Why did the revolution occur in France? Was it based on the inequalities between the Clergy, Nobility, and Commoners?
Why did the revolution not happen earlier?
The basic reason for French Revolution can be attributed to inequalities existing between different classes of people, and to the growing interest of the people in new ideas about governments. However, the direct event which led to start of revolution can be attributed to the financial problems faced by the government.
The French people were legally grouped in three classes or estates. The clergy and nobility were members of the first and second estate, the two higher class people. These were prosperous and enjoyed high status. They enjoyed many privileges, but paid very few taxes. All other people, formed the third estate. These are the people who may be described as the commoners. The third estate consisted of peasants, workers, merchants, lawyers and government officials. The peasants and workers who constituted majority of third estate were very poor. Others, who may be described as middle class people were prosperous, but like other groups in third estate enjoyed low status. Thus there was great inequality. Particularly middle class people had strong desire and motivation to seize more power in the society.
Also people in France had become acquainted with new ideas about more egalitarian and just governments under the influence of writers in France and other countries. For example, Jean Jacques Roseau, stated that "right to govern is derived from people." Ideas like these fired the imagination of people and gave them moral strength to fight against oppression. They clamoured for improving their condition by having a system of government in which they have greater say.
The fuse of revolution was finally ignited by the financial crises in the government. The Seven Year War (1756-1763) and French support to American Revolution (1775-1783) had put a heavy strain on the government finances and the government was bankrupt. When the government was looking over means to tide over this crisis, and organized a meeting of representatives of all the three estates, the first two estates tried to suppress the views of the representatives, who than revolted. This is the way French Revolution Started in 1789 and ended in 1799, when Napoleon Bonaparte seized control of the government.