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In which estate were the soldiers prior to the French revolution?

In which estate were the soldiers prior to the French revolution?

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In which estate did the soldiers come prior to the French revolution?

In my book it is written "peasants had to serve in the army… " and "army was not open as I was not a noble by birth"

The enlisted soldiers in European armies before the French revolution were mostly third estate lower class. Most of the officers in most European armies before the French revolution were second estate upper class.

That is the general rule. Every society had its own twist and variation on the basic social classes. And every armed force had some variation in the class composition of the various ranks.


"peasants had to serve in the army… "

Was true for those peasants who volunteered or were chosen to serve.


"army was not open as I was not a noble by birth"

was also true for ambitious young men who considered careers as army officers but were barred from officer positions because of their low status.

So it is inaccurate to imply that privates in the army were mostly nobles before 1793. Privates were volunteers of low status or else were peasants conscripted against their will to fill enlistment quotas. Nobles or gentlemen in the enlisted ranks were rare in all pre revolution armies.

The two quotes relate to two different time periods.

Before the Revolution:

The medieval division of society into "those who fought (nobility), those who prayed (clergy), and those who worked (everyone else)" still held strong and warfare was considered a domain of the nobles.

Remember that, unlike England with its primogeniture, in France the title was inherited by all sons, there there were plenty of petty nobles with no means of self-support besides their sword.

After the Revolution:

On 17 August 1793, the Convention voted for general conscription, the levée en masse, which mobilised all citizens to serve as soldiers or suppliers in the war effort.

MCQ Questions for Class 9 History Chapter 1 The French Revolution with Answers

Check the below NCERT MCQ Questions for Class 9 History Chapter 1 The French Revolution with Answers Pdf free download. MCQ Questions for Class 9 Social Science with Answers were prepared based on the latest exam pattern. We have Provided The French Revolution Class 9 History MCQs Questions with Answers to help students understand the concept very well.

Students can also visit the most accurate and elaborate NCERT Solutions for Class 9 Social Science History Chapter 1. Every question of the textbook has been answered here.

French society Problems Before The French Revolution

Click the button below to download this worksheet for use in the classroom or at home.

As if the system of estates in France wasn’t enough to cause resentment among the lower classes, towards the end of the 1700s, France was experiencing other problems too.

Problem 1 – MONEY

By 1787, the French government was bankrupt. It was 4000 million livres in debt. France had spent a lot of money fighting costly wars, but had nothing to show for it. Many people accused the royals, especially Queen Marie- Antoinette of spending too much money on luxuries. Others said that the tax system was corrupt and some tax-collectors did not hand all their taxes over to the government.

In 1787 the King asked the nobility to help him reform the tax system. As we already know, members of the first and second estate did not have to pay some taxes. King Louis XVI wanted them to start paying some of them. It is not surprising that they refused to do so.

Problem 2 – Bad harvest.

Most people in France depended heavily on agriculture and farming in the 1700s. In the years 1787 – 1789, terrible weather, heavy rain, hard winters and too hot summers led to three very bad harvests in France.
This led to peasants and farmers having smaller incomes, while food prices rose sharply. The poor harvests also meant that many French farmers became unemployed. Many poorer people were starving, but could not afford food and could not find a job. Meanwhile, the nobility, the clergy and King Louis and his family continued to live in the lap of luxury, in their palaces and chateaux.

Problem 3 – Louis calls the Estates General. May – June 1789

In August 1788, King Louis XVI called the Estates General (a gathering of representatives from all three estates) for the first time since 1614. The Estates General met at the palace of Versailles, just Outside Paris, in May 1789. There were 1100 members, or deputies, divided into three orders. The nobles, the clergy, and the third estate, which represented millions of ordinary French people, but only contained half the deputies (including some clever lawyers) The king hoped the Estates General would approve new taxes. The nobles and the clergy hoped they would control the affairs to continue their privileged lifestyles. The middle classes hoped for en English style democracy. The peasants hoped for solutions to their problems and were asked by their representatives to draw up lists of complaints. (cahiers de doleances).

The King summoned the Estates General to Versailles, where he had a body of troops. Some saw this as an attempt to frighten the representatives. He did not present them with any proposals for discussion, so they were left to think up their own ideas. This meant that Louis did not have control of the meeting.

Problem 4 – The National Assembly, June 1789.

The deputies of the third estate, having grown tired of the arguments over how each order should vote, declared themselves a ‘national assembly’. They represented 96% of the population and felt that they were the ‘true’ parliament. They wanted to draw up a constitution showing how France was to be governed.

On June 20th, the members of this assembly met at the royal tennis court. They pledged an oath (The Tennis Court Oath) not to leave until the King agreed to meet their demands. He gave way and deputies of the first and second estates became part of the National Assembly.

What were the Causes of Discontent that Resulted in the French Revolution?

The Causes of the Discontent that Resulted in the French Revolution were as follows:

(a) The government of France was an absolute, divine right monarchy which could have worked efficiently under an able King. But Louis XVI proved unworthy by neglecting the administration, imposing unequal taxation and reducing France to bankruptcy.

(b) French people were divided into three social classes or Estates – (i) the First Estate (Clergy), (ii) the Second Estate (nobility), (iii) the Third Estate (middle classes and peasant). The first two Estates had many privileges and few responsibilities. The Third Estate paid most of the taxes and received few benefits.

(c) There was no personal liberty or justice, and no freedom of speech, press or religion. Trials were secret, without jury and anyone who displeased the King was imprisoned in Bastille.

(d) The luxurious lifestyle of the Kings and nobility and their frequent wars forced them to impose unjust taxes on the common people and peasants who were least able to pay.

(e) The Middle Classes, though rich, had no political rights or social status and were often humiliated with inhuman treatment.

(f) All administrative and high positions in the army were monopolised by the first two Estates.

(g) Due to the above reasons, the oppressed formed secret societies to begin a revolution to end the Old Regime.

Short Essay on the Social Condition of France before the French Revolution

The 18th century French society was divided into four classes:

(i) Nobles, (ii) Clergymen, (iii) Bourgeoisie, and (iv) the third estate or Commoners.

After the royal family, the place of nobles was the most significant one in the French society. They had enough of wealth in their possession which they used to spend for their luxuries.

They lived in palatial buildings and enjoyed various privileges. They were fond of taking wine, gambling and torturing the commoners. Owing to division of property, their economic condition was worsened but they were still leading a life full of pomp and show.

The Clergymen

The clergymen in France were also divided into two classes: (i) the upper clergy, and (ii) the lower clergy. The Cardinals, Archbishops, Bishops and the Abbots formed the upper clergy while Curates, Parsons and Fryers composed the lower clergy.

The priests of upper class led a luxurious life and did nothing for the good of the public. They did not even have faith in the existence of God. Louis XVI once remarked:

“At least for Paris, we should have such an Archbishop who may have faith in the existence of God.”

The members of the lower clergy were not only educated and learned but also had firm faith in the existence of God. Apart from performing their religious duties, they used to educate the people.

The remained busy from morning till evening doing one work or the other but their income was very meager and they could hardly earn to meet the bar necessities of life.

They hated the clergymen of upper class. The inequality between the two classes created a gulf which could not b bridged.

The Commoners

They constituted about 85% of the total population in France. The nobles and clergymen both tortured them alike. They had to pay about 80% of their income in taxes to the government. The artisans, craftsmen, labourers and peasantry all formed the third estate.

They were exploited by the privileged class and compelled to lead a miserable life. They had to do much forced labour for the nobles and the church for which nothing was paid to them.

Their condition worsened all the more owing to the establishment of guild system. The big merchants exploited the poor labourers.

The Middle Class

The rise of the middle class is an important factor in France. They were well educated and had control over industries, factories and ban the doctors, writers, professors and big businessmen formed this class.

Thus they had intelligence and wealth both in their possession sometimes they used to lend money to the nobles even then their status in the French society was not equal with that of the nobles and priests.

It generated a sense of discontentment in them. They took an active part in conducting the French Revolution.

Thus in the French society people were not having the right of equality. The religious freedom was also not granted to them. They were compelled to lead a life like speechless animals.

The French philosophers criticised the then prevailing condition of France and guided the general masses towards revolt against the contemporary society and the unhappy, unfreeze and unprotected people raised their voice against the tyrannical system in France and thus the death knell of monarchy began ringing in France in 1789.

The Battle of Lake George

110 years later, the French and Indian War (Seven Years' War) broke out over France's expansion into British Colonial territory. The Lac Du Saint Sacrement - Lake Champlain region was crucial for the British to secure since the French dominated Canada and areas to the north. The French were using Fort Saint-Frédéric at Crown Point, NY to control the use of Lake Champlain and prevent the British from colonizing that region, so British General Edward Braddock ordered Commander William Johnson to defeat the French forces at Fort Saint-Frédéric.

As he traveled north, Johnson came upon Lac Due Saint Sacrement and re-named it Lake George for the British King.

In September 1755, a series of three engagements between British and French forces broke out at the southern end of Lake George. These would collectively come to be known as the Battle of Lake George, which is commonly considered to be one of the first major victories for the British against the French.

Estates General

The Estates General

The French government developed the Estates General to show, at any given time, that they had the support of the French people. However, the way the estates were set up, ‘support of the people’ wasn’t necessarily true. There are three estates in the Estates Generals, and they all had one vote. Therefore two estates could outvote one estate, even if that estate consisted of 97% of the population.

The First estate was the clergy. The higher clergy consisted of nobles, while the lower clergy were basically commoners, and were parish priests. The clergy collected tithes, and owned about 10 percent of France’s land, for which no taxes were paid. The clergy also ran schools, kept records, and supported the poor. The higher clergy often lived in Paris and Versailles liven extravagantly while parish priests led a hard life, living simply. It would be very reasonably to say that the lower clergy resented the higher clergy, for living better quality lives but doing much less work.

The Second estate was the nobility. Nobles held the highest positions at court, in the church, and in government. Nobles had many privileges, and we as good as exempt from paying taxes. They had the ability to collect taxes from the peasants on their land, including old feudal taxes that should have been irrelevant in the day, but were collected so the noble could live extravagantly. The nobles owned between 20 and 30 percent of the land in France, but consisted of about 1.5 percent of the population. Ironically, it was these nobles who offered their estates as places to hold salons, when the philosophes were the ones who ended up criticizing the nobles. Under nobility there was nobility of the robe and nobility of the sword.

Nobility of the sword are the old and traditional nobility, who have been around since the middle ages. These were the nobles seen at court, extravagantly prominent at Versailles, and these were the nobles who ran the provinces. Thought they held the most prestige, many of these nobles had small incomes, which were spent making them look wealthy.

Nobility of the robe, though they had some prestige, were not nearly as prestigious as those of the sword. Nobles of the robe couldn’t trace their linage back 100s of years, but were nobles because they paid the king to be made so. The monarchy needed money, and the soon-to-be-nobles had money, so kings were glad to give titles and positions for chunks of wealth.

Before I explain the third estate, perhaps read this quote by Abbé Sieyès. Influential people of the revolution will come in later.

1st. What is the third estate? Everything.
2nd. What has it been heretofore in the political order? Nothing.
3rd. What does it demand? To become something therein.

Abbé Sieyès, What is the Third Estate? (1789)

The Third estate was everybody else – 98% of the population, who owned 60-70 percent of the land in France. The third estate could be divided into three groups: the bourgeoisie, the sans culottes, and the peasants.

THE BOURGEOISIE: Being merchants, manufacturers, bankers, doctors, lawyers, etc. the bourgeoisie were the middle class of France and had wealth. However, having wealth did not give the bourgeoisie status, privilege, or any source of power. They were blocked by the aristocracy and the monarchy, who wanted to have everybody maintain the same social standing that they were born with, and tried to ensure no one could rise above their status.

SANS- CULOTTES: As urban workers, the san culottes worked trades in cities such as Paris. Named because they did not wear long pants/ breeches, the sans culottes were artisans but did not make nearly as much money as the bourgeoisie. They suffered the most when food prices rose and their wages did not. It was the sans culottes who pushed for equality in everything, and were the radical revolutionaries.

EVERYBODY ELSE: Peasants who worked on farms for the nobles were the poorest of them all. These people spent their lives struggling to survive, though French peasants were better off than those in the rest of Europe. Burdened by tithes, taxes, and rents, peasants were very suppressed people. They were not allowed to hunt, or even kill animals that hurt their crops.

NCERT Solutions for Class 9 Social Science History Chapter 1 The French Revolution(Updated for 2021 – 22)

After analysis of the previous 3 years’ examination papers, it is concluded that the following topics are the most important concepts from this chapter and should be focussed upon.

  • The outbreak of the French Revolution
  • Changes after Revolution
  • Classes of French Societies
  • Facts about Napoleon, the former emperor of France.

The French Society during the Late 18th Century-
The French Society comprised :
1st Estate: Clergy
2nd Estate: Nobility
3rd Estate: Big businessmen, merchants, court officials, peasants, artisans, landless laborers, servants, etc.

Some within the Third Estate were rich and some were poor.

The burden of financing activities of the state through taxes was borne by the Third Estate alone.

The Struggle for Survival: Population of France grew and so did the demand for grains. The gap between the rich and poor widened. This led to subsistence crises.

The Growing Middle Class: This estate was educated and believed that no group in society should be privileged by birth. These ideas were put forward by philosophers such as Locke the English philosopher and Rousseau the French philosopher. The American Constitution and its guarantee of individual rights was an important example of political theories of France. These ideas were discussed intensively in salons and coffee houses and spread among people through books and newspapers. These were even read aloud.

The Outbreak of the Revolution
The French Revolution went through various stages. When Louis XVI became the king of France in 1774, he inherited a treasury which was empty. There was growing discontent within the society of the Old Regime.

1789: Convocation of Estates General. The Third Estate forms National Assembly, Tennis Court Oath the Bastille is stormed, peasant revolts in the countryside, Assembly issues Declaration of the Rights of Man.

1791: A constitution is framed to limit the powers of the king and to guarantee the basic right to all human beings.

1792-93: Convention abolishes Monarchy France becomes a republic. The Jacobin Republic overthrown, a Directory rules France.

1795: New Constitution is adopted. A new Convention appointed a five-man Directorate to run the state from 26th October 1795. Churches reopened.

1799: The Revolution ends with the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte, Napoleon’s coup abolishes Directory and establishes Consulate.

Time Line: The French Revolution

1770s-1780s: Economic decline: French Government in deep debt. In 1774, Louis XVI ascends to the throne.

1788-1789: Bad harvest, high prices, food riots.

1789, May 5: Estates-General convened, demands reforms.

1789, July 14: National Assembly formed. Bastille stormed on July 14. French Revolution starts.

1789, August 4: Night of August 4 ends the rights of the aristocracy, the surrender of feudal rights.

1789, August 26: Declaration of the Rights of Man

1790: Civil Constitution of the Clergy nationalizes the Church.

1791: Dissolution of the National Constituent Assembly.

1792: Constitution of 1791 converts absolute monarchy into a constitutional monarchy with limited powers.

1792: Austria and Prussia attack revolutionary France, Robespierre, elected the first Deputy for Paris to the National convention.

1793: Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were executed.

1792-1794: In 1793, the Reign of Terror starts. Austria, Britain, the Netherlands, Prussia, and Spain are at war with France.

Robespierre’s Committee of Public Safety repels back foreign invaders.

Executes many ‘enemies of the people’ in France itself.

1794: Robespierre is executed. France is governed by a Directory, a committee of five men. The Reign of Terror ends.

1795: National convention dissolved.

1799: Napoleon Bonaparte becomes the leader of the French Revolution ends.

Women’s Revolution

  • From the very beginning, women were active participants in the events which brought about so many changes in French society.
  • Most of the women of the third estate had to work for a living.
  • Their wages were lower than those of men.
  • They demanded equal pay for equal work.
  • In order to discuss and voice their interests, women started their own political clubs and newspapers.
  • One of their main demands was that women must enjoy the same political rights as men.
  • Some laws were introduced to improve the position of women.
  • Their struggle still continues in several parts of the world.
  • It was finally in 1946 that women in France won the right to vote.

The Abolition of Slavery

  • There was a triangular slave trade among Europe, Africa, and America.
  • In the 18th century, there was little criticism of slavery in France.
  • No laws were passed against it.
  • It was in 1794 that the convention made free to all slaves.
  • But 10 years later slavery was reintroduced by Napoleon.
  • It was finally in 1848 that slavery was abolished in the French colonies.

The Revolution and Everyday Life

  • The years following 1789 in France saw many changes in the lives of men, women, and children.
  • The revolutionary governments took it upon themselves to pass laws that would translate the ideals of liberty and equality into everyday practice.
  • One important law that came into effect was the abolition of censorship.
  • The ideas of liberty and democratic rights were the most important legacy of the French Revolution. These spread from France to the rest of Europe during the 19th century.
  • In 1804, Napoleon crowned himself emperor of France.
  • He set out to conquer neighboring European countries, dispossessing dynasties and creating kingdoms where he placed members of his family.
  • He saw his role as a modernizer of Europe.
  • He was finally, defeated at Waterloo in 1815.

NCERT Solutions for Class 9th: The French Revolution History Social Studies (S.St)

1. Describe the circumstances leading to the outbreak of revolutionary protest in France.

The circumstances leading to the outbreak of revolutionary protest in France were:

→ Social Inequality: French society in the eighteenth century was divided into three estates namely The Clergy, The nobility and third estates. First two estates, that is, the clergy and the nobility enjoyed certain privileges by birth. They were exempt from paying taxes. The Third estate comprises of businessmen, merchants, Peasants and artisans, labours had to pay taxes to the state.

→ Political Causes: Long years of war had drained the financial resources of France. France had a debt of more than 2 billion livres. To meet its regular expenses, such as the cost of maintaining an army, the court, running government offices or universities, the state was forced to increase taxes which angered the people.

→ Economic Problems: The population of France also increased from 23 million in 1715 to 28 million in 1789. Food grains were now in great demand. The price of bread shot up. Wages did not keep pace with rising prices. This led to subsistence crisis.

→ Strong Middle Class: A new middle class emerged educated and wealthy during the eighteenth century. They believed that no group in society should be given privileges by birth. Ideas of equality and freedom were put forward by philosophers. The ideas of these philosophers were discussed intensively in salons and coffee houses and spread among people.

→ Immediate Causes: On 5 may, 1789, Louis XVI called together an assembly of Estates General to pass proposals for new taxes. Third estates protested against this proposal but as each estate have one vote, the king rejected this appeal. They walked out of the assembly.

2. Which groups of French society benefited from the revolution? Which groups were forced to relinquish power? Which sections of society would have been disappointed with the outcome of the revolution?

It was the richer members of the third estate who mostly benefited from the French Revolution.
The clergy and the nobility were forced to relinquish (surrender) their power.
The poor class of third estate and women would have been disappointed with the outcome of the revolution as the promise of equality, discussed during the revolution was not given. The poorer classes had no right to vote.

3. Describe the legacy of the French Revolution for the peoples of the world during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The ideas of liberty and democratic rights were the most important legacy of the French Revolution. These spread from France to the rest of Europe during the nineteenth century, where feudal systems were abolished. It inspired the Germans, Italians, and Austrians to overthrow their oppressive regimes. The French Revolution inspired the struggling nations of Asia and Africa who were groaning under the oppression of European colonialism. Tipu Sultan and Rajaram Mohan Roy are two examples of individuals who responded to ideas coming from French revolution.

4. Draw up a list of democratic rights we enjoy today whose origins could be traced to the French Revolution.

We can trace the origin of the following democratic rights we enjoy today to the French revolution:
→ Right to Equality before law
→ Freedom of Speech and expression
→ Right against exploitation

5. Would you agree with the view that the message of universal rights was beset with contradictions? Explain.

Yes, the message of universal rights was beset with contradictions:

→ Law is the expression of the general will. All citizens have the right to participate in its formation, personally or through their representatives. – In this line, it is stated that every citizen has the right to participate in the law however only men above 25 years of age who paid taxes equal to at least 3 days of a labourer’s wage were given voting right. The remaining men and all women were classed as passive citizens and were deprived of voting rights.

Hence, the message of universal rights was not very clear. The Constitution is only available for the rich. Women were totally neglected in decision making.

6. How would you explain the rise of Napoleon?

After Robespierre’s rule came to an end a directory was formed to avoid concentration of power in one individual. Members of the directory often fought among themselves leading to total chaos and political instability. This created a political vacuum in France. This was a conducive situation and Napoleon Bonaparte took the reign of power as a military dictator.

Napoleon saw his role as a moderniser of Europe. He introduced many laws such as the protection of private property and a uniform system of weights and measures provided by the decimal system.

The French Revolution Class 9 Extra Questions Very Short Answer Type Questions

Question 1.
In 1774, Louis XVI of the Bourbon family of Kings ascended the throne of ________ .

Question 2.
What was newly elected assembly called ?
The newly elected assembly was called the convention.

Question 3.
The burden of financial activities of state during the Old Regime was borne by the ________ .
Third estate

Question 4.
In France, the eighteenth century witnessed the emergence of a social group, termed as the ________ .
Middle class

Question 5.
The American constitution and its guarantee of individual rights was an important example for political thinkers in ________ .

Question 6.
The agitated crowd stormed and destroyed the Bastille on ________ .
14th July, 1789

Question 7.
The constitution of 1791 vested the power to make laws in the ________ .
National Assembly

Question 8.
The constitution began with a Declaration of the rights of ________ .
Man and citizen

Question 9.
The National Assembly of France voted in April 1792 to declare war against ________ .
Prussia and Austria

Question 10.
Who introduced Reign of Terror and where ?
Robespierre introduced ‘Reign of Terror’ in France.

Question 11.
The members of the Jacobin Club belonged mainly to ________ .
The less prosperous sections of society.

Question 12.
When was slavery finally abolished in French colonies ?
Slavery was finally abolished in French colonies in 1848.

Question 13.
One important law that came into effect soon after the storming of the Bastille in 1789 was the ________ .
Abolition of censorship.

Question 14.
In 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte crowned himself as Emperor of the ________ .

Question 15.
What was ‘Sceptre’ ?
Symbol of Royal Power.

Question 16.
The political body representing the three estates of pre-revolutionary France was known as ________ .
Estates General.

Question 17.
Which theory was proposed by Montesquieu ?
Theory of division of power.

Question 18.
Who proposed the Social Contract theory ?
Jean Jacques Rousseau.

Question 19.
A triangular slave trade started among ________ .
Europe, Africa and the Americas.

Question 20.
Women in France won the right to vote in ________ .

Question 21.
What did the French Revolution of 1789 stand for ?
The French Revolution of 1789 stood for the ideas of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.

Question 22.
What did the fall of Bastille signify ?
The fall of Bastille signified the end of the autocratic rule of the monarch.

Question 23.
Name the special tax levied by the church on peasants.
Tithes was the special tax levied by the church on peasants.

Question 24.
On what principle was voting conducted in the Estates General ?
Each Estate having one vote, was the principle on which voting was conducted in the Estates General.

Question 25.
What is a Guillotine ?
The Guillotine is a device consisting of two pole and a blade with which a person is beheaded. It was named after Dr. Guillotine who invented it.

Question 26.
What idea did the ‘Law Tablet Convey’ ?
It conveyed the idea that the law is the some for all, and all are equal before it.

Question 27.
Who was the leader of the Jacobin club ?
Robespierre was the leader of the Jacobin club.

Question 28.
What was the Estates General ?
The Estates General was a political body and was controlled by the French Monarch.

Question 29.
Who were denied entry to the assembly of the Estates General, called by Louis XVI on 5 May, 1789 ?
Peasants, artisans and women were denied entry to the assembly of the Estate General.

Question 30.
Why were images and symbols used in the eighteenth century France ?
The majority of men and women in 18th century France could not read and write. So images and symbols were frequently used instead of printed words to communicate important ideas.

The French Revolution Class 9 Extra Questions Short Answer Type Questions

Question 1.
Who was Robespierre ? Why Is his reign referred as the ‘Reign of Terror’ ?

  • Robespierre was the leader of Jacobins club which led a successful revolt and came to power. Robespierre ruled France from 1793 to 1794.
  • His rule is referred as the ‘Reign of Terror’ because he followed a policy of severe control and punishment.
  • All those who were considered enemies by him or who did not agree with him or with his methods were arrested, imprisoned and then tried by a revolutionary tribunal. If found guilty, they were executed.

Question 2.
How was the French society organised before the revolution of 1789 ?

  • The French society was divided into sections called ‘estates’ namely first estate consisting of the clergy, second estate comprising the nobility and the third estate comprising all commoners including big businessmen, traders, merchants, court officials, lawyers, peasants, artisans, labourers and servants.
  • The members of the first two estates, that is, the clergy and the nobility, enjoyed certain privileges by birth. They were exempted from paying taxes to the state. The members of this estate had no political rights and social status.
  • The entire burden of taxation fell on the third estate. All economic functions were performed by them.

Question 3.
Describe the incidents that led to the storming of the Bastille.
While the National Assembly was busy at Versailles drafting a constitution, the rest of France was seething with turmoil. A severe winter had meant a bad harvest, the price of bread rose. Often bakers exploited the situation and hoarded supplies. After spending hours in long queues at the bakery, crowds of angry women stormed into the shops. At the same time, the king ordered troops to move into Paris. On 14 July, the agitated crowd stormed and destroyed Bastille

Question 4.
What do you know about the abolition of slavery in France ?

  • It was finally the convention which in 1794 legislated to free all the slaves in the French overseas possessions. This, however, turned out to be a short-term measure. However, ten years later, Napoleon reintroduced slavery.
  • Plantation owners understood their freedom as including the right to enslave African Negroes in pursuit of their economic interests.
  • Slavery was finally abolished in French colonies in 1848.

Question 5.
Write a short note on the document ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man and citizen.’

  • The Declaration of the ‘Rights of Man’ and Citizen proclaimed freedom of speech and expression to be natural rights.
  • Censorship was abolished. Newspapers, books and pamphlets flooded French towns and reached the countryside as well.
  • Events and changes taking place in France were frankly discussed.
  • Plays, songs and festive processions attracted large number of people. Thus, people could identify with ideas of liberty and equality easily.

Question 6.
How was the Church responsible for the French Revolution ?

  • The members of the church, clergy belonged to the First Estate. The clergy enjoyed all privileges with no obligations. They lived in pomp and extravagance which led to resentment among the members of the Third Estate.
  • The church was owner of a big chunk of land in France.
  • The church too extracted its share of taxes called tithes from the peasants. Apart from this, the church also collected several other taxes.

Question 7.
State the election process of the National Assembly in France.
The constitution of 1791 vested the power to make laws in the National Assembly, which was indirectly elected. Citizens voted for a group of electors, who in turn close the assembly. All citizens did not have the right to vote. Only men above 25 years of age who paid taxes equal to at least 3 days of a labourer’s wage were given the status of active citizens, that is, they were entitled to vote. The remaining men and all women were classed as passive citizens. To qualify as an elector and then as a member of the assembly, a man had to belong to the highest bracket of tax payers.

Question 8.
What were the main ideas behind the French Revolution ?
The main ideas behind the French Revolution were :

  • The revolutionary ideas in France were propagated and preached by the famous thinkers and philosophers like Rousseau, Montesquieu. They favoured the abolition of such a social system that supported political, social and economic injustice and discrimination.
  • The French revolutionaries were also influenced by the triple ideals of the American Revolution, i.e., Liberty, Equality and Fraternity and they opposed the privileges enjoyed by the clergy and the nobles.

Question 9.
Write some of the main features of the French Constitution of 1791.
The main features of the French Constitution of 1791 were :

  • The constitution of 1791 vested the power to make laws in the National Assembly, which was indirectly elected. Its main objective was to limit the powers of the monarch.
  • The citizens of France voted for a group of electors, who in turn chose the Assembly. Only men above 25 years of age who paid taxes were entitled to vote.
  • The constitution began with a Declaration of the Rights of Man and citizens.
  • The constitution declared that it was the duty of the state to protect each citizen’s natural rights.

Question 10.
How did a directory rule in France ? Explain.
Write a short note on the Directory.

  • The new constitution made provision for two elected legislative councils. These then appointed a Directory, an Executive made up to five members. This was meant as a safeguard against the concentration of political power in a one-man executive as under the Jacobins.
  • The political instability of the Directory paved the way for the rise of a military dictator, Napoleon Bonaparte.
  • Through all these changes in the form of government, the ideals of freedom, of equality before the law of the land and of fraternity remained inspiring ideals that motivated political movements in France and the rest of Europe during the following century.

Question 11.
What was subsistence crisis ? Mention two factors responsible for this crisis ?
Subsistence crisis is an extreme situation where the basic means of livelihood are endangered.
Two factors responsible for this crisis were :

  • The population of France rose from about 23 million in 1715 to 28 million in 1789. This led to a rapid increase in the demand for foodgrains. Production of grains could not keep pace with the demand. So the price of bread which was the staple diet of the majority rose rapidly. Most workers were employed as labourers in workshops whose owner fixed their wages. But wages did not keep pace with the rise in prices. So the gap between the poor and the rich widened.
  • Things became worse whenever drought or hail reduced the harvest. This led to a subsistence crisis, something that occurred frequently in France during the Old Regime.

Question 12.
What is the significance of the “Tennis Court Oath” in the French Revolution ?
The representatives of the third estate viewed themselves as spokesman for the whole French nation. On 20th June, 1789, the assembled in the hall of on indoor tennis court in the grounds of Versailles. They declared themselves a national assembly and swore not the disperse till they had drafted a constitution for France that would limit the powers of the Monarch. The National Assembly completed the draft of the constitution in 1791 as a result of which France finally became a republic in 1792.

Question 13.
What were the causes of the empty treasury of France under Louis XVI ?
Long years of war had drained the financial resources of France. Added to this was the cost of maintaining an extravagant court at the immense palace of Versailles. Under Louis XVI, France helped the thirteen colonies to gain their independence from the common enemy, Britain. The war added more than a billion livres to a debt that had already risen to more than 2 billion livres. Lenders, who gave the state credit, now began to charge 10 percent interest on loans. To meet its regular expenses, such as the cost of maintaining an army, the court, running government offices or universities, the state was forced to increase taxes.

Question 14.
Write the importance of Napoleon Bonaparte in the History of France and the world.
Napoleon saw himself as a moderniser of Europe. He introduced many laws such as protection of private properly and uniform system of weights and measures provided by the decimal system. He carried out the revolutionary ideas of liberty and modern laws to other parts of Europe which he conquered. They had a great impact on people. He was a great general too.

Question 15.
Which laws were introduced by revolutionary government to improve the condition of women in France ?
In the early years, the revolutionary government did introduce laws that helped to improve the lives of women. Together with the creation of state schools, schooling was made compulsory for all girls. Their fathers could no longer force them into marriage against their will.

Marriage was made into a contract entered freely and registered under civil law. Divorce was made legal and could be applied for by both women and men. Women could now train for jobs, could become artists or run small businesses

Question 16.
What landmark decisions were taken by the National Assembly led by the Third Estate on 4th August, 1789 ?
Louis XVI finally accorded recognition to the National Assembly and accepted the principle that his powers would be checked by a constitution. On 4 August 1789, the Assembly passed a decree abolishing the fedal system of obligations and taxes. Members of the clergy too were forced to give up their privileges. Tithes were abolished, and lands owned by the church were confiscated. As a result, the government acquired assets worth at least 2 billion livres.

The French Revolution Class 9 Extra Questions Long Answer Type Questions

Question 1.
Who were the Jacobins ? What was their contribution to the French Revolution ?
Political clubs had become rallying point for people who wanted to discuss government policies and plan their own forms of action. The most successful of these clubs was that of the Jacobins. They got their name from the former convent of St. Jacob in Paris. They belonged to the less prosperous sections of the society. They included small shopkeepers, artisans such as shoemakers, pastry cooks, watch-makers, printers, as well as servants and daily wage earners. Their leader was Maximilian Robespierre.

A large group among the Jacobin decided to wear long striped trousers like those worn by dock workers. This was to set themselves apart from the fashionable sections of society especially the nobles who wore knee breeches. It was a way of proclaiming the end of the power wielded by the wearers of knee breeches.

These Jacobins came to be known as sans-culottes, literally meaning ‘those without knee breeches’. San-culottes men wore in addition the red cap that symbolised liberty. Women, however, were not allowed to do so.

In the summer of 1792, they planned an insurrection of many Parisians who were angered by the short supplies and high prices of food. On August 10, they stormed the Palace of the Tuileries, massacred the king’s guards and imprisoned the king. Elections were now held.

The newly elected assembly was called the Convention. On 21st September 1792 it abolished the monarchy and declared France a republic. Louis XVI was sentenced to death by a court on the charge of treason and executed on 21st January 1793. The queen also met with the same fate.

Question 2.
“The revolutionary government took it upon themselves to pass laws that would translate the ideals of liberty and equality into everyday practice.” Discuss this statement with special emphasis on the abolition of censorship.
The years following 1789 in France saw many such changes in the lives of men, women and children. The revolutionary governments took it upon themselves to pass laws that would translate the ideals of liberty and equality into everyday practice.

One important law that came into effect soon after the storming of the Bastille in the summer of 1789 was the abolition of censorship. Earlier all written material and cultural activities — books, newspapers, plays — could be published or performed only after they had been approved by the censors of the king. Now the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen declared freedom of speech and expression to be a natural right. They all described and discussed the events and changes taking place in France. Freedom of the press also meant that opposing views of events could be expressed. Each side sought to convince the others of its position through the medium of print. Plays, songs and festive processions attracted large numbers of people.

This was one way they could grasp and identify with ideas such as liberty or justice that political philosophers wrote about at length in texts. Newspapers, pamphlets, books and printed pictures flooded the towns of France from where they travelled rapidly into the countryside.

Question 3.
Did women have a revolution in 1789 and after it ?

  • Most of the historians believe that from the very beginning women were active participants in the events related with the French Revolution of 1789.
  • Before and during the days of Revolution, most of the women of France did not have access to good job training or education.
  • The women were paid lower wages than those of men.
  • In order to discuss and voice their interests, women began their own newspapers and political clubs. The Society of Revolutionary and Republican Women was the most famous of them.
  • They demanded the right to vote and right to contest elections as well as the right to hold political office. Women’s movement for voting rights and equal wages continued through the next two hundred years in many countries of the world.

Question 4.
Describe the social conditions in France before the French Revolution.

  • The French king drove France into useless wars bringing the country on the verge of bankruptcy.
  • French society was divided into three main classes called ‘estates’. The first estate constituted the clergy, the second estate constituted the nobility and the rest of the population constituted the third estate. The first two estates were the privileged ones exempted from all the taxes. The third estate shouldered the burden of taxation and had few privileges.
  • France was a centralised monarchy and the people had no share in decision making. Administration was disorganised, corrupt and inefficient. The defective system of tax collection and oppression created discontentment.
  • Peasants made up of 10 per cent of the population. However, only a small number of them owned the land they cultivated about 60 per cent of the land was owned by nobles, the church and other richer members of the third estate.
  • Peasants were obliged to render services to the lord. They have to work in the lord’s house and fields or to serve in the army or to participate in building roads.

Question 5.
Describe causes for the fall of Jacobin government in France.

  • The Jacobin government in France was based on extreme measures. The period from 1793-1794 is referred to as the reign of terror. Robespierre followed a policy of severe control and punishment. All those he saw as being ‘enemies’ of the republic-nobles and clergy, members of other political parties, even members of his own party who did not agree with his methods-were arrested, imprisoned and guillotined. This led to chaos and resentment among the people.
  • The Jacobin government issued laws placing a maximum ceiling on wage and prices. Meat and bread were rationed. Peasants were forced to transport their grain to the cities and sell it at prices fixed by the government. This led to a feeling of resentment against the Jacobins. Peasants began opposing them.
  • Robespierre’s government ordered shut down of churches and converting church buildings into barrack or offices. Thus the clergy turned against the Jacobin regime and hastened its fall.
  • Robespierre pursued his policies so relentlessly that even his supporters turned against him. They began to demand moderation and a middle path.
  • Finally, he was convicted by a court in July 1794, arrested and guillotined.

Question 6.
Explain the role of philosophers in the French Revolution of 1789.
The role of philosophers in the French Revolution of 1789 were :

What Were the Grievances of the Third Estate in 1789

There were three national ‘estates’ in France, the First Estate made up of all clergy ranging from Archbishops to Priests and the Second Estate made up of nobility were the ‘estates’ that did not need to pay any tax at all. The Third Estate was defined negatively as everybody who did not belong to the first two estates including the bourgeoisie, the artisan workers and the peasants. With a total population of 28 million people, the Third Estate was the largest and most complex group of social classes during that time.

The bourgeoisie held the most amount of money among the Third Estate, yet they were also taxed the most without having any say in how the money was spent the artisans provided food and labours for the city the peasants were the vast majority of workers lived in the country, they had to pay feudal dues including extra payments of money, food or labour to the nobles apart from the original heavy taxation.

Therefore their grievances were predominantly against the unfair proportion of taxes that they had to bear, due to which they brought up the agreement of fiscal reform, meanwhile wider dissatisfaction with the privileges of the First and Second Estates was also reflected. However, different groups had their different grievances and actions as well. To avoid taxation, most of the bourgeoisie aimed to become nobles, consequently the successful ones spent large amount of money to purchase venal public office.

Yet by 1780s these positions were in a bidding frenzy which ruined the dream of those ambitious bourgeois. But ultimately, the grievances were originated from the lack of equality in taxation. Moreover, the political grievances represented by the request of voting by head were expressed immediately after the Estates-General, it was rejected by the King’s advisor Necker although he agreed to double the representation of the Third Estate. They still had to vote by order, where the first two estates could vote whatever privileges them.

As long as the superiority existed, the grievances of the bourgeoisie would not eliminate. As a result the bourgeoisie came up with the Tennis Court Oath during the June of 1798 which stated that they would remain assembled until a constitution had been written, meeting wherever it was required and resisting pressures from the outside to disband. At the same time, a savage storm devastated the ripe crops in Paris basin which resulted in a food crisis On 13 July 1788.

The price of the bread was climbing, till 1789 the price reached the highest level since the reign of Louis XIV. People spent too much money on bread and pushed the artisans to the position of unemployment as most of the peasants and some of the artisans themselves cannot afford extra money except the cost of basic food. The fact perceived by the artisans was that the reforming ministers had removed price controls on grain and blamed the ministers for the removal of restrictions on the import of British manufactured goods which reduced the sales of French products.

The grievances led to the Storming of the Bastille, on 14th July 1789 which is stirred up by the news of events at Versailles. The artisans were concentrated at the towns and most of them were literate and militant therefore they could soon form their own powerful forces in the cities. They broke into the Bastille prison, in consequence de Launey, the governor of the Bastille, surrendered. The peasants were basically ignored by the Estates-General.

The bourgeoisie and the artisans might have a chance to voice their grievances, the peasants were totally excluded as most of them were illiterate and miscommunication always happened when they express their concerns to the local lawyer or lord, and more importantly they were too poor to be included by the meeting. The peasant families suffered even more form the food crisis as they had to pay more the feudal dues.

They started small regional protests of about bread price in late 1788 and continued to protest against hunting rights, feudal dues, tithes and royal taxes in early 1789. They rose up and destroyed records of feudal dues and properties of nobilities. Surprisingly, no grievances were against Louis XVI personally or against the Monarchy as an institution in 1789, the artisans even advocated the King’s advisor Necker and started to realize that the government was closely linked to them. It was all about inequality and the miserable life it brought to them.

Le Père Duchesne (Father Duchesne)

Le Pere Duchesne was an extremely radical newspaper during the French Revolution, published and edited by Jacques Hébert. Hébert published 385 issues from September 1790 until March 13, 1794 he was killed by the guillotine just eleven days later. The title was revived many times later (with no affiliation to Hebert’s original), usually during periods of revolt.

Below: Cover of issue no. 25 of Hébert’s Le Père DuchesneAgainst the “Indissolubricity” [sic] of Marriage and His Motion for Divorce

Charles Brunet published a compilation of Le Père Duchesne issues, accessible here. Below is an English translation of the extended title. Below that, is the bibliographic information in French.

Father Duchesne Hébert, or historical and bibliographic record of this newspaper during the years 1790, 1791, 1792, 1793 and 1794 preceded the life of Hébert, author, and followed by an indication of his other works .

Brunet, Charles. Le Père Duchesne d’Hébert, ou Notice historique et bibliographique sur ce journal publié pendant les années 1790, 1791, 1792, 1793 et 1794 précédée de la vie d’Hébert, son auteur, et suivie de l’indication de ses autres ouvrages. Paris: Libr. de France, 1859. Bibliothèque nationale de France


English: "You should hope that this game will be over soon." The Third Estate carrying the Clergy and the Nobility on its back Français : "A faut esperer q'eu.s jeu la finira bentot" Le Tiers-État portant le Clergé et la Noblesse sur son dos. (1789)

The Revolutionary press acted in many ways as the new political culture’s messenger to the public. The ubiquitous and persuasive powers of the press helped translate the complex Revolutionary happenings to the public. Furthermore, by reporting on and thereby publicizing otherwise isolated Assembly speeches, the press was essential to the Revolution’s emphasis on representative politics. During the Revolutionary era, the newspaper served as unofficial public representation, lending transparency and awareness to government proceedings. Some resources also provide a look at the press immediately following the Revolution, with Napoleon’s empire and the reinstitution of censorship.

Darnton, Robert, and Daniel Roche, eds. Revolution in Print: The Press in France, 1775–1800 . Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1989.

Hesse, Carla. Publishing and Cultural Politics in Revolutionary Paris, 1789-1810. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991

Hesse’s work focuses a bit more on the publishing side of the French Revolution as opposed to a more journalistic press focus. However, this is very informative on the industry as a whole and its connections with the Revolution before and after.

Hunt, Lynn. Politics, Culture, and Class in the French Revolution . Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1984.

Hunt is another great authority on the press in the French Revolution, as is Popkin, below. Both have contributed to and published their own studies on the cultural-political and journalistic aspects of French Revolutionary historiography. (Naturally, both have collaborated with Robert Darnton as well.)

Popkin, Jeremy D. Revolutionary News: The Press in France, 1789-1799. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1990.

Popkin, Jeremy D. The Right-Wing Press in France, 1792-1800. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1980.

Kates, Gary. The Cercle Social, the Girondins, and the French Revolution . Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1985.

Kennedy, Emmet. A Cultural History of the French Revolution . New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989.


Coffin, Victor. “Censorship Under Napoleon I.” American Historical Review 22 (1916–1917): 228–308.

Jacques-Louis David's cartoon depicting Marie Antoinette en route to the guillotine.

Cook, Malcolm. “Politics in the Fiction of the French Revolution, 1789–1794.”Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century [Oxford], no. 201 (1982): 237–340.

“Texts, Printings, Readings.” In The New Cultural History, edited by Lynn Hunt, 154–175. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1989.

Kulstein, David I. “The Ideas of Charles Joseph Panckoucke, Publisher of the Moniteur Universel, on the French Revolution.” French Historical Studies 4, no. 3 (Spring 1966): 307–309.

Panckoucke (the subject of Kulstein’s book) was considered the French “Press Baron”–along the lines of William Randolph Hearst had he been the publisher of a French Revolutionary paper. While Le Moniteur Universel took charge in translating the National Convention’s endless verbiage to the public, it later became a propaganda machine for Napoleon and others.

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