(Sample Material) UPSC IAS Mains History (Optional) Study Kit "French Revolution"

Sample Material of Our IAS Mains History Study Kit

Subject: History (Optional)

Topic: French Revolution

Q. Short Note: In one sense it was American revolution which prepared the way for the French revolution.

Ans. American revolution and French revolution occurred in two different continents but still one can underline the elements of continuity between the two. American revolution prepared the way for French revolution in the sense that it did not simply given an ideological support to the French revolution but also made a contribution to the material condition which became an immediate factor behind the revolution.

The slogan of French revolution was having similarly with American revolution that was liberty, equality & fraternity. In fact French soldiers had participated in American war of independence on behalf of American settlements against Britain. So, obviously they were infected with revolutionary ideas and when did they returned home they could spread these ideas among the people.

One major factor behind the popular discontentment was the economic unrest. As we know the French treasury was already depleted, but when France decide to participate in American war of independence it made economic situation more deplorable due to the economic pressure it was very difficult to run the govt., only through imposing the extra tax-or through expanding tax not that French monarchy could tail out of this direction needed the approach of state general. So, monarchy was compelled to convene the session of state general, after 175 years and it is from here the revolution started. So, American Revolution created a favourable material condition for French revolution. 1789 — American constitution was adopted.

French revolution

French revolution was an answer to those questions which had been waiting before Europe up to 1789. These questions such as relationship been monarchy & aristocracy, the monarchy & the middle class, the aristocracy & middle class and the middle lass & lower class. French revolution answered some of the questions but some remained to be unanswered (the relationship between middle & lower class) which later Russian revolution tried to answer.

The revolution does not take place for the fact that some people wanted but it occurs due to the fact that some people wants something which unconsciously lead the people to revolution. (David Thompson) The same is true of France of 1789 no one wanted revolution but still revolution occurred. When was the reason behind that ?

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(1) Social division in France: French society was divided between privileged section and non privileged section. Privileged section consisted of clergy & aristocracy while non previleged middle & lower class.

The condition of higher clergy was much batter & much new to that of aristocracy.

But the condition of lower clergy was not good. It was much near to that of commoners. So, lower clergy sympathized with common people.

(a) Aristocratic class was also having grievances against monarchy. During the period of French monarch Louis – 14th it had to lose some privileges. Although during the weak rule of Louis – 15th it regained some of it’s privileges but still it had to region some others. So, it was in a militant mode against monarchy.

(b) Non privilege section consisted of middle & lower class. Middle class included merchants, capitalists and different professional groups while lower class included peasants & artisans. Now the question arises the condition of middle class was better than it’s counterpart in other parts of Europe than why did the French middle class. Moved towards revolution? There might be two reasons behind that. Firstly, the better economic condition of the French middle class made it more conscious about it’s social rights. Secondly, in France there was a sharp contradiction between economic effective class and socially effective class.

(2) Economic factor: Earlier Marx had tried to link the French revolution the Phenomena of economic decline but some other scholar like D. Tactilely & C.J. Davis are not convinced with this view. According to D. Tactilely when French revolution started, the French economy was already improving. Likewise, C.J. Davis believed that a short period of economic recession preceded by a long period of economic prosperity creates a very favourable condition for the revolution.

(3) Changing class equation: During this period of economic crisis new tensions emerged between the aristocratic class & the middle class. Both the classes were going to be more & more dissatisfied with the monarchy.
As Monarchy was held responsible for this state of affairs but quite Surprisingly Inspite of the mutual district & differences both middle class & aristocratic class formed an unnatural and temporary alliance.

(4) French thinkers & Philosophers:
They prepared the ideological base for the revolution. Although it is true that the Philosophers were the middle class thinkers so they believed in peaceful transformation but not in revolution, but it is equally true that they invented certain terminology of protest which was used by revolutionaries in their favour. In fact this thinkers gave certain terms and phrases to the revolution and drew the attention of the French people to socio economic & political condition of the time.

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