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What were the principal causes of the French Revolution of 1789?

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dancerkidd | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 15, 2008 at 8:25 AM via web

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What were the principal causes of the French Revolution of 1789?

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kurowoofwoof111 | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted December 15, 2008 at 9:33 AM (Answer #1)

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The causes of the French Revolution are complicated, so complicated that a debate still rages among historians regarding origins, causes and results. In general, the real causes of the Revolution must be located in the rigid social structure of French society during the ancien regime. As it had been for centuries, French society was divided into three Estates or Orders. The First Estate consisted of the clergy and the Second Estate the nobility. Together, these two Estates accounted for approximately 500,000 individuals. At the bottom of this hierarchy was the vast Third Estate which basically meant everybody else, or about 25 million people. This social structure was based on custom and tradition, but more important, it was also based on inequalities which were sanctioned by the force of law.

Bankruptcy of the Government:Over the course of twenty-five years after the Seven Years' War, the government of France could not manage it's finances on a sound basis. This was worsened when France aided the American Revolution against Great Britain. The problem lied and continued because of the government's inability to tap the wealth of the French nation by taxation. There was a great paradox in France being a rich nation with a government in poverty. The deteriorating finances of the government is what triggered the prolonged differences between the Bourgeoisie and the aristocracy.

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enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted December 15, 2008 at 9:52 AM (Answer #2)

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The French Revolution was inspired by the American Revolution.  Having seen the Americans overthrow their king and create a democracy, the French attempted the same, having endured worse deprivations under their monarch than the Americans did.  As in Medieval times, the first 2 Estates controlled in total the wealth and politics of the country, so taxation was immaterial, unless used to subjugate the 3rd Estate.

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