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Economic Unrest in France: A Twentieth-Century analysis

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Tyson L.
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  1. The French revolution of 1789
  2. Primary causes of the French Revolution
  3. Different social and political shifts
  4. The economic aspect of the revolution
  5. The economic and social state of the peasantry in eighteenth-century France
  6. Influence from Marxist historians
  7. Unique perspective of the French Revolution
  8. Conclusion

The French Revolution of 1789 is perhaps one of the most well-known and significant revolutions in modern history. The Revolution was not only influential in its establishment of a new regime in France, but, to quote Scott W. Haine, ?Not only did the French Revolution produce modern politics, it also led to the rise of modern nationalism, an idea that has far from run its course.? The French Revolution is often referred to as the first modern revolution, in which the members of the lower class banded together and rose up to overthrow the oppression of the bourgeoisie, or upper-middle class.

However, the views of the nature and influence of the French Revolution have not always been stable. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Europe as well as the rest of the world has seen a great shift in political, economic, social, and philosophical ideas. Movements such as Marxism, Progressivism, Existentialism, and Idealism have shaped the way that historians think. Thus, the influence of these schools of thought has translated into the ways that historians analyze, interpret, and write about the French Revolution. In this paper, I plan to focus on how the philosophies of the late nineteenth and early-to-mid twentieth centuries have shaped these views, with particular focus on how the rise of Communism has influenced French Revolution historiography.

Underneath this study is the notion that the primary causes of the French Revolution were economical. The rising national debt, abundance of taxation, and vast economic inequality among the classes led to the uprising of the working class and the overthrow of the monarchy.

[...] It is very likely that these current events will influence a new school of French Revolutionary thought. Thus, the twenty-first century interpretation of the French Revolution will be born. Scott W. Haine, History of France (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000): 71, eBrary, http://site.ebrary.com/lib/mcla/docDetail.action?docID=10018005&adv.x=1&p00= Frenc%20h+Revolution+causes&f00=all (accessed March 2011). Jocelyn Hunt, French Revolution (London: Routledge, 1998): eBrary, http://libproxy.mcla.edu:2239/lib/mcla/docDetail.action?docID=2003550 (accessed March 2011). Scott W. Haine, History of France Peter Kropotkin, The Great French Revolution: 1789-1793, translated by N.F. Dryhurst (New York: Schocken Books, 1971): 8. [...]


[...] Everyone was in one way or another involved with the land: the individual, rich or poor, who aspired to become a man of property; the stateman who knew that population increase depended upon more food and hence meant more taxpayers and prospective public servants.[12] Lefebvre also takes direct cues from Marxism in his analysis of the distinct classes of eighteenth-century France. He begins by describing the three estates: the monarchy, the aristocracy, and the ?third estate.? He breaks these classes down further, differentiating the aristocratic nobles from the clergy, as well as the bourgeoisie from the rest of the third estate. [...]


[...] Kropotkin emphasizes the economic benefits of owning land by arguing that ?manufacturing production on a large scale was in its infancy, so that land was at that time the main form of capital and the chief instrument for exploiting human labor, while the factory was hardly developed at Kropotkin essentially argues through this passage that land should be more equally distributed in order for the general welfare and prosperity of the citizens of France. Another area of Kropotkin's work emphasizes the economic and social state of the peasantry in eighteenth-century France. [...]

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