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The French Revolution

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1789 - 1799

Liberty Leading the People
Eugene Delacroix - 1830

The French Revolution was sparked in 1789, when tax paying citizens rebelled against the upper-classes and  King Louis XIV. What were the main causes of the revolution:
  • Resentment of royal absolutism.
  • Resentment of the semi-feudal system of nobles.
  • The rise of enlightenment ideals.
  • Resentment of noble privilege and dominance by the tax paying professional class.
  • Growing national debt and exacerbated taxes.
  • Famine across the country.

The first steps of the revolution took place as a result of the Estates-General in Versailles on May 5, 1789. In hopes, the meeting would solve the on going crisis of high taxes. The tax burden was soley placed upon the Third Estate: all of the commoners, wealthy to poor.  The First Estate, the clergy, and the Second Estate, the nobility.  Attemps at reform had little success.  Then First and Second Estate had little sympathy for the Thirds suggestions.

The Third Estate rebelled, left the Estates-General, and then declared themselves the National Assembly. Then, they made history of the king's tennis court. There, they gave the Tennis Court Oath, where they agreed to not seperate until they gave France a fair constitution.

Here are two political cartoon created in the time of the French Revolution.

What is this picture portraying to the viewer? How would you feel if you were a member of the Third Estate? Do you think that such cartoons would help to spur revolution? Why?


The Tennis Courth Oath
Jacques-Louis David - 1793



How might an illiterate citizen react when they view a drawing like these?

I challenge you to find a current political cartoon that has just as much affect on you.

Cartoon of the Three Estates. [Online Image] Available,  April 22, 2005.

Liberty Leading the People. [Online Image] Available, April 22, 2005.

Tennis Court Oath. [Online Image] Available, April 9, 2005.

Cartoon of Ancien Regime. [Online Image] Available  April 24, 2005

The French Revolution