance into a decade-long gruesome battle for social equality.

The revolt of the French lower classes altered the nation’s social structure through a metamorphosis that brought light to France’s new ideology. Once was a regime solely defined by the traditional ideas of the elite class and monarchy, dominated by the tyrannic institutions such as the Catholic Church. Cries of the masses were futile in this social structure. The Revolution led to a shift in ideology, depicting Enlightenment reasoning in which the individual mind and personal freedom was eulogized, while traditions of the past were made no more. The Enlightenment ideals that seeped into the social change brought about by the French Revolution dissipated the past social structure that chained the lower classes down, retraining them from individually prospering like the elites did as a whole. Furthermore with the abolishment of the Catholic Church, France’s old regime that had held religion to an almighty law was replaced with the entrance of Enlightenment ideology that deemed religion as an intellectual failing. Reason of the human mind rose above in problem solving, for the natural goodness of all mankind works together. The radical changes of France’s social structure as an outcome of the French Revolution stabilized a society having strong beliefs in the [Enlightenment] ideas that defined an individual as a body holding significant weight in the enhancement of a nation in all aspects.

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