The last decade of the XVIII century was marked by an event that not only changed the existing order in a single European country, but also influenced the entire course of world history. The French Revolution of 1789–1799 became an inspiration for the preachers of the class struggle of several succeeding generations. Her dramatic events brought out of the shadows of the heroes and exposed the anti-heroes, destroying the usual attitude of millions of people in monarchical states. The basic premises and the 1789 French Revolution itself are briefly described below.

What led to the coup?

The reasons for the French revolution of 1789-1799 were repeatedly copied from one history textbook to another and boil down to the thesis about the overflowing of the cup of patience of that large part of the French population who, under conditions of heavy daily labor and extreme poverty, was forced to ensure the luxurious existence of the representatives of privileged classes.

Reasons for a revolution in France at the end of the 18th century:

  • huge foreign debt of the country;
  • unlimited power of the monarch;
  • bureaucracy of officials and lawlessness of high-ranking officials;
  • heavy tax burden;
  • tough exploitation of the peasants;
  • exorbitant demands of the ruling elite.

Read more about the causes of the revolution.

He headed the French monarchy at the end of the XVIII century, Louis XVI from the Bourbon dynasty. The power of his crowned majesty was boundless. It was believed that she was granted to him by God through anointing during the coronation. In making the decision, the monarch relied on the support of the smallest, but the most senior and wealthy inhabitants of the country - the nobility and the clergy. By this time, the state’s external debts had grown to monstrous proportions and became an unbearable burden not only for mercilessly exploited peasants, but also for the bourgeoisie, whose industrial and commercial activities were subject to exorbitant taxes.

The main reasons for the French revolution of 1789 are discontent and gradual impoverishment of the bourgeoisie, who until recently reconciled with absolutism, who patronized the development of industrial production in the interests of national well-being. However, it became more and more difficult to satisfy the demands of the upper classes and big bourgeois. The necessity of reforming the archaic system of government and the national economy, which is engulfed in bureaucracy and corruption of government officials, was brewing. At the same time, the enlightened part of French society was infected with the ideas of the writers-philosophers of the time — Voltaire, Diderot, Rousseau, Montesquieu, who insisted that absolute monarchy infringed upon the rights of the country's main population.

Also, the causes of the French bourgeois revolution of 1789-1799 can be attributed to the natural disasters that preceded it, which worsened the already difficult living conditions of the peasants and reduced the incomes of a few industrial enterprises.

The first stage of the French revolution of 1789-1799

Consider in detail all the stages of the French Revolution of 1789-1799.

The first stage began on January 24, 1789, with the convening of the States-General at the behest of the French monarch. This event was out of the ordinary, since the last time the meeting of the highest estate-representative body of France was held at the beginning of the XVI century. However, the situation when the government had to be dismissed and to urgently elect a new general director of finance, represented by Jacques Necker, was extraordinary and demanded drastic measures. Representatives of the upper classes set the goal of the meeting to find funds to replenish the state’s treasury, while the whole country expected total reforms. Differences between estates began, which led to the formation of the National Assembly on June 17, 1789. Its structure included delegates from the third estate and two dozen deputies from the clergy who joined them.

Education Constituent National Assembly

Soon after the meeting, the king made the sole decision to cancel all resolutions adopted at it, and at the next meeting, the deputies were placed according to class estate. A few days later, another 47 deputies joined the majority, and Louis XVI, forced to make a compromise step, ordered the remaining representatives to join the ranks of the meeting. Later, on July 9, 1789, the abolished General States were transformed into a Constituent National Assembly.

The position of the newly formed representative body was extremely shaky due to the unwillingness of the royal court to put up with defeat. The news that the royal troops are on alert to disperse the Constituent Assembly, stirred up a wave of popular discontent, which led to dramatic events that decided the fate of the French revolution of 1789-1799. Necker was removed from office, and it seemed that the short life of the Constituent Assembly was nearing its end.


In response to events in parliament in Paris, an uprising broke out that began on July 12, which reached its climax the next day and was marked by the capture of the Bastille on July 14, 1789. The seizure of this fortress, which was in the minds of the people a symbol of absolutism and the despotic power of the state, entered into the history of France forever as the first victory of the insurgent people, forcing the king to recognize that the French revolution of 1789 began.

Declaration of Human Rights

Riots and unrest swept the whole country. Large-scale performances of the peasants secured the victory of the Great French Revolution. In August of the same year, the Constituent Assembly approved the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, a landmark document that initiated the construction of democracy throughout the world. However, the fruits of the revolution had a chance to taste not all members of the lower class. The assembly abolished only indirect taxes, upholding the direct ones, and as time passed, when the fog of romantic illusions dissipated, numerous citizens and peasants realized that the big bourgeoisie had removed them from government decisions, ensuring financial well-being and legal protection.

Hike to Versailles. Reforms

The food crisis that broke out in Paris at the beginning of October 1789 provoked another wave of discontent, culminating in the march on Versailles. Under pressure from the crowd that burst into the palace, the king agreed to sanction the Declaration and other decrees adopted in August 1789.

The state has embarked on the establishment of a constitutional monarchy. This meant that the king exercised rule within the framework of existing legislation. The changes affected the structure of the government, which lost its royal councils and state secretaries. The administrative division of France was greatly simplified, and instead of a multi-stage complex structure, 83 equal departmental areas appeared.

The reforms affected the judicial system, which lost its sales positions and gained a new structure.

The clergy, part of which did not recognize the new civil status of France, was at the mercy of a split.

Next stage

The Great French Revolution of 1789 was only the beginning in a chain of events, including the attempted escape of Louis XVI and the subsequent fall of the monarchy, military conflicts with leading European powers that did not recognize France’s new state structure and the subsequent proclamation of the French Republic. In December 1792 a trial was held over the king, who found him guilty. Louis XVI was beheaded on January 21, 1793.

Thus began the second stage of the French Revolution of 1789–1799, marked by the struggle between the moderate Girondins party, seeking to halt the further development of the revolution, and the more radical Jacobins, who insisted on expanding its actions.

Final stage

The deterioration of the economic situation in the country as a result of the political crisis and military actions aggravated the class struggle. Peasant rebellions broke out again, leading to the unauthorized division of communal lands. The Girondins, in collusion with the counter-revolutionary forces, were expelled from the Convention, the highest legislative body of the First French Republic, and the Jacobins alone came to power.

In subsequent years, the Jacobin dictatorship resulted in an uprising of the National Guard, which ended with the transfer of power to the Directory in late 1795. Its further actions were aimed at suppressing the centers of extremist resistance. Thus ended the ten-year-old French bourgeois revolution of 1789, a period of socio-economic upheaval, the point at which put a coup d'état that occurred on November 9, 1799.