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The French Revolution

The French Revolution (French: Rvolution franaise) was an influential period of social and
political upheaval in France that lasted from 1789 until 1799. Inspired by liberal and radical ideas,
the Revolution profoundly altered the course ofmodern history, triggering the global decline
of theocracies and absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and democracies.
Through theRevolutionary Wars, it unleashed a wave of global conflicts that extended from
theCaribbean to the Middle East. Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most
important events in human history.[1]
The causes of the French Revolution are complex and are still debated among historians. Following
the Seven Years' War and the American Revolutionary War, the French government was deeply in
debt and attempted to restore its financial status through unpopular taxation schemes. Years of bad
harvests leading up to the Revolution also inflamed popular resentment of the privileges enjoyed by
theclergy and the aristocracy. Demands for change were formulated in terms ofEnlightenment ideals
and contributed to the convocation of the Estates-General in May 1789. The first year of the
Revolution saw members of the Third Estate taking control, the assault on the Bastille in July, the
passage of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in August, and a women's march
on Versaillesthat forced the royal court back to Paris in October. A central event of the first stage, in
August 1789, was the abolition of feudalism and the old rules and privileges left over from the Ancien
Rgime. The next few years featured political struggles between various liberal
assemblies and right-wing supporters of the monarchy intent on thwarting major reforms.
The Republic was proclaimed in September 1792 after the French victory at Valmy. In a momentous
event that led to international condemnation, Louis XVI was executed in January 1793.
External threats closely shaped the course of the Revolution. The Revolutionary Wars beginning in
1792 ultimately featured French victories that facilitated the conquest of the Italian Peninsula,
the Low Countries and most territories west of the Rhine achievements that had eluded previous
French governments for centuries. Internally, popular agitation radicalized the Revolution
significantly, culminating in the rise of Maximilien Robespierre and the Jacobins. The dictatorship
imposed by the Committee of Public Safety during the Reign of Terror, from 1793 until 1794,
established price controls on food and other items, abolished slavery in French colonies
abroad, dechristianized society through the creation of a new calendar and the expulsion of religious
figures, and secured the borders of the new republic from its enemies. Many thousands of civilians
died during the Terror, with estimates ranging from 16,000 to 40,000.[2] After the Thermidorian
Reaction, an executive council known as the Directory assumed control of the French state in 1795.
The rule of the Directory was characterized by suspended elections, debt repudiations, financial
instability, persecutions against the Catholic clergy, and significant military conquests
abroad.[3] Dogged by charges of corruption, the Directory collapsed in a coup led by Napoleon
Bonaparte in 1799, widely seen as the final year of the Revolution. Napoleon, who became the hero

of the Revolution through his popular military campaigns, went on to establish the Consulate and
later the First Empire, setting the stage for a wider array of global conflicts in the Napoleonic Wars.