It is quite difficult to discuss the impact of the French revolution on the French society for the country had difficulty accessing stability in the 19th century. Indeed the intervening decades witnessed four major upheavals: in the 1790s, 1830, 1848 and 1870, which brought a whole variety of regime in their wake: no less than three republics, 2 empires and three monarchies emerged. France became a vast political laboratory in which revolutionary ideas, inspired by the Enlightenment, had to fight their way through, experimenting with a dozen constitutions and modern doctrines such as liberalism, nationalism and socialism. If the revolution started a movement of democratisation and liberalisation that deeply influenced the French social structure during the 19th century, the change was quite brutal and therefore spread a feeling of animosity and refusal through a part of the population that is mostly victims of the revolution. Issues such as the place of the Church in the society weren't handled properly by the revolutionaries and led to a schism in the French society. The model inspired by the revolution therefore often failed to live up to expectations. During the first empire, Napoleon claimed to restore the order without abolishing revolutionary principles by setting up a meritocratic authoritarian regime: "la revolution est fixée aux principes qui l'ont commencée, elle est finie". But everyone will agree that an order is far more difficult to build than to destroy. Yet despite repeated revolutions, continuity can be seen as a striking feature of France's administrative, judicial, religious and educational structures. Despite appearances, political and social changes were graduate. This is what we will try to show in this essay.
[...] During the 19th century, the French society changed its opinion on poverty. If poor people were considered as lazy and insignificant in the 18th century, the French revolution and the industrial revolution changed this opinion. Sociologist came to admit that most poor people actually worked hard. Before the mid-18th century, workers weren't considered as a social class and were left out by both the state and the church. Left out by the state because they didn't have access to political representation, and left out by the church which didn't adapt to their urban industrial modern life. [...]
[...] They claimed for a universal suffrage and a perfect democratic regime Left-outs and failures of this model If the revolution led to a more democratic and equalitarian social structure in the 19th century, there remained many left outs of this new model. Poor people weren't considered at once for they didn't have political rights. But if this phenomenon changed slowly, the situation of women hardly changed. The revolution considered women as biologically inferior, Olympe de Gouge, a political woman who wrote the Declaration of the rights of women and of the citizens", was decapitated during the revolution. [...]
[...] Indeed, under the inspiration of Marx, the French 19th century was commonly referred to as a "bourgeois century". The bourgeoisie is defined as a class who enriched itself with industrial and capital activities that spread in France during the 19th century, such as trade, finance and manufacturing. The bourgeois were probably the ones that benefited the most from the French revolution for they were able to increase their property by buying the lands of the clergy for instance. Being rich enough, they had access to political rights and constituted the new industrial upper class. [...]
[...] And revolutionary legacy on modern doctrines and legal system Law being crucial in French life, the modifications that occurred in the legal system during the 19th century were very significant of this revolutionary period and contributed to shaping the French society Rationalisation of the legal system: codification or the end of arbitrary justice The revolution intended to put an end to the arbitrary justice given by the king by rationalising and by codifying the legal system. Inspired by the philosophy of natural rights, the Declaration of the rights of men and of the citizens was meant to guarantee individual rights in front of absolute royal power. [...]
[...] The French state became the model of a centralised and efficient state. Thanks to an efficient bureaucracy, no power was delegated to the different regions. Local administrative functions were carried out by agents of the state called "préfets". In the name of equality, towns, cities and provinces surrendered their privileges in matters of taxation and self- administration to the national State in the night of the 4th of august 1789, permitting a higher degree of centralisation. To spread national feeling and break the ancient order, everything was done to abolish the provinces of the Old regime that were essentially feudal and reactionary, departments were created in 1790, they were simply administrative units and had nothing to do with local identity, that way the state was sure to prevent any regional consciousness and claim for independence. [...]
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