What were the major achievements of the French Revolution? 

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rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Obviously, the French Revolution went in directions that many of its liberal (in the 18th century sense) advocates did not envision. So its achievements always have to be weighed against the human costs of the Revolution, and some achievements had decidedly mixed results. For the purposes of this list, I will also include achievements that were either begun or consolidated under Napoleon, which some scholars consider part of the Revolution:

  • the legal abolition of the nobility, including its feudal privileges, by the National Assembly in 1789.
  • the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, considered one of the world's most important statements of universal human rights, issued just after the abolition of the nobility.
  • the reogranization of France's inefficient governing system into departments and communes.
  • the temporary establishment of equal rights for blacks in France's colonial possessions. An uprising in Saint-Domingue, which ultimately led to the Haitian Revolution, would decree freedom for all slaves, though the French tried to reestablish it under Napoleon.
  • Legal equality for Protestants and Jews, established in 1791.
  • The establishment of the metric system in 1793.
  • Formal separation of church and state in 1794.
  • National system of schools known as lycées established in 1803. 
  • System of French civil law known as the Code Napoleon established in 1804.

Another achievement of the Revolution, it could be argued, was the stimulation of liberal nationalism throughout Europe. Obviously, this spirit was most successfully manifested, albeit very temporarily in Haiti, but it also inspired people on the continent, as well as in Latin America. 

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