"The French Revolution Owed Much To The Philosophes". Discusses The Part Of The Philosophes In Causing The French Revolution. Also Deals With Other Long And Short Term Causes.

2267 words - 9 pages

"The French Revolution Owed Much to the Philosophes"The French Revolution of 1789 had many causes, both short and long term. Thanks to inapt ruling for the better part of the century, France was in disarray financially, and thus, as so much depends on the economy, in most other ways as well. However, a Revolution such as the one in France does not come about simply because people are discontent. There also needs to be the concept of a better way of life, and some goal for the revolutionaries to strive for. This was provided by the philosophes, as the main French thinkers of the Enlightenment period were called. The ideas that they introduced into a society hungry for change were probably the most important, albeit indirect, cause of the Revolution.The climate for the Revolution had been present for quite some time before it actually broke out. The root of the problem was the absolute monarchy as way of government, and the unreasonable power of the Church. The French population was divided by feudal custom into three orders or "estates". In the First Estate, numbering about 100,000, were the clergy. The Second Estate consisted of the nobility, and numbered about 400,000. The rest, a great majority, were in the Third Estate, and included the bourgeoisie, the wage-workers and the peasantry. Still, only the King had the power to make any sorts of decisions about the running of the country. Government structures of this kind were present in many European countries at the time, and had been for centuries, with people being used to that way of life.Over the course of the eighteenth century, France particularly suffered due to a string of weak monarchs that simply were not able to sustain stability in all aspects of the country and, more importantly, the loyalty of their subjects, which was what the whole system was based on. The start of France's descent into disorder can probably be traced back to Louis XIV (1643-1715), who, during his long reign started the country on its way to bankruptcy by engaging in a number of costly wars and by over-indulging on his court at Versailles. His successor Louis XV (1715-74) didn't improve on the situation, as he had no wish to rule strongly, preferring to focus on the pleasurable life in Versailles, and France soon came under power of corrupt and immoral royal favourites. The economy was further drained by the Seven Years' War and, due to the disproportionate taxation system which exempted nobility and the clergy, the middle and lower classes had to be taxed increasingly heavier. This bred great discontent, and the unfairness of the situation was one of the main subjects brought up when the revolutionaries first started asking for change.It was this world that brought forth the philosophes, and it was this injustice in the very basic structure of life, so obvious to us now, that for the first time in centuries struck people so much as to make them unite and concentrate their thoughts on a common subject: how to...

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