good research questions about the french revolution

French Revolution

French revolution essay questions, france before 1789.

1. Evaluate the French royal court at Versailles, why it existed and the contribution it made to French government and society.

2. “The French nobility did little but concern themselves with leisure, finery, decadence, affairs and intrigues.” To what extent is this statement true in the context of late 18th century France?

3. The presence of things like lettres du cachet and the Bastille give the impression that pre-revolutionary France was an authoritarian society that oppressed personal liberty and freedom. To what extent was this true?

4. Examine the role of religion in 18th century France, both in ideological and practical terms. How did ordinary French people view the Catholic church and its clergy?

5. Identify and discuss tensions between the Three Estates that may have contributed to revolutionary sentiment in 18th century France.

6. To what extent was feudalism a cause of the French Revolution? Describe how feudal bonds and dues impacted on the ordinary people of France during the 18th century.

7. Explain why the taxation regime and the collection of tax revenue in 18th century France failed to meet the fiscal requirements of the nation.

8. Some historians argue that commerce and trade in France were restricted by regulations that were overbearing, complex and inconsistent. What were the grievances of the merchant and capitalist class in pre-revolutionary France?

9. Discuss how the strains and stresses of imperialism might have weakened the domestic government in 18th century France, paving the way for revolutionary sentiment.

10. Consider the political, economic and social position of women in 18th century France. Did the women of France have more motivation or potential for revolution than the men?

Government and royalty in the ancien regime

1. Louis XIV is once reported as saying “L’etat, c’est moi” (‘The state is me’). To what extent was this true, both of Louis XIV and his two successors?

2. Describe the relationship between the Bourbon monarchy and the French people in the century before 1789. How did French kings impose their will on the nation?

3. In what ways did the Roman Catholic religion support the Bourbon monarchy – and how was the church itself supported by the state?

4. Discuss the relationship between the Bourbon monarchy and the Second Estate. How did tensions between the king and his nobles shape the political landscape?

5. Evaluate Louis XVI and his character, personal abilities and his suitability for leadership. Was he a flawed king, or simply a victim of circumstance?

6. Critically examine the relationship between Louis XVI and his ministers during the 1780s.

7. Explain why Marie Antoinette was a target for intrigue, gossip and propagandists. To what extent was her reputation deserved?

8. The extravagant spending of the royal family is often advanced as a major cause of the French Revolution. To what extent was this true?

9. Explain how the ideological foundations of the French monarchy were challenged and possibly undermined by Enlightenment philosophers and writers.

10. According to Simon Schama, the Bourbon monarchy was threatened by “whispering campaigns”. To what is he referring to, and how did they endanger the monarchy?

The troubled 1780s

1. Giving close attention to specific writers, explain how the Enlightenment challenged and undermined the old regime in 18th century France.

2. What contribution did salons , cafes and other social gatherings make to the rising revolutionary sentiment of the 1780s?

3. “The libelles and political pornography of the 1780s contained no significant political ideas so had little impact on the old regime”. To what extent was this true?

4. Identify and discuss two individuals who attempted to achieve fiscal and political reform in France during the 1780s. To what extent were they successful?

5. Explain how France’s involvement in the American Revolutionary War impacted on the nation in moral, ideological and practical terms.

6. Discuss the actions of the parlements and the Assembly of Notables in the late 1780s. How did these bodies contribute to the developing revolution?

7. Explain the events of 1788 that led to Louis XVI calling for the convocation of the Estates-General.

8. What were the  Cahiers de Doleances  and what did they suggest about the mood of the French people on the eve of the revolution?

9. Why did French harvests fail in the late 1780s, leading to a downturn in agricultural production? What impact did this have on the lives of ordinary people?

10. What factors and forces led to the failure of reformist policies in the 1780s? Did these reforms fail because of resistant conservative interests or a disinterested, incompetent royal government?

The drama of 1789

1. Who was the Abbe Sieyes and what contribution did he make to the French Revolution, both in ideological and practical terms?

2. What happened at the Reveillon factory in Paris in April 1789? What working class grievances, fears and rumours triggered these events?

3. Explain how issues of ceremony, procedure and voting created divisions within the Estates-General when it met in mid-1789.

4. For what reasons did the National Assembly form in June 1789? Was the formation of this body inevitable – or did it occur because of chance and circumstance?

5. “From the beginning of 1789, the push for economic and fiscal reform in France became a push for political reform.” Explain the meaning of this statement, referring to key ideas and events of 1789.

6. Discuss the context, reasons and outcomes of the sacking of Jacques Necker on July 11th 1789. What impact did this have on the unfolding revolution?

7. Why has the storming of the Bastille become the best-known event of the French Revolution? What were the outcomes of this event, in both real and symbolic terms?

8. What were the causes and outcomes of the Great Fear? Was this event evidence that the French peasantry was a revolutionary class?

9. Why did the newly formed National Constituent Assembly move to abolish feudalism in France on August 4th? How sincere were these reforms and did they last?

10. On the surface, the relocation of the royal family from Versailles to Paris, a few miles away, seems a minor event. Was this really the case? Why did the king and his family relocate and what impact did this have on the revolution?

Creating a new society

1. Examine the background, motives and political values of those who sat in the National Constituent Assembly between 1789 and its dissolution in 1791.

2. What steps did the National Constituent Assembly take to abolish or replace the political institutions and social inequalities of the ancien regime ?

3. While many aspects of the French Revolution have been forgotten or discredited, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen has endured. Summarise the political values and ideas contained in this critical document.

4. The most influential political figure of 1789-1791, argue many historians, is the Marquis de Lafayette. Describe Lafayette’s background, attributes and political values. To what extent did he truly represent the revolution in France?

5. Evaluate the political leadership of Honore Mirabeau in the revolution between June 1789 and his death in April 1791. Did Mirabeau seek to advance revolutionary change – or to restrict it?

6. What were the political, social and economic objectives of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy? Discuss the impact this reform had on the clergy, the king and the French people in general?

7. How successful was the National Constituent Assembly in resolving the economic and fiscal problems of the ancien regime ? Refer to three specific policies in your answer.

8. Evaluate the relationship between the National Constituent Assembly and the French peasantry and working classes. Did the Assembly implement policies that improved living and working conditions for ordinary people?

9. To what extent did the revolution enjoy popular support around France by the end of 1790? Which people, groups or regions were actively opposing the revolution?

10. What was the ‘flight to Varennes’ and why did it change the political landscape in the new society?

The descent into radicalism

1. What were the causes and outcomes of the Champ de Mars massacre? How and why did this event change the development of the new society?

2. Evaluate the brief life and political impact of the Legislative Assembly. Did this body suffer from internal failings – or was it simply a victim of treacherous times?

3. Discuss the fate of the moderate leaders Mirabeau, Lafayette and Bailly during the radical period. What were the events and factors that undermined their leadership?

4. How did France come to find itself at war with other European powers from 1792 onwards? What impact did war have on the government?

5. Explain how radical writers like Jean-Paul Marat and Camille Desmoulins influenced the development of the new society between 1789 and 1794.

6. What were the political clubs and what role did they play in the evolving new society? Discuss three specific clubs in your answer.

7. Why is August 10th 1792 considered a pivotal day in the course of the revolution? What impact did the events of this day have on French government and society?

8. Evaluate the fate of the king between June 1791 and his execution in January 1793. Could Louis XVI have saved himself – or was he already doomed?

9. Who were the sans-culottes and what were their grievances? Referring to at least three specific events, explain how they influenced the national government between 1791 and 1793.

10. Explain the composition of the National Convention and its various political divisions and factions.

The Terror and beyond

1. In what ways was French society reformed and reinvented between 1792 and 1794? Identify and discuss five elements of the ancien regime and its society that were abolished or reformed by the National Convention.

2. What was the Committee of Public Safety? How did this body come to possess arbitrary power – and what did it do with this power?

3. Identify and discuss three events or factors that you believe were the most significant causes of the Reign of Terror.

4. Explain the purpose and operation of the Paris Revolutionary Tribunal. How did these change as the Terror intensified in late 1793 and 1794?

5. Discuss the arguments advanced by Robespierre and his followers to justify the use of revolutionary terror.

6. What was the Cult of the Supreme Being and how successful was it in achieving its objectives?

7. According to one historian, the revolution began to “eat its own children” in early 1794. Explain the meaning and validity of this statement.

8. Identify and discuss reasons for the arrest and execution of Robespierre and his supporters in July 1794.

9. What steps did the Thermidorian leaders take to wind back the Terror and purge France of Jacobinism?

10. “The leaders of Thermidor attempted to return France to the political, economic and social values of 1789.” To what extent is this true? Discuss, referring to specific policies.

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Origins of the Revolution

Aristocratic revolt, 1787–89.

  • Events of 1789
  • The new regime
  • Counterrevolution, regicide, and the Reign of Terror
  • The Directory and revolutionary expansion

Louis XVI: execution by guillotine

What was the French Revolution?

Why did the french revolution happen, why did the french revolution lead to war with other nations.

  • Who was Maximilien Robespierre?
  • How did Maximilien Robespierre come to power?

Capital Execution at the Place de la Revolution between August 1793 and June 1794, oil on canvas by Pierre Antoine De Machy (Demachy), Musee Carnavalet, Paris, France. 37 x 53.5 cm. (Reign of Terror, hanging, guillotine execution, French Revolution)

French Revolution

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Louis XVI: execution by guillotine

The French Revolution was a period of major social upheaval that began in 1787 and ended in 1799. It sought to completely change the relationship between the rulers and those they governed and to redefine the nature of political power. It proceeded in a back-and-forth process between revolutionary and reactionary forces.

There were many reasons. The bourgeoisie —merchants, manufacturers, professionals—had gained financial power but were excluded from political power. Those who were socially beneath them had very few rights, and most were also increasingly impoverished. The monarchy was no longer viewed as divinely ordained. When the king sought to increase the tax burden on the poor and expand it to classes that had previously been exempt, revolution became all but inevitable.

King Louis XVI of France yielded to the idea of a new constitution and to the sovereignty of the people but at the same time sent emissaries to the rulers of neighbouring countries seeking their help in restoring his power. Many revolutionaries, especially the Girondins , believed that the revolution needed to spread throughout Europe to succeed. An Austro-Prussian army invaded France, and French revolutionary forces pushed outward.

How did the French Revolution succeed?

In some respects, the French Revolution did not succeed. But the ideas of representational democracy and basic property rights took hold, and it sowed the seeds of the later revolutions of 1830 and 1848 . 

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French Revolution , revolutionary movement that shook France between 1787 and 1799 and reached its first climax there in 1789—hence the conventional term “Revolution of 1789,” denoting the end of the ancien régime in France and serving also to distinguish that event from the later French revolutions of 1830 and 1848 .

The French Revolution had general causes common to all the revolutions of the West at the end of the 18th century and particular causes that explain why it was by far the most violent and the most universally significant of these revolutions. The first of the general causes was the social structure of the West. The feudal regime had been weakened step-by-step and had already disappeared in parts of Europe . The increasingly numerous and prosperous elite of wealthy commoners—merchants, manufacturers, and professionals, often called the bourgeoisie —aspired to political power in those countries where it did not already possess it. The peasants , many of whom owned land, had attained an improved standard of living and education and wanted to get rid of the last vestiges of feudalism so as to acquire the full rights of landowners and to be free to increase their holdings. Furthermore, from about 1730, higher standards of living had reduced the mortality rate among adults considerably. This, together with other factors, had led to an increase in the population of Europe unprecedented for several centuries: it doubled between 1715 and 1800. For France, which with 26 million inhabitants in 1789 was the most populated country of Europe, the problem was most acute .

A larger population created a greater demand for food and consumer goods. The discovery of new gold mines in Brazil had led to a general rise in prices throughout the West from about 1730, indicating a prosperous economic situation. From about 1770, this trend slackened, and economic crises, provoking alarm and even revolt, became frequent. Arguments for social reform began to be advanced. The philosophes —intellectuals whose writings inspired these arguments—were certainly influenced by 17th-century theorists such as René Descartes , Benedict de Spinoza and John Locke , but they came to very different conclusions about political, social, and economic matters. A revolution seemed necessary to apply the ideas of Montesquieu , Voltaire , or Jean-Jacques Rousseau . This Enlightenment was spread among the educated classes by the many “societies of thought” that were founded at that time: masonic lodges, agricultural societies, and reading rooms.

It is uncertain, however, whether revolution would have come without the added presence of a political crisis. Faced with the heavy expenditure that the wars of the 18th century entailed, the rulers of Europe sought to raise money by taxing the nobles and clergy, who in most countries had hitherto been exempt, To justify this, the rulers likewise invoked the arguments of advanced thinkers by adopting the role of “ enlightened despots .” This provoked reaction throughout Europe from the privileged bodies, diets. and estates. In North America this backlash caused the American Revolution , which began with the refusal to pay a tax imposed by the king of Great Britain. Monarchs tried to stop this reaction of the aristocracy , and both rulers and the privileged classes sought allies among the nonprivileged bourgeois and the peasants.

Flag of France

Although scholarly debate continues about the exact causes of the Revolution, the following reasons are commonly adduced: (1) the bourgeoisie resented its exclusion from political power and positions of honour; (2) the peasants were acutely aware of their situation and were less and less willing to support the anachronistic and burdensome feudal system; (3) the philosophes had been read more widely in France than anywhere else; (4) French participation in the American Revolution had driven the government to the brink of bankruptcy ; (5) France was the most populous country in Europe, and crop failures in much of the country in 1788, coming on top of a long period of economic difficulties, compounded existing restlessness; and (6) the French monarchy , no longer seen as divinely ordained , was unable to adapt to the political and societal pressures that were being exerted on it.

good research questions about the french revolution

The Revolution took shape in France when the controller general of finances, Charles-Alexandre de Calonne , arranged the summoning of an assembly of “notables” (prelates, great noblemen, and a few representatives of the bourgeoisie) in February 1787 to propose reforms designed to eliminate the budget deficit by increasing the taxation of the privileged classes. The assembly refused to take responsibility for the reforms and suggested the calling of the Estates-General , which represented the clergy , the aristocracy , and the Third Estate (the commoners) and which had not met since 1614. The efforts made by Calonne’s successors to enforce fiscal reforms in spite of resistance by the privileged classes led to the so-called revolt of the “aristocratic bodies,” notably that of the parlements (the most important courts of justice), whose powers were curtailed by the edict of May 1788.

good research questions about the french revolution

During the spring and summer of 1788, there was unrest among the populace in Paris , Grenoble , Dijon , Toulouse , Pau , and Rennes . The king, Louis XVI , had to yield. He reappointed reform-minded Jacques Necker as the finance minister and promised to convene the Estates-General on May 5, 1789. He also, in practice, granted freedom of the press, and France was flooded with pamphlets addressing the reconstruction of the state. The elections to the Estates-General, held between January and April 1789, coincided with further disturbances, as the harvest of 1788 had been a bad one. There were practically no exclusions from the voting; and the electors drew up cahiers de doléances , which listed their grievances and hopes. They elected 600 deputies for the Third Estate, 300 for the nobility, and 300 for the clergy.

good research questions about the french revolution

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French Revolution

By: Editors

Updated: October 12, 2023 | Original: November 9, 2009

The French Revolution

The French Revolution was a watershed event in world history that began in 1789 and ended in the late 1790s with the ascent of Napoleon Bonaparte. During this period, French citizens radically altered their political landscape, uprooting centuries-old institutions such as the monarchy and the feudal system. The upheaval was caused by disgust with the French aristocracy and the economic policies of King Louis XVI, who met his death by guillotine, as did his wife Marie Antoinette. Though it degenerated into a bloodbath during the Reign of Terror, the French Revolution helped to shape modern democracies by showing the power inherent in the will of the people.

Causes of the French Revolution

As the 18th century drew to a close, France’s costly involvement in the American Revolution , combined with extravagant spending by King Louis XVI , had left France on the brink of bankruptcy.

Not only were the royal coffers depleted, but several years of poor harvests, drought, cattle disease and skyrocketing bread prices had kindled unrest among peasants and the urban poor. Many expressed their desperation and resentment toward a regime that imposed heavy taxes—yet failed to provide any relief—by rioting, looting and striking.

In the fall of 1786, Louis XVI’s controller general, Charles Alexandre de Calonne, proposed a financial reform package that included a universal land tax from which the aristocratic classes would no longer be exempt.

Estates General

To garner support for these measures and forestall a growing aristocratic revolt, the king summoned the Estates General ( les états généraux ) – an assembly representing France’s clergy, nobility and middle class – for the first time since 1614.

The meeting was scheduled for May 5, 1789; in the meantime, delegates of the three estates from each locality would compile lists of grievances ( cahiers de doléances ) to present to the king.

Rise of the Third Estate

France’s population, of course, had changed considerably since 1614. The non-aristocratic, middle-class members of the Third Estate now represented 98 percent of the people but could still be outvoted by the other two bodies.

In the lead-up to the May 5 meeting, the Third Estate began to mobilize support for equal representation and the abolishment of the noble veto—in other words, they wanted voting by head and not by status.

While all of the orders shared a common desire for fiscal and judicial reform as well as a more representative form of government, the nobles in particular were loath to give up the privileges they had long enjoyed under the traditional system.

Tennis Court Oath

By the time the Estates General convened at Versailles , the highly public debate over its voting process had erupted into open hostility between the three orders, eclipsing the original purpose of the meeting and the authority of the man who had convened it — the king himself.

On June 17, with talks over procedure stalled, the Third Estate met alone and formally adopted the title of National Assembly; three days later, they met in a nearby indoor tennis court and took the so-called Tennis Court Oath (serment du jeu de paume), vowing not to disperse until constitutional reform had been achieved.

Within a week, most of the clerical deputies and 47 liberal nobles had joined them, and on June 27 Louis XVI grudgingly absorbed all three orders into the new National Assembly.

The Bastille 

On June 12, as the National Assembly (known as the National Constituent Assembly during its work on a constitution) continued to meet at Versailles, fear and violence consumed the capital.

Though enthusiastic about the recent breakdown of royal power, Parisians grew panicked as rumors of an impending military coup began to circulate. A popular insurgency culminated on July 14 when rioters stormed the Bastille fortress in an attempt to secure gunpowder and weapons; many consider this event, now commemorated in France as a national holiday, as the start of the French Revolution.

The wave of revolutionary fervor and widespread hysteria quickly swept the entire country. Revolting against years of exploitation, peasants looted and burned the homes of tax collectors, landlords and the aristocratic elite.

Known as the Great Fear ( la Grande peur ), the agrarian insurrection hastened the growing exodus of nobles from France and inspired the National Constituent Assembly to abolish feudalism on August 4, 1789, signing what historian Georges Lefebvre later called the “death certificate of the old order.”

Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen

IIn late August, the Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen ( Déclaration des droits de l ’homme et du citoyen ), a statement of democratic principles grounded in the philosophical and political ideas of Enlightenment thinkers like Jean-Jacques Rousseau .

The document proclaimed the Assembly’s commitment to replace the ancien régime with a system based on equal opportunity, freedom of speech, popular sovereignty and representative government.

Drafting a formal constitution proved much more of a challenge for the National Constituent Assembly, which had the added burden of functioning as a legislature during harsh economic times.

For months, its members wrestled with fundamental questions about the shape and expanse of France’s new political landscape. For instance, who would be responsible for electing delegates? Would the clergy owe allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church or the French government? Perhaps most importantly, how much authority would the king, his public image further weakened after a failed attempt to flee the country in June 1791, retain?

Adopted on September 3, 1791, France’s first written constitution echoed the more moderate voices in the Assembly, establishing a constitutional monarchy in which the king enjoyed royal veto power and the ability to appoint ministers. This compromise did not sit well with influential radicals like Maximilien de Robespierre , Camille Desmoulins and Georges Danton, who began drumming up popular support for a more republican form of government and for the trial of Louis XVI.

French Revolution Turns Radical

In April 1792, the newly elected Legislative Assembly declared war on Austria and Prussia, where it believed that French émigrés were building counterrevolutionary alliances; it also hoped to spread its revolutionary ideals across Europe through warfare.

On the domestic front, meanwhile, the political crisis took a radical turn when a group of insurgents led by the extremist Jacobins attacked the royal residence in Paris and arrested the king on August 10, 1792.

The following month, amid a wave of violence in which Parisian insurrectionists massacred hundreds of accused counterrevolutionaries, the Legislative Assembly was replaced by the National Convention, which proclaimed the abolition of the monarchy and the establishment of the French republic.

On January 21, 1793, it sent King Louis XVI, condemned to death for high treason and crimes against the state, to the guillotine ; his wife Marie-Antoinette suffered the same fate nine months later.

Reign of Terror

Following the king’s execution, war with various European powers and intense divisions within the National Convention brought the French Revolution to its most violent and turbulent phase.

In June 1793, the Jacobins seized control of the National Convention from the more moderate Girondins and instituted a series of radical measures, including the establishment of a new calendar and the eradication of Christianity .

They also unleashed the bloody Reign of Terror (la Terreur), a 10-month period in which suspected enemies of the revolution were guillotined by the thousands. Many of the killings were carried out under orders from Robespierre, who dominated the draconian Committee of Public Safety until his own execution on July 28, 1794.

Did you know? Over 17,000 people were officially tried and executed during the Reign of Terror, and an unknown number of others died in prison or without trial.

Thermidorian Reaction

The death of Robespierre marked the beginning of the Thermidorian Reaction, a moderate phase in which the French people revolted against the Reign of Terror’s excesses.

On August 22, 1795, the National Convention, composed largely of Girondins who had survived the Reign of Terror, approved a new constitution that created France’s first bicameral legislature.

Executive power would lie in the hands of a five-member Directory ( Directoire ) appointed by parliament. Royalists and Jacobins protested the new regime but were swiftly silenced by the army, now led by a young and successful general named Napoleon Bonaparte .

French Revolution Ends: Napoleon’s Rise

The Directory’s four years in power were riddled with financial crises, popular discontent, inefficiency and, above all, political corruption. By the late 1790s, the directors relied almost entirely on the military to maintain their authority and had ceded much of their power to the generals in the field.

On November 9, 1799, as frustration with their leadership reached a fever pitch, Napoleon Bonaparte staged a coup d’état, abolishing the Directory and appointing himself France’s “ first consul .” The event marked the end of the French Revolution and the beginning of the Napoleonic era, during which France would come to dominate much of continental Europe.

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marie antoinette, austrian princess, louis xvi, wife of louis xvi, the dauphin of france, symbol of the monarchy's decadence, the french revolution

French Revolution. The National Archives (U.K.) The United States and the French Revolution, 1789–1799. Office of the Historian. U.S. Department of State . Versailles, from the French Revolution to the Interwar Period. Chateau de Versailles . French Revolution. . Individuals, institutions, and innovation in the debates of the French Revolution. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences . 

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The French Revolutions: Causes and Impacts Essay

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Origin and experience of the 1789 revolution, origin and experience of the 1848 revolution, similarities.


France has had many major revolutions that changed the country’s face, politically, socially and economically. By the 1700s, it had a full strength monarch system of government in which the king held absolute power also known as an absolute monarchy, most typified by Louis XIV. The nobles that were allowed to make legislations were corrupt and often enriched themselves leaving the poor or the so-called third estates to lavish in poverty 1 . This paper will attempt to compare and contrast the two revolutions, which occurred in 1789 and 1848, focusing on their causes as well as the impacts associated with their occurrences.

The 1789 revolution took place at a time when the French monarchy had absolute power, governing the whole country and implementing high tax due to massive debt caused by wars that King Louis XVI had participated in including the American war of independence. Its causes were mainly the hard social, economic and political cataclysm that they had and were worsening each day 2 . The country was heading into bankruptcy, making life much more difficult; people died daily and were buried in pauper graves, privileges were given to the nobles and the church. This led to a surge in protests involving mainly of the public and their sympathizers in various French cities like Paris, Lyon, Marseille, among others. The monarch’s symbol of power was the Bastille jail in Paris that had been in place for the past 400 years and its attack signified the beginning of a republican government. This saw execution of King Louis amid protest from other European countries that supported the rule of monarchy, and duped France into wars with other states like Britain, which had a constitutional monarchy, Spain and the Netherlands as well as Belgium.

The impacts of this ‘terror’ were worsened by the soaring prices with the devaluation of French currency due to unprecedented war that was in existence. This prompted price control in almost all foodstuffs as the Jacobins seized power in a reign of terror. The national assembly that was constituted mainly by the third estate constituted a committee of public safety, whose days were numbered with the escalating famine and shortages that faced the country. Besides, workable laws were still in the process of making as they fought to install a feasible constitution. Tax levied by the Catholic Church, which owned the largest land in the country added more injury to already soaring economic problems. The effects were realized but at a price since even though rights of citizens were instilled, ravaging famine, wars and terror consumed the population 3 . This revolution took new shift as power changed hands from monarchy, through to the Robespierre, Jacobins, in 1794 then to Directory through to 1799 when Napoleon took over under Consulate. Secularism became rampant; innovations, wars, and the restoration of monarchy are some of the results that surfaced 4 . For instance, After the King’s execution, Revolutionary tribunal and public safety committee were instituted; this saw a reign of terror, with ruling faction brutally killing potential enemies irrespective of their age, sex or condition. Paris alone recorded about 1400 deaths in the last six weeks to 27 July 1794, when it was replaced by Directory in 1975. This brought together 500 representatives, in a bicameral legislature consisting of two chambers, which lasted about 4 years to 1799 when it was replaced by Consulate.

This revolution took place in Europe at a time when reforms were the main activity. This ended the reinstated monarchy that had replaced the earlier revolution 5 . A second republic was instituted and later saw the election of Louis Napoleon as its president although he went on to establish an empire that lasted another 23 years. The Orleans monarch had been put in place following a protest that saw the July monarch, Charles abdicate his throne and flee to England in 1830. This new monarch stood among three opposing factions, the socialists, legitimists, and the republicans. With Louis Philippe at the helm of Orleans’s rule, mainly supported by the elites, favors were given to the privileged set; this led to disenfranchisement of the working classes as well as most of the middle class. Another problem that caused this revolution was the fact that only landowners were allowed to vote, separating the poor from the rich. The leader never cared for the needs of his subjects as some people were not permitted in the political arena. He also opposed the formation of a parliamentary system of government. Furthermore, the country was facing another economic crisis, and depression of the economy due to poor harvest 6 Poor transport system affected aid efforts during the depression and the crushing of those who rebelled.

It started with banquets as protests were outlawed, resulting in protests and barricades once Philippe outlawed banquets forcing him to abdicate and flee to England as well. Provisional government was formed, in what was called a second republic. Unemployment relief was incorporated in government policies and universal suffrage enacted, which added 9 million more voters. Workshops were organized which ensured the ‘right to work’ for every French citizen. Other impacts included reduced trading and luxury as the wealthy fled and this meant servicing credits was a problem. Conservatism increased in the new government with struggles emerging between the classes. Eventually, politics tilted to the right and this revolution failed once again, ushering in the second empire.

The two revolutions had very many similarities in their origins; the first was started out of social and political problems like, unemployment, which was widely prevalent. Similarly, the second was also aimed at establishing the right to work. In both cases, forced protests were used to ensure that revolutions took place and they all failed; the first, giving way to emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and the second ushering emperor napoleon III. In both cases, corruption was rampant as could be seen in the nobles of the first monarchy and the elite who were favored in the second monarch. Financial crisis and expected economic depression was significant in causing the two revolutions. The impacts were also similar in some ways as there were no stable governments during the two revolutions.

The first revolution was more radical as it caused terror and war as compared to the second, which was less violent; this is evident in the assault on Bastille. The causes of the first revolution were more founded on the basic rights of the people as compared to the second. The first revolution occurred when there was limited freedom to the public with their rights restricted to one vote by the third estate, while in the second revolution, there were provisional governments that had liberated some of the restrictions like the universal suffrage and characterized by struggles between classes. The first revolution was the initiation of the revolutions that followed and was characterized with heavy loss of lives during the reign of terror, while the second was characterized by more political and social systems that enforced changes.

The two revolutions failed to fulfill all their goals although they made several crucial changes such as universal suffrages, which added 9 million new voters. Many thoughts have considered the revolutions to make a huge impact on British Philosophical, intellectual and political life, having a major impact on the Western history. Some of the sympathizers of the revolution like Thomas Paine among other English radicals shared their sentiment at first, as they believed it was a sign of liberty, fraternity and Equality. However, when it turned into exterminations and terror, it gave second thoughts to the earlier supporters. In the end, after the second revolution’s failure, a second state was put in office, led by Napoleon III; he purged the republicans, thereby dissolving the National Assembly, and then established a second empire, restoring the old order. It is imperative to note that the revolutions made great significance in the developments of Europe as a whole.

  • Betts F. R., 2000. Europe In Retrospect: A Brief History of the Past two hundred years. Britannia,LLC .
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  • Emmet K.1989. A Cultural History of the French Revolution. New Haven: Yale University Press . Print.
  • Rappot M. 2009. 1848: Year of Revolution . Basic Books . Web.
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  • Walker L.H. 2001. Sweet and Consoling Virtue: The Memoirs of Madame Roland. Eighteenth-Century Studies, French Revolutionary Culture .
  • E. F. Smitha, 2002, The French Revolution. Macrohistory and World Report . P. 1-8.
  • D. Cody 2007. French Revolution. The Victorian Web .
  • K. Emmet 1989. A Cultural History of the French Revolution. New Haven: Yale University Press . Print.
  • L.H. Walker 2001. Sweet and Consoling Virtue: The Memoirs of Madame Roland. Eighteenth-Century Studies, French Revolutionary Culture . Pg. 403-419.
  • M. Rappot 2009. 1848: Year of Revolution. Basic Books .
  • F. R. Betts 2000. Europe In Retrospect: A Brief History of the Past two hundred years . Britannia,LLC .
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Essays on French Revolution

The French Revolution was one of the most significant events in modern European history. The revolution, which began in 1789 and lasted for a decade, had a profound impact on France and the rest of the world. It brought about radical changes in politics, society, and culture, and laid the foundation for the modern nation-state. As such, it is a rich and complex topic for historical analysis and provides ample opportunity for engaging essays.

When it comes to writing an essay on the French Revolution, choosing the right topic is crucial. The French Revolution was a multifaceted event, and there are numerous aspects and themes to explore. By selecting the right topic, you can delve deeper into the subject matter and present a more insightful and well-researched essay.

When selecting a topic for your French Revolution essay, it's important to consider your interests and the available research material. Choose a topic that you are passionate about and that has enough scholarly resources to support your arguments. Additionally, consider the scope of your essay and whether you want to focus on a specific event, individual, or broader thematic issue.

Recommended French Revolution Essay Topics

If you are looking for essay topics on the French Revolution, you have come to the right place. Here is a list of recommended French Revolution essay topics, divided by category::

Political Aspects

  • The Causes of the French Revolution
  • The Role of the Estates-General in the Revolution
  • The Reign of Terror and its Impact on French Politics
  • The Rise and Fall of Robespierre
  • The Influence of Enlightenment Ideas on Revolutionary Politics
  • The Role of Women in the French Revolution

Social and Economic Issues

  • The Impact of the French Revolution on Peasants and the Rural Population
  • The Role of the Bourgeoisie in the Revolution
  • The Economic Causes of the French Revolution
  • The Abolition of Feudalism and its Consequences
  • The Effects of the Revolution on Class Structure and Social Mobility
  • The Role of Food Shortages in Provoking the Revolution

Cultural and Intellectual Changes

  • The Impact of the French Revolution on Art and Literature
  • The Role of Print Culture in Shaping Revolutionary Discourse
  • The Evolution of Revolutionary Symbols and Propaganda
  • The Influence of the Revolution on Education and Knowledge Production
  • The Legacy of the French Revolution in Political Thought
  • The Role of Religion in Revolutionary France

Global Impact

  • The French Revolution and its Influence on the American Revolution
  • The Impact of the French Revolution on European Monarchies
  • The Spread of Revolutionary Ideas in the Caribbean and Latin America
  • The Revolutionary Wars and their Impact on European Diplomacy
  • The French Revolution and the Emergence of Nationalism
  • The Legacy of the French Revolution in Global Revolutionary Movements

These essay topics provide a wide range of options for exploring the French Revolution from various angles. Whichever topic you choose, make sure to conduct thorough research and present a well-structured argument supported by evidence. By selecting a compelling and relevant topic, you can craft an engaging and informative essay on this pivotal period in history.

Was The Reign of Terror Justified

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Similarities and Differences of The French and American Revolutions

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Unpacking The Causes of The French Revolution

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Effects of The French Revolution on France

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5 May 1789 – 9 November 1799

Kingdom of France

Coup of 18–19 Brumaire, Civil Constitution of the Clergy, French Revolutionary wars, Reign of Terror, Thermidorian Reaction.

Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette, Napoleon I, Maximilien Robespierre.

The French Revolution was a watershed event in modern European history that began with the Estates General of 1789 and ended with the formation of the French Consulate in November 1799. French citizens changed their country’s political landscape, uprooting absolute monarchy and the feudal system.

The first of the general causes was the social structure of the country that was the feudal system. French participation in the American Revolution had driven the government to the brink of bankruptcy. In general, causes of the recolution can be seen as arising from the failure of the Ancien Régime to manage social and economic inequality.

At the start of the revolution, the National Assembly demanded that King Louis XVI give the Third Estate certain rights. Rumours of an “aristocratic conspiracy” led to the Great Fear of July 1789, and Parisians seized the Bastille on July 14. The National Assembly drafted a new constitution in 1789. In April 1792, France declared war on Austria and Prussia, beginning the French Revolutionary Wars. On January 21, 1793, King Louis XVI was condemned to death, and, later his wife too.

Following the king’s execution and war with various European powers, the French Revolution turned into its most violent and turbulent phase. The "Reign of Terror" was an attempt to eradicate alleged "counter-revolutionaries", which lasted from 1793 to 1794. Over 16,000 people have been executed in Paris and the provinces.

On November 9, 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte abolished the Directory and appointed himself France’s “first consul”, that marked the end of the French Revolution and the beginning of the Napoleonic era.

Abolition of the Ancien Régime and creation of constitutional monarchy; Proclamation of First French Republic in September 1792; Reign of Terror and Execution of Louis XVI; French Revolutionary Wars; Establishment of the French Consulate in November 1799.

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good research questions about the french revolution

good research questions about the french revolution

17 Key Figures of the French Revolution

Harrison W. Mark

The French Revolution (1789-1799) was one of the defining events of Western history. Triggered by economic troubles, political turmoil, and social inequality, the Revolution saw the French people topple their ancient monarchy, proclaim their natural rights, inaugurate a republic, execute their king, start a continent-wide total war , devolve into paranoia-fueled bloodshed, and, finally, fall under the rule of an emperor.

The revolutionary decade contained both moments of calm and chaos, moments of peaceful nation-building and barbaric violence. Through it all, there were key figures at the center of it, men and women trying to either lead the Revolution or kill it. While some of them were able to control the flow of the Revolution for a while, most of them would find that the Revolution was as controllable as a tidal wave; those who did not get out of the way in time were surely drowned. The major exception, of course, was Napoleon Bonaparte , who used his countrymen's revolutionary fatigue and his own personal magnetism to seize power in France in 1799, ending the Revolution of 1789 for good.

This collection contains some of the most important figures of the French Revolution. It includes Enlightenment Era thinkers, whose ideas greatly influenced the revolutionaries; members of the French royal family and some of the king's loyal ministers; Feuillants, Jacobins, and Girondins, the revolutionary factions who worked together to topple the monarchy only to tear each other to pieces during the Reign of Terror ; and various other generals, political leaders, and assassins. While the protagonists of the French Revolution can be said to be the French people themselves, these actors certainly played major supporting roles in one of European history's greatest dramas.

Articles & Definitions

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Jean-Jacques Rousseau


Louis XVI of France

Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette

Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès

Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès

Jacques Necker

Jacques Necker

Honoré-Gabriel Riqueti, comte de Mirabeau

Honoré-Gabriel Riqueti, comte de Mirabeau

Maximilien Robespierre

Maximilien Robespierre

Louis-Antoine de Saint-Just

Louis-Antoine de Saint-Just

Georges Danton

Georges Danton

Camille Desmoulins

Camille Desmoulins

Charlotte Corday

Charlotte Corday

Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette

Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette

Antoine Barnave

Antoine Barnave

Jacques-Pierre Brissot

Jacques-Pierre Brissot

Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orléans

Louis Philippe II, Duke of Orléans

Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte

External links, questions & answers, who were some of the key figures of the french revolution, what happened to the leaders of the french revolution, what social class did the leaders of the french revolution come from, about the author.

Harrison W. Mark

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good research questions about the french revolution

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French Revolution Discussion Questions

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Table of Contents

Why the french revolution, questions about the timeline, questions about the ideals, questions about main figures.

Many historians have made note of the parallelism between the American Revolution and the ensuing French Revolution. In fact, both Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette played key roles in both legendary uprisings. However, the leitmotif of liberty soon yielded to chaos as various factions fought for power and control. Your middle schoolers will learn about many of the consequential events, ideals and main figures that made up the historic French Revolution.

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  • Why did King Louis XVI summon the Estates General on May 5th, and how long had it been since it had previously been summoned?
  • Who took the Tennis Court Oath on June 20th, and why did it turn out to be such a pivotal moment?
  • Who was responsible for the Storming of the Bastille on July 14th, and why is that day celebrated in France each year?
  • Why did so many nobles begin to emigrate from France on July 17th, as they began to foretell the future events?
  • How would you evaluate the significance of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen that was adopted on August 27th?
  • How did the people greet the publication of Marat's radical newspaper on September 16th?
  • What were the French clergy required to do on July 12th, and what happened to their special status?
  • What was the significance of the first annual Bastille Day anniversary celebration on July 14th?
  • What happened to the finance minister Necker on September 4th?
  • What occurred on the Day of Daggers on February 28th?
  • How did the passing of The Chapelier Law by the Assembly on June 14th affect the French citizens?
  • What happened when King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette tried to flee to Austria on June 21st?
  • What happened beginning on January 23rd that caused food shortages and riots in Paris?
  • What was the Brunswick Manifesto which was sent on July 25th, and how did it not achieve its intended result?
  • How would you scrutinize what unfolded during the Storming of the Tuileries Palace on August 10th, and what happened to the royal family?
  • What became of King Louis XVI on January 21st?
  • Who were the members of the Committee of Public Safety , which was established on April 6th, and what did they envisage for the country?
  • What did Charlotte Corday do to Jean-Paul Marat on July 13th?
  • How did the Law of Suspects initiate the Reign of Terror on September 17th?
  • What became of Marie Antoinette on October 16th?
  • Who was unanimously elected president of the convention on June 4th?
  • What happened at the Festival of the Supreme Being on June 8th?
  • What became of Robespierre and his followers on July 28th?
  • Who came to absolute power on November 9th to effectively bring the French Revolution to an official end?
  • How was the uprising by the Third Estate designed to bring about more freedom and democracy? Ultimately what did it end up doing instead?
  • How did Robespierre's noble idea of 'one man, one vote' eventually disintegrate into something much more chaotic?
  • The ability to attain and hold 'power' was crucial to the infighting that took place during the French Revolution. How did power continue to change hands over a ten-year period, and at what were the costs of these actions?
  • How would you explain the dichotomy between the fact that so many leaders in the French Revolution espoused noble ideals, yet had no problem committing bloodshed and violence, even against women and children?
  • The destruction of irreplaceable religious artifacts was a recurring concept of the French Revolution. Can you compare and contrast these incidents with similar ones that occurred in other eras, including World War II and the time following the year 2001?
  • How did each faction during the French Revolution seem to have a different definition of the word 'liberty', and how did each faction go about resolving this conflict?
  • Why did so many nobles in other European countries get involved in French affairs during this time period, and how did their involvement affect the chain of events?
  • If you could go back in a time machine and be a leader in the French Revolution, with which group or groups would you take sides? What ideas would you envision and implement to perhaps bring about a different outcome than what took place in 1799?
  • How would you juxtapose the incredible amount of violence and infighting that took place in the French Revolution with modern politics? Which of the two is more honorable and why?
  • How would you juxtapose the strength of King Louis XVI to help with the American Revolution, versus his weaknesses in running his own country?
  • What did Thomas Jefferson, who was living in Paris in 1789, do to assist in the cause of the French Revolution?
  • How did the Marquis de Lafayette, who helped George Washington in the American Revolution, play a role in the French Revolution as well?
  • In what way do French historians still debate the role played by Robespierre in the history of France?
  • How did the actions of Georges Danton influence the French Revolution, and what important post did he hold?
  • How was Jean-Paul Marat able to so strongly influence the masses, even though he had a skin condition that often confined him to a bathtub?
  • How did the dismissal of Finance Minister Jacques Necker lead to the Storming of the Bastille ?
  • What group was Charlotte Corday affiliated with, and what did she loudly proclaim at her trial after her confrontation with Jean-Paul Marat?
  • How did Minister of Police Joseph Fouche handle the Lyon insurrection?
  • How did Napoleon take advantage of all the fighting between the various factions, and what did that eventually allow him to do at the conclusion of the French Revolution?

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  1. French Revolution essay questions

    This collection of French Revolution essay questions has been written and compiled by Alpha History authors, for use by teachers and students. They can also be used for short-answer questions, homework activities and other research or revision tasks. If you would like to contribute a question to this page, please contact Alpha History.

  2. 119 French Revolution Topics & Essay Samples

    119 French Revolution Essay Topics & Research Examples. Updated: Feb 24th, 2024. 11 min. French Revolution essay is a popular task in colleges and universities. As such, you should know what you are expected to write when given this topic. For example, discuss the worldwide context in which the Revolution took place.

  3. French Revolution

    French Revolution, revolutionary movement that shook France between 1787 and 1799 and reached its first climax there in 1789—hence the conventional term "Revolution of 1789," denoting the end of the ancien régime in France and serving also to distinguish that event from the later French revolutions of 1830 and 1848.. Origins of the Revolution. The French Revolution had general causes ...

  4. Primary Sources

    The French Revolution Digital Archive (FRDA) is a multi-year collaboration of the Stanford University Libraries and the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) to produce a digital version of the key research sources of the French Revolution and make them available to the international scholarly community.

  5. French Revolution

    The French Revolution was a pivotal moment in world history, when the old order of monarchy and privilege was overthrown by the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity. Learn about the causes, events and consequences of this radical transformation in France and beyond, with World History Encyclopedia's comprehensive and engaging articles, images and videos.


    For a deeper, contextual understanding of the French Revolution as a whole, this site provides a series of essays and links to external resources that cover all the main developments from 1787-1815. Alongside summaries of the revolution's major periods, the essays also include more in-depth explorations of subjects ranging from women's ...

  7. The Oxford Handbook of the French Revolution

    Abstract. This text offers a comprehensive overview of the varied historiographical landscape of the French Revolution. Contributions consider in detail the intersection of longstanding debates and recent groundbreaking research, ranging from the social, economic and demographic shifts underpinning the condition of France in the 1780s, through the varied international contexts of the ...

  8. French Revolution: Timeline, Causes & Dates

    The French Revolution was a watershed event in world history that began in 1789 and ended in the late 1790s with the ascent of Napoleon Bonaparte. During this period, French citizens radically ...

  9. French Revolution Essay Questions & Topics

    French Revolution Essay Questions & Topics. David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics. The ...

  10. The French Revolutions: Causes and Impacts Essay

    The nobles that were allowed to make legislations were corrupt and often enriched themselves leaving the poor or the so-called third estates to lavish in poverty 1. This paper will attempt to compare and contrast the two revolutions, which occurred in 1789 and 1848, focusing on their causes as well as the impacts associated with their ...

  11. French Revolution Essays

    1 page / 646 words. The French Revolution of 1848 was the first of the revolutions happening all across Europe during the year 1848. The goal of these revolutions was to remove the old governments and create independent nations throughout Europe. The French revolution ended the July Monarchy (Louis Philippe)...

  12. The French Revolution Questions and Answers

    The French Revolution Questions and Answers - Discover the community of teachers, mentors and students just like you that can answer any question you might have on The French Revolution

  13. French Revolution

    The French Revolution was a period of political and societal change in France that began with the Estates General of 1789, and ended with the coup of 18 Brumaire in November 1799 and the formation of the French Consulate.Many of its ideas are considered fundamental principles of liberal democracy, while its values and institutions remain central to modern French political discourse.

  14. 17 Key Figures of the French Revolution

    The French Revolution (1789-1799) was one of the defining events of Western history. Triggered by economic troubles, political turmoil, and social inequality, the Revolution saw the French people topple their ancient monarchy, proclaim their natural rights, inaugurate a republic, execute their king, start a continent-wide total war, devolve into paranoia-fueled bloodshed, and, finally, fall ...

  15. PDF The Consequences of Radical Reform: The French Revolution

    First, the package of reforms the French imposed on areas they conquered included the civil code, the abolition of guilds and the remnants of feudalism, and the introduction of equality before the law and the undermining of aristocratic privilege. These reforms thus clearly relate to the above-mentioned debates.

  16. Research Guides: French Revolution and Napoleon Seminar: French

    A guide to help you research the French revolution and Napoleon containing links to the best research databases to use, primary and secondary resources, and citing help ... Use the blue tabs on the left to navigate through the different research areas and topics available in this guide. When you click on a tab, you will notice that the ...

  17. The French Revolution (1789-1799): Study Guide

    The French Revolution (1789-1799) (SparkNotes History Note) From a general summary to chapter summaries to explanations of famous quotes, the SparkNotes The French Revolution (1789-1799) Study Guide has everything you need to ace quizzes, tests, and essays.

  18. 16 questions with answers in FRENCH REVOLUTION

    Question. 3 answers. Sep 24, 2023. Napoleon Bonaparte is the father of compulsory public secondary school education in France ! Then other nations learned and applied compulsory public education ...

  19. Reference

    The French Revolution remains one of the crucial events of modern European and world history. The changes wrought in French society, politics, and the church have been commemorated and debated for more than 200 years. ... The ambition of this magnificent volume is not only to present the reader with the research of a wide range of international ...

  20. French Revolution Discussion Questions

    French Revolution Discussion Questions Instructor John Hamilton Show bio John has tutored algebra and SAT Prep and has a B.A. degree with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics from ...