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The French Revolution

French Revolution Books

 The French Revolution Book Cover
The French Revolution discusses one of the most tumultuous upheavals to established government in the last thousand years. It opens with an overview and then explores a range of different causes, from immediate, proximate causes to deeper, philosophical ones. It provides a detailed description of each of the six different governments from 1789 to 1815. Prominent themes of the Revolution are presented. It closes with a reflection on the enduring effects of the Revolution and a timeline of the major events.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Overview
  3. Causes
    1. Proximate Causes
    2. Rigid Ancien Regime
    3. Economic Problems
    4. Philosophical Foundations
    5. Bankrupt Monarchy
  4. Six Different Governments and Major Defining Events
    1. Monarchy
    2. National Assembly
    3. Legislative Assembly
    4. National Convention
    5. Directory
    6. Consulate and the Age of Napoleon
  5. Iconic Themes
    1. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity
    2. A Bourgeois Revolution
    3. Influence of the Paris Mob
    4. Conflicts Over the Church
    5. The Limitations of “Reason”
  6. Lasting Consequences
    1. End of French Dominance in Europe
    2. Final End to Feudalism
    3. Conservative Reaction
    4. Rise of Nationalism
    5. The Birth of the Modern Administrative State
    6. End of The Enlightenment
  7. End Note
  8. Timeline


In the summer of 1789, the people of France began a Revolution against their government. It started innocently enough, an effort to balance the budget. But before long, things got radical. The revolutionaries ousted the king, killed him, and installed a Republic. But far from being just a political event, the Revolution overthrew most of the economic, social and cultural systems of France as well. In the process, it rocked the foundations of the western world.

The Revolution was a crusade for the most militant ideas that had been forming in Europe for the prior three centuries. It espoused the rights of all men, the rule of law, the imperative of uniform justice, the importance of equal opportunity, and the absolute indispensability of individual liberty. It put into practice (more often badly than not) all of these grand ideas of the European Enlightenment. And then it exported those ideas (by force) to almost all of the other nations of Europe.

The results of the Revolution were as dramatic as the event itself. Absolute monarchy would eventually disappear as the dominant governmental system in the western world. It would be replaced with a more liberal, republican standard of government that still prevails today. Feudalism was irretrievably banished, at least in western Europe. However, because of the Revolution’s failings, the Enlightenment was grievously injured, at least for a while. Nationalism became one of the most potent forces on the planet. And the modern, centralized, administrative state was born.

Not all of these things happened immediately. And, in fact, most of them were stamped out in the aftermath of Napoleon’s defeat. But they did happen eventually—inevitably—as a result of the Revolution. In fact, so great was their collective impact on the political, military, social, and economic systems of the western world, the French Revolution must be counted as one of the three most important events of the last thousand years.

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