What was the impact of French Revolution on the world?
The French Revolution gave the world a different model from the American Revolution. The American Revolution was a giving of rights taken away or an extension of rights. The Bill of Rights in the Constitution simply listed rights that various kings had previously affirmed belonged to all Englishmen. The American Revolution limited the tyranny government could do. The French Revolution on the other hand presented a violent overthrow of the old order. It was not an evolutionary change but a revolutionary change. Many revolutionary groups chose to follow the French style of Revolution. The main one was communism. The politburo was a thinly disguised committee on public safety. It served the same purpose. Stalin was Robespierre. They begin with high sounding rhetoric. It had a dream based on platitudes. It disintegrates into chaos. The dream that a people can live by platitudes keeps appearing and never works. A group takes over the government and becomes terrorist. The impact of the French Revolution has been to destroy the old order. Like the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution and the Chinese Revolution destroyed the old landowning nobility. All revolutions based on the French Revolution do that. Then internal corruption brings the collapse of the revolution. When no other way is seen to exist to get rid of a powerful entrenched nobility, a French revolution may occur. When the task is to prevent a return of tyranny as it was in Germany after World War 2, an American Revolution may occur.
The French Revolution, though it seemed a failure in 1799 and appeared nullified by 1815, had far-reaching results. In France the bourgeois and landowning classes emerged as the dominant power. Feudalism was dead; social order and contractual relations were consolidated by theCode Napoléon. The Revolution unified France and enhanced the power of the national state. The Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars tore down the ancient structure of Europe, hastened the advent of nationalism, and inaugurated the era of modern, total warfare.
Although some historians view the Reign of Terror as an ominous precursor of modern totalitarianism, others argue that this ignores the vital role the Revolution played in establishing the precedents of such democratic institutions as elections, representative government, and constitutions. The failed attempts of the urban lower middle classes to secure economic and political gains foreshadowed the class conflicts of the 19th cent. While major historical interpretations of the French Revolution differ greatly, nearly all agree that it had an extraordinary influence on the making of the modern world.
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1.) Destruction of the medieval social classes - Prior to the revolution French society was rigidly structured in three tiers: The Nobility, The Clergy and The Commons. This worked will during medieval times but by the late 18th century the lower and middle classes were becoming more educated and skilled in manufacturing, trade and other important areas of the economy and these classes felt (quite rightly) that they were oppressed by the privileges of the Nobility and the Clergy whose importance since medieval times had decreased considerably in respect to the Commons. The French revolution and other European (and American) revolutions would correct this imbalance.2.) Rise of nationalism - This is closely linked with the social classes. Nationalism is a powerful ideology started in the 18th century that promotes the idea of the all citizens especially the lower and middle classes should have a say in both the domestic and foreign policies of its government. This ideology became extremely popular in the American colonies and in revolutionary France and later all of Europe.This ideology had dramatic consequences for international relations as many European powers were multi-national empires spanning the globe and run by aristocrats and royal families. Nationalist ideology was an important part of the nationalist and revolutionary movements that occurred, the most important being: The American Revolution (1776), the French Revolutions (1789, 1830, 1848), the (near) German and Austrian Revolutions of 1848, the Unification of Italy (1867) the Unification of Germany (1871), the Russian Revolution (1918). There are many other examples such as the South American countries that revolted from Spanish and Portuguese rule in the 19th century to create their own nations. There was also the 60 some odd nations that were created in Africa after WW2. The middle east had a similar experience.3.) Enlightenment Idealism - The revolutions occurred from a long evolution in the way that Europeans perceived and understood the world and their place within it. In the late medieval and early modern period that proceeded the revolutionary movements Europeans were for the most part religious, superstitious and uneducated. However by the late 18th century (western) Europeans had made substantial progress becoming a much more educated, scientific and rational society than had existed before. This new understanding of the world saw the Ancien Regime of Kings, Nobles and Clergy as morally reprehensible and corrupt.
Furthermore, countries that adopted more liberal policies that favored democratic-ish principles and promoted the privileges of the middle and lower class were quickly out pacing their more conservative counterparts - for example the widely respected progress of the leading liberal countries the Parliamentarian England and the Dutch Republic during the 17th and 18th centuries were held up as an example by revolutionaries and were compared against the backwardness and poverty of more conservative states of Eastern Europe and Russia which in the revolutionaries minds showed clearly the importance of toppling the conservative ancien regimes and replacing them with new revolutionary liberal governemental structure.
1. The immediate law that came into effect after French revolution was abolition of censorship. As a result news papers, pictures, books flooded the towns and villages and influenced the people in France. Plays and songs attracted large numbers of people and propagated the ideas such as liberty, justice etc that political philosophers wrote about and only educated people could read.
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