1. Describe the circumstances leading to the outbreak of revolutionary protest in France.
• Political reasons: The French government was an absolute monarchy. Whose ruler Louis XVI was pleasure loving and extravagant. Louis XVI drove France into useless wars bringing the country to the verge of bankruptcy.
• Social Reasons: French society was divided into 3 main classes called 'estates'. The first estate constituted the clergy, the nobility constituted the second estate and rest of the population constituted the third estate. The first two estates were the privileged ones, exempted from all taxes while the third estate shouldered the burden of taxation and had few privileges.
• Economic Reasons: The economic bankruptcy of the French government aggravated the crisis and hastened the revolution. The defective system of tax collection and oppression created discontentment.
• Strong Middle Class: A new middle class emerged educated and wealthy during the eighteenth century. They believed that no group in society should be given privileges by birth.
• Philosopher’s Ideas: The emergence of political philosophers like Voltaire and Rousseau roused people from inactivity instilling, a revolutionary spirit in them to root out social inequalities and set up a new government responsive to their needs.
• Immediate Causes: On 5 may, 1789, Louis XVI called together an assembly of Estates General to pass proposals for new taxes. Third estates protested against this proposal but as each estate have one vote, the king rejected this appeal. They walked out of the assembly.
2. Which groups of French society benefited from the revolution? Which groups were forced to relinquish power? Which sections of society would have been disappointed with the outcome of the revolution?
The Third Estate benefitted a lot from the revolution.
The clergy and the nobility were forced to relinquish (surrender) their power.
The poor class of third estate and women would have been disappointed with the outcome of the revolution as the promise of equality, discussed during the revolution was not given. The poorer classes had no right to vote.
3. Describe the legacy of the French Revolution for the peoples of the world during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
The ideas of liberty and democratic rights were the most important legacy of the French Revolution. It was the first movement to adopt the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity The declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen gave rights such as right to life, freedom of speech, equality before law, etc. Colonial people reworked the idea of freedom from bondage into their movements to create sovereign nation states.
4. Draw up a list of democratic rights we enjoy today whose origins could be traced to the French Revolution.
• Right to Equality before law
• Freedom of Speech and expression
• Right against exploitation
• Right to justice
5. Would you agree with the view that the message of universal rights was beset with contradictions? Explain.
The message of universal rights was definitely beset with contradictions.
(i) "The law has the right to forbid only actions injurious to society" did not mention about criminal offences against other individuals.
(ii) The declaration stated that "law is the expression of the general will. All citizens have the right to participate in its formation...All citizens are equal before it". However, France became a Constitutional Monarchy, but still millions of citizens that is men under the age of 25 and women were not allowed to vote at all.
6. How would you explain the rise of Napoleon?
France was ruled by the Directory, an executive made up of five members. However, the Directors often clashed with the Legislative Councils, who then sought to dismiss them. The political instability of the Directory paved the way for the rise of a military dictator, Napoleon Bonaparte.
Napoleon saw his role as a moderniser of Europe. He introduced many laws such as the protection of private property and a uniform system of weights and measures provided by the decimal system.