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history 1401 - Book Analysis The Old Regime and the...

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Book Analysis: The Old Regime and the Revolution Andrew Lai 250465864 History 1401E October 24 th , 2008 Sophie Malek
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Lai 1 The French Revolution marked a milestone in the history of mankind both through the breadth of ideas and results it encompassed and spawned. “The Revolution was the object of universal curiosity; throughout the world it gave rise to a sort of hazy notion that a new era was beginning, to vague hopes of change and reform.” 1 A remarkable event in itself, Alexis de Tocqueville sought to analyze the period in France just preceding the Revolution in his work “The Old Regime and the Revolution” . Written decades after the French Revolution, Tocqueville aimed to seek the origins of the Revolution, and as well, sought to explain the peculiar oddity that such a revolution failed to occur in the countries seen as either more traditional and oppressive, or more modern than France itself. Landownership amongst the peasantry, the diminishment of the nobility, and the vast bureaucratic structure implemented in France were all attributes unique to pre-Revolutionary France which determined why France incurred revolution, while other European countries did not. While these attributes by themselves did not cause revolution, the implications that lay in the effects of these principles certainly did prompt revolution. The proprietorship of land amongst the French peasants differentiated them from other European peasant counterparts and helped to feed the flames of the Revolution in France. Though the proprietorship of land by peasants was not a new idea, and could be seen in countries like England or Germany, nowhere did it come close to the level found in France. In England, there had been peasant proprietors; however, they were becoming relics of an older age. In the German states, there existed peasant proprietors; however, their numbers were minuscule at 1 1 Alexis de Tocqueville, The Old Regime and the Revolution , Eds. François Furet and Françoise Mélonio, Trans. Alan S. Kahan (Chicago, U of Chicago Press, 1998) 93.
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Lai 2 best. 2 In direct contrast to the peasants of these countries, French peasants yielded a powerful landownership force. As much as a king holds on to his castle and crown as signs of power, so too did the peasants with their land. For peasants, land was their symbolic symbol of power in society: though they did not bear as much influence as the clergy or the bourgeoisie in society, land for many of them was their precious commodity and great indicator of their position in France. Given the peasantry’s passion for their land, it is not surprising how easy it would be to
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