9. The Atlantic Revolutions: The French Revolution (1789) and Its Legacy

I. What Were the Causes of the French Revolution?
A. Long Term Causes:
Progress > Rising expectations
- Scientific Revolution
- Enlightenment
- British (1688) and American Revolutions
- Commercial and industrial expansion

B. Immediate Causes:
1. Progress blocked
- population increase > decreased opportunities
- Paris > mob potential
- bad harvests > high cost of bread

2. Fiscal crisis
- high debt > American Revolution and court
- inability to tax the nobility and clergy

3. Weakness of Louis XVI

4. A divided and self-interested nobility
- Failure of the Assembly of Notables 1787

C. Outbreak of the Revolution
1. Convocation of the Estates General - June 1789
- The Third Estate declared itself the National Assembly and vowed not to disband until France has a constitution
- It was eventually joined by the representatives of the nobility and the clergy

2. The Storming of the Bastille – July 14, 1789

3. Revolutionary Goals: Liberty, Equality and Fraternity

4. The Reforms of August 4, 1789
- Abolished special privileges
- Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen
- Olympe de Gouges, Declaration of the Rights of Woman and Female Citizen (1791)

II. Napoleon I (1799-1815): Friend or Foe of the French Revolution?
A. Consolidated some of the gains of the Revolution

1. Concordat of 1801 > religious toleration

2. Established a Meritocracy > Careers open to talent

3. Educational Reform > laid the foundation for a public school system (for boys)

4. Civil Code (1804)
- brought the French nation under one law
- secured property
- brought about a decline in the status of women
> women’s legal rights were the same as those for children and the insane
> women were placed under the authority of their husbands
> they had no rights to their property
> they had no rights to their children
> double standard

B. Export of the Revolution
1. Napoleon’s Conquest of Europe

2. Congress of Vienna
- restored borders and the traditional ruling houses of Europe based on the concept of legitimacy
- Germany was organized as a confederation of 38 independent states
- established a balance of power - Concert of Europe

III. What is the Legacy of the French Revolution?
A. Decline of the Old Regime
1. Raised expectations for men and women resulting in revolutions throughout Europe in the 19th century

2. From absolute monarchies to representative governments
- Louis XVIII was restored to the French throne as a constitutional monarch; in 1871 the French Republic was achieved

3. From religious intolerance to religious toleration and the secularizations of the state

4. From mercantilism to capitalism, laissez-faire economic policy

5. From a society based on Orders to a society based on economic worth and a single law

B. Development of Nationalism and the idea of the Nation-State
1. nationalism: a belief in the importance of one’s nation, stemming from its unique laws, language, traditions and history this community demands one’s highest devotion
- like a religion, nationalism provides a sense of community and a cause worthy of self-sacrifice
- every nation should be self-governing > the nation-state

2. Nationalism can be a unifying force:

- Unification of Italy and Germany by 1870

3. Nationalism can be a disruptive force:
- Austrian Empire
- Establishment of the Dual Monarchy: Austria- Hungary (1866)

IV. What Impact Did the French Revolution Have on the Americas?
A. The Haitian Revolution
- Saint-Domingue (Haiti)
- Toussaint L’Ouverture (c. 1743-1803)
- independence achieved in 1804

B. Revolution in Spanish Latin America
1. By 1830 much of South America will have gained independence enabled by the weakening of Spain under French rule
- Father Miguel Hidalgo (1753-1811) of Mexico
- José de San Martin (1778-1850) of Argentina
- Simon Bolivar (1783-1830) of Venezuela

C. Revolution in Brazil
- 1807 Portuguese royal family and court fled to Brazil when Portugal was invaded by the French
- 1820 King John VI returned to Portugal leaving his son, Pedro (1798-1834), to govern Brazil
- 1822 independent constitutional monarchy was declared under Dom Pedro I
- 1889 the Republic of Brazil was established

D. The United States and the Newly Independent American States
1. Economic dependence shifted from Spain and Portugal to Great Britain and in the early 20th century to the United States

2. Monroe Doctrine of 1823 > stated that any attempt to colonize the newly independent states of Latin America would be considered a threat to U. S. security

3. Neocolonialism > refers to the fact that countries can be politically independent but remain economically dependent on foreign powers



Return to History 141 Home Page