French Revolution

Jacqueline D, Ricky C, Nathan A, Alec L, Josh F

Time Period of the French Revolution

The French revolution was fought between 1789-1799

Beginning of the Revolution

At the end of the 18th century France was close bankruptcy because of its involvement in the American Revolution and King Louis XVI’s extravagant spending. In 1786 Louis XVI’s controller, Charles Alexandre de Calonne came up with a plan for financial reform. Although everyone knew that they needed fiscal reform the nobles did not want to give up their privileged status The proposed plan included each person would get a vote (by head) not by status (who you were).

The French Revolution was a period in time of political and social unrest for France. It was a period in time when the country was ruled by monarchies and ended being ruled more by democracies and republics.

Key Players in the French Revolution


King Louis XVI

The French king from 1774 to 1792. King Louis XVI inherited a huge amount of debt from his grandfather, Louis XV, which added to the crisis himself through heavy spending during France’s involvement in the American Revolution. Louis XVI was removed from power in 1792 and executed a year later.

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821)-made himself the new absolute head of state after King Louis XIV lost of all his power.

Lazare Carnot-

A French soldier appointed by the Committee of Public Safety. Carnot made enough of a name for himself to earn a position as one of the first members of the Directory. Eventually, he went on to hold various posts in future governments.
Marquis de Lafayette
A liberal nobleman who led French forces assisting in the American Revolution. The common people of France admired Lafayette as an idealistic man who was dedicated to liberty and the principles of the Revolution. Lafayette organized the National Guard of armed citizens to protect the Revolution from attack by the king.

Jacques Necker
A Swiss-born banker who served as France’s director general of finance in the late 1770s, with high hopes of instituting reform. As it turned out, Necker was able only to propose small efforts at eliminating costly inefficiencies. He did produce a government budget, however, for the first time in French history.
The wife of King Louis XVI and, in the French commoners’ eyes, the primary symbol of the French royalty’s extravagance and excess.

Cause of War

-People were disloyal to the King because they didn’t agree with an absolute monarchy anymore and leaned toward being republican.

-Enlightenment writings were widely discussed in France, which created disagreements and conflict.

-Also, a financial crisis was one of the sparks that created the start of the French Revolution. France's heavy military expenditures during the American Revolution resulted in a national debt.

-Third, compounding the financial crisis, a long cycle of industrial depression had been in effect since 1770. Around 50% of people in urban areas did not have a job. They couldn't harvest crops and eventually the majority of the population of Europe was starved. The people were also too poor to even buy bread, so they created riots.

-Another reason is because members of the lower classes began to get mad about their lack of power in the government. The peasants, already burdened by the food shortages, were increasingly aware of the injustice of the feudal system, whereby the nobles enriched themselves through the toil and taxes of the commoners.

What brought the French Revolution to an end?

A new constitution was approved on August 22, 1795. This constitution restructured France’s government and divided their legislature into two separate houses. There was a 5 member Directory appointed by Parliament which was supported by a young general named Napoleon Bonaparte. After four years a financial crisis, in conjunction with political corruption, Napoleon Bonaparte was so frustrated that he took action to abolish the Directory and appointed himself as France’s “first consul”. This event ended the French Revolution and was the start of the Napoleonic era.

The French Revolution brought France into opposition with much of Europe. The monarchs who ruled the other nations feared the spread of democratic ideals. The revolution left the French people in extreme disagreement about the best form of government for their country. By 1799, most were weary of political conflict altogether. But the revolution created the long-lasting foundations for a unified state, a strong central government, and a free society dominated by the middle class and the landowners. France would come to dominate much of the European Continent.

Short Term Effects

Declaration of the Rights of Man and citizen was adopted.

The first Constitution was also written.

A monarchy was established.

Revolutionary France fights coalition of European powers.

The Reign of Terror takes place.

Nationalism is established and other countries have war declared on them.

Decline of Church Power - Before the French Revolution Catholicism was the only real religion of France and very powerful. After the revolution France’s Churches lost their power. An anti-religious campaign had been going on during the revolution which included executing clergy, closing churches , and banning worshiping both publicly and privately.

Constitutional Monarchy: Absolute Monarchy was abolished in France and Constitutional Monarchy was established.


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