A revolution can be described as a move by a group of people in the society or the whole society to bring about an essential transformation in terms of organizational and power structures within a short time frame. Simply put, a revolution is a rebellion against the existing form of power and organizational structures, with a purpose of seeking for a better system. Throughout the history of mankind, there have been different revolutions that have been able to achieve different result, with some cases achieving the actual desired results whereas in other cases, such revolutions have failed completely to achieve any results. Among the revolutions that have occurred in history is the French revolution that occurred from 1789 to 1815, which was a revolution that was aligned towards seeking for political and social change in France and Europe in general.
There are various issues that have been cited as the main cause of the French revolution during this period. To begin with, there were serious economic problems that needed to be addressed by the French administration for this nation to be able to get back on track. According to Bonner and Wiggin (2004), there was a tremendous increase in the French population that subsequently led to a substantial decrease in the necessary resources, especially land, that were available to produce wealth for everyone (193). As a result of this, there was a serious decline in food production with the cities such as Paris facing food shortages that resulted in a rise in food prices. The French government at that particular time found itself in a serious economic crisis leading to bankruptcy as a result of serious borrowing to support its economic pillars. On the other hand, France experienced a serious social divide among its people prior to the revolution period. From the beginning of the 18th century, France had a booming economy that led to a rapid increase in population. As a result of this, the young generation comprised the majority of the population. However, most of them remained unemployed due to lack of resources, a factor that created a gap between the poor and the rich in the French society. This led to class resentment and social unrest among the social classes. The social unrest between different classes continued to be triggered by the fact that the wealth of the nation was largely held by the First and the Second Estate, with the Third Estate holding only a small portion of this wealth. However, the Third Estate were taxed heavily whereas the First and the Second Estate paid small percentages of tax or in some cases were exempted from paying tax.
Another factor that led to the French revolution was the fact that the leadership of the day was exceptionally weak. The French leadership at this time was led by Louis XIV, who was generally a weak leader, very impatient with the government affairs and in most cases indecisive. It has also been argued that Queen Marie Antoinette interfered greatly with the government affairs by offering poor advice to Louis XIV, causing him to make poor decisions that regarded his government. Despite the fact that France at this point had such kind of leadership, the French people were enlightened and believed that they were in a position of getting a good government and that the situation they were in could be made better for the sake of their lives. This was with the limitation that despite their enlightenment, they were being forced to take lesser than what they knew they were supposed to take. The French revolution therefore was meant to address social inequality among its social classes, nationalism and democracy, whereby people would be able to check on the activities of the government by having a bigger say in government decisions (Aulard 280).
The disparities that were being depicted in the French society led to the formation of the National Assembly by the Third Estate after Louis XVI called for Estates-General to meet in May 1789, yet refused to grant the Third Estate its desire for the three Estates to meet en masse and all the estate deputies to have the power of only one vote. The process of revolt did not end with the leaders of the Third Estate. Instead, rumors of attack led to riots by peasants who armed themselves and worked on freeing themselves from servant hood and against the wiles of the Old Regime. As a result of this, the French society for the first time was able to abolish social classes that existed at that particular time and created a society that was based more on citizenship of France rather than social classes. However, immediately after the revolt by the Third Estate who finally came up with their own constitution, there was a reign of terror upon France that led to the fleeing of most nobles from the France to neighboring countries. However, King Louis XVI fails in an attempt to flee and is recaptured and executed by the guillotine (Adams 265).
The execution of Louis XVI induced fear and terror in the neighboring nations that immediately attacked France. This was further worsened by the fact that there was a revolt against the new French government by the adherents of King Louis. Therefore, the French government under the umbrella of the National Convention began a massive murder which saw close 40,000 people, among them men, women and children, who were considered the enemies of France being guillotined. Similarly, France was attacked from nearly every side. However, it defended itself and called for revolt against any form of political and religious leadership in the countries that attacked it, i.e. Prussia, Germany, Austria and Britain. Such actions by the National Convention exhibited brutality rather than fighting for social reforms that it had promised. It is important for one to understand that whereas the National Committee came to power under the banner of fighting for social reforms that included the abolition of any form of discrimination, it continued with this discrimination by executing a lot of people without even trial, citing the fact that they were the enemies of France and therefore stood against the much needed changes (Aulard 283).
There are various promises that were made and also broken by the French revolution. One of these promises was the creation of a society that addressed societal needs by eliminating social disparities that came through the creation of different social classes. The French revolution was able to abolish these societal classes that saw the introduction of a system whereby every person prided in being a citizen of France rather belonging to a particular social class. It is however important to note that the period between 1789-1815 was a period of suffering by the French as war after another was fought with each group of people fighting for power in France. As a result, there were increased social injustices to those that were considered to be the enemies of France in terms of their stand against the revolution and the inability of different regimes during this period to adhere to the constitution thus failing to promote democracy. Finally, at the end of this period, France reverted back to a monarchy, led by Louis XVIII, a brother of Louis XVI who had been executed earlier on.