Some events stamp on the history of mankind forever : the French Revolution is definitely one of these. Indeed, really few upheavals such as this one triggered so many thoughts, comments and passionate reactions all over the world. Although lot of scholars tried to understand and qualify this period, many interpretations actually remain. This stands for the difficulty to understand the real impact of such an astonishing event.
In reality, these difficulties are deeply rooted in two specific characteristics of the French Revolution : the question of its own intensity, and therefore the question of its real legacy.
to what extent had the French Revolution (1789-1815) a strong and global influence over the nineteenth century in France ?
[...] Apart from the social and legal legacy of the French Revolution, one of the main influences of this event concerns the French political institutions and political life in the nineteenth century. Paradoxically enough, this influence is utterly striking and deeply complex at the same time. As a matter of fact, the political legacy of the French Revolution over the nineteenth century is far too complicated to be totally explained in this work; nevertheless, two main features appear as most important legacies: the irruption of the mass population as a source of political power, together with an institutionalization of violence as a major part of French political life. [...]
[...] Indeed, the law itself soon acquires a new place in the nineteenth century in France, inherited from the revolutionary concept of “légicentrisme”, which comes with a rationalization process of the legal system. In addition, the French Revolution stresses the beginning of a new role for the law: the protection of new human rights. The legal system of the Old Regime was mostly based on non-written customs. Indeed, the law was completely subordinated to the State power, being a great symbol of the reign of the arbitrary. On the contrary, the Revolution proclaims the people and the Nation as the only source of legal legitimacy. [...]
[...] The three days Revolution against Louis the XVIII, or the 1848 Revolution, claiming the need for a democratization of the regime, are great examples of this new opposition workers/bourgeoisie, which find its basis in the core of the French Revolution. The question of gender during the nineteenth century is also inherited from the Revolutionary conception. Indeed, if the Revolutionaries were willing to change the French social structure, the women emancipation was no part of their plan. On the contrary, the close link the Revolutionary ideals established between women and motherhood prevent them from asking for political and social rights during the nineteenth century. [...]
[...] The longevity of these codes during all the nineteenth century proves this new place of the law. Moreover, the content of the law itself is new, and has a great influence during the nineteenth century. Indeed, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789 stresses the beginning of a new legal definition of the individuals. The French Revolutions proclaimed some inalienable rights: liberty for all, equality of rights, freedom of cult, freedom of the press These rights marked the destruction of the Old Regime society. [...]
[...] Of course, all these riots were triggered by contemporaneous causes, especially political, social and economical problems: the point here is not to pretend the French Revolution is the main cause of these events; however, it is blatant that the Revolutionary mythology had a great influence over these riots, by popularizing the resort to violence, which became a major outcome of the nineteenth century in France. The impact of the revolutionary legacy over the nineteenth century in France is undeniable. No level of public life escaped its influence: the Revolution replaced the old opposition Third Estate / Nobility and Clergy by the new paradigm Workers / Bourgeoisie; it also put the law as the new basis of all power, aiming at protecting the individual citizen against any form of arbitrary power; finally, it spread an amount of violent references into French political life, justifying many riots triggered during the nineteenth century. [...]
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