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French Revolution

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The Economic Crisis and the Outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789

All the sources carry some opinions on the causes of the French

Revolution with many indeed suggesting that the economic crisis was a

key factor. However, we must not ignore the other factors suggested

and there undoubted contribution the beginnings of the French


Source one suggests "confusion in the finances great" however this

does not necessarily correspond to an economic crisis. There could

though be economic reasons for the confusion and certainly this could

lead to a crisis if there is little control over spending, inflation

and so on. Written by Arthur Young, well known for his negative view

on France, the source is based on a conversation over dinner. Young

clearly states that the party are sure "they are on the eve of a

revolution." Financial problems are greatly discussed yet there is

little evidential basis to link this to a full-blown economic crisis.

We must also be wary of Young's British affiliation, he is likely to

have picked out things that would put France in a bad light compared

with that of Britain.

Source two is likely to have been written by a member of the

Bourgeoisie, an increasing restless sect of society similar to the

modern day middle class, and is taken from the "cahier of Pleurs."

This document was written in hope of change, it lists the most potent

problems and many of them seem to be economy related. It speaks of

immense poverty and a decline in the prosperity of the country. It

also tells of the increasing burden of taxes being places on the 3rd

Estate. These things, we can assume ultimately led to an economic

crisis and the fact that the 3rd Estate wrote them in a document

asking for change shows they were noticing the impact and that

something could be done. This is a key indicator that the economic

crisis led to the French Revolution.

Source three, an article in a traditionally royalist newspaper, shows

clearly actions that are characteristic of an economic crisis. It

tells of a rise in bread prices, the staple food for the urban

peasant, and how workshops are deserted as men and women queue for

food. The source shows how an economic crisis had escalated from a bad

harvest, as there are now no workers; that means no production and

effectively puts the economy to a standstill. We must be careful

however; at the time this article was printed (late 1789) anyone

associated with the monarchy was nervous. This article may have been

exaggerated so that it appears to be on the side of the people to

avoid later conflict.

Source five has large evidence of a financial crisis. The figures show

how real wages have decreased by 15-20% over the 18th century yet

rents and tax have all risen substantially. This means the common man

has little disposable income and consequently cannot afford to buy

many goods. Therefore even though production has increased the

population cannot sustain it and this leads to economic decline. The

largest development had been due to trade, on average about a 700%

increase across the world. This shows the huge amounts of money spent

abroad in comparison to home. This source demonstrates huge inflation,

which inevitably damages the economy as the primary industry workers'

profit margin disappears. Although this source shows huge evidence for

an economic crisis any conclusive statement based on such a vague

source as far as its link to the Revolution goes, would be


Many of the sources note how it was not just the economic crisis that




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