The Big Questions

The Big Questions

Revolutionary France - AS Level History

The French Revolution is unquestionably one of history’s crucial turning points, which in the view of many historians marks the beginning of the ‘modern’ historical era from a political point of view. The rise of Napoleon and the Empire he created out of the chaos of the Revolution also had consequences of a similar magnitude. The main aspects of this complex period are:

* The problems faced by the ancient rgime.

* Opposition to the ancien rgime and Republican intellectual currents.

* The failure of Constitutional monarchy and the establishment of a Republic.

* The Terror and political instability during the first years of the Republic.

* How and why Napoleon rose to power.

* The creation of the Empire.

Important Background Knowledge

Because the coverage of the French revolution at As level history and A level history revision includes an examination of the ancien rgime (the name given after the Revolution to monarchist France), the required contextual knowledge is contained within the Main Areas of Focus covered here.

The Ancien Rgime and the Roots of the Revolution

You will need an understanding of:

* The principles of absolutist monarchy, the system developed in particular under Louis XIV.

* Louis XVI as an absolute monarch and his weaknesses as a leader.

* The political and social structures of France in the 1770s, in particular the role of the Three Estates (nobility, clergy, everyone else) and the Parliaments.

* Enlightenment thinking and its conflicts with absolutist monarchy and the Church.

* The perilous financial situation faced by the monarch y under Louis XVI following the Seven Years War and the American War of Independence, and the inability of Louis XVI’s ministers to resolve the situation.

The End of Absolutist Monarchy

You will need to discuss:

* The reasons for the calling of the Estates General in May 1789 (for the first time since 1614) and the significance of this as representing the beginning of the end of absolute monarchy.

* The grievances of the Third Estate and the creation of the National Assembly.

* The significance of popular revolts, especially the July Storming of the Bastille.

* The National Assembly’s August decrees, in particular their ending of the privileges of the First and Second Estates and abolishing feudalism, and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.

* The 1791 Constitution.

* The reasons for going to war against Prussia and Austria.

* The increasing rise of radical currents and the growing power of sans culottes in French politics and the rise of riots and popular violence.

* The events of August and September 1792, culminating in the declaration of the Republic.