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Causes of French Rev Ap Euro

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Toward the end of the eighteenth century, various European nations underwent periods of reform and revolution. Such revolutions challenged the traditional power of hereditary monarchs and aimed to eradicate aristocratic privilege. The belief in the necessity and justifiability of both freedom and equality spread throughout Europe. The French Revolution of 1789 was one of the most significant and influential events of the age. Conflict stemmed from France’s political, economic, and social division. In fact, much of it can be attributed to the great difference between the upper and lower classes. The statement that the essential cause of the French Revolution was the collision between a powerful rising bourgeois and an entrenched aristocracy defending its privileges is completely valid. Both the estate and agrarian systems demonstrate the growing conflict between the nobility and rising bourgeois in their undeniable struggle for power.

The Old Regime was partially responsible for the class conflicts that contributed to the start of the French Revolution. For much of Europe’s early modern period, France functioned as a feudal society in which each member of the population belonged to a societal order, or estate. The first estate was composed of the high clergy and the second was composed of the hereditary nobility. Although the members of the first two estates accounted for roughly three percent of the population, they enjoyed a much higher standard living than the vast majority of the French population, who were peasants. The clergy owned nearly ten percent of France’s land despite the fact that they made up less than one percent of the population. Additionally, they received various privileges from the central government, including tax exemption. Similarly, the hereditary nobles of the second estate, who composed approximately two percent of the French population, owned at least twenty percent of France’s land and were also tax exempt. In the past, they had earned their tax exemption through the provision of private militias; however, they retained their tax exemption long after military provision was necessary. Following the death of Louis XIV, the political and social influence of the nobility increased and they came to control large parts of French government and society. The remainder of the population constituted the third estate. Within the third estate, three identifiable groups existed, the bourgeois, the proletariat, and the peasantry. The bourgeois were noble in everything but name. They were wealthy and well educated in the philosophy of the Enlightenment, but had no privileges and were required to pay heavy taxes. The proletariat, nicknamed the sans-culotts for the pants they wore, was comprised of skilled and unskilled workers living in towns and cities. They often struggled to pay the taxes imposed on them. The peasantry was the least powerful group, accounting for over ninety percent of the third estate. During the latter half of the eighteenth century, there was a clear and heightened difference between the French aristocracy and peasantry. The economic hardship endured by the majority of the third estate as prices rose faster than wages led to increasing tension between the three estates and members of the third estate came to resent the clergy and nobility for their

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