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To What Extent Was The French Revolution A Result Of Economic Events?

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Before humankind knew religion, politics, or security, it knew revolution. From the Ionian Revolt of 499 BC to the Darfur Rebellion of 2003, there is no denying that the history of man has been built from revolution Ð'- and that it has severely shaped the world we live in today; no one more so, perhaps, than the French Revolution of 1789. Regarded as possibly the most influential socio-political revolutions in human history, the French Revolution had countless good outcomes (the downfall of aristocracy, the creation of a new, more efficient government system, etc.). However, this was a time of horror for the people of France Ð'- plagued with death, terror, and loss. It is important, then, that humankind in this age clearly understands what could have been done to prevent over an estimated 75,000 deaths. And so the question becomes Ð'- what was the main cause of the French Revolution? Some historians believe that the enlightenment ideology was the main reason for the revolution. Others would disagree, placing the blame on the transparency of Louis XVI's incompetence. And others, still, would argue that the economic crisis of France was at fault. This is not an easy issue to resolve, because of the fact that it occurred over two hundred years ago, and that there is simply no way to set aside the specific circumstances that existed at the time and be able to know for sure. That being said, because the incompetence of the king, the enlightened ideas, and all other minor reasons have incredibly strong counterarguments, the best answer to the question becomes that of economic events and the crisis France was in at the time.

For a century prior to the French Revolution, the French monarchy had operated fiscally without a legislature. Because of this, the country was virtually bankrupt. Heavy spending on the American War of Independence and the Seven Year's War, as well as Louis XIV's excessive spending on commodities such as Versailles and reliance on agriculture for profit (France suffered from drought and harsh winters on the eve of the revolution) had compounded each other, leaving France deeply in debt. The people of France could not meet their basic needs of food, shelter, and clothing. The long running debt was one of the main reasons that the bourgeois chose to revolt Ð'- they had no other choice. Some would argue that this is irrelevant Ð'- that many other countries, such as Britain, also had a long running debt from the Seven Year's War and the American Independence War and this did not result in a revolution. While this is true, it is important to realize that Britain's fiscal policy and economic structure was far more advanced than France's was at the time. Not to mention that the Hanoverian Period, in which this took place, was one of remarkable political stability for the country of Britain. France was unorganized, unstructured, and in crisis Ð'- the perfect conditions for a revolution.

Another reason that France's economic state was the main cause of the French Revolution was because of the taxation system that was in place. Members of the First and Second Estates paid little to no taxes. This large burden was placed on the Third Estate alone Ð'- the peasants, farmers, blue collar workers, and professional and business classes (bourgeois) were responsible for paying nearly all of France's taxes. Some examples of these are the gabelle, the tithe, the taille, the vingtiÐ"Ёme, and the corvÐ"©e. This allowed the rich to get richer, the poor to get poorer, and France to sink even further into debt. This is significant; the Third Estate, while responsibly fiscally for the country of France, had virtually no say in the government or decision making process and this caused severe political unrest. Keep in mind that the method of taxation and budget of France led to the calling of the Estates General, one of the recognized Ð''sparks' of the revolution. It is easy to see why the majority (the Third Estate was, after all, 97% of the population) of France would be anxious for government reform. Opponents of this opinion would argue that the system had worked for a number of years and the ideals of the enlightened thinkers caused the unrest over the taxation. However, not only is that claim based on

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