westerncivlecture5 - Western Civilization The French...

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Western Civilization – The French Revolutions 1789 – 1799France, a land of extreme contrasts by 1789:oVery prosperous but with extreme povertyoHome of Enlightenment Philosophies but socially dependent on feudal privilege and obligationoSeveral elements in French society had very different needsOrigins of the Revolts:Conditions pretty miserable in France:oGood harvests led to low pricesGood for poor, bad for peasantsoBad harvests led to high pricesStarvation for poor, nobles press for maximum feudal privileges to make up for lossesMonarchy:Attempting to retain “absolute” ruleoUnder pressure from rising noble poweroHas very strong needs for new sources of revenueoHas to maintain a very expensive, extravagant courtly lifestyleLouis XV and Louis XVI much more restrained in that area than Louis XIVNobilityRising/regaining economic and political poweroDominated the parlementsBenefitted from the expansion of French overseas empireoAble to trade legallyExempt from nearly all taxationOwed extensive feudal privileges by peasantryoDues, rents, payments of grain, days of service on lands and roadsBourgeoisieIncreasing as a portion of the French populationGenerally urban and commercialWealthy had some political influenceoHad been moving into the nobility in fair numbers until 1760Poorer totally isolated politicallyHad no privilege, although most exempt from taxationPeasantry80% of the populationOwned 30-40% of the landoMostly in small holdingsIsolated from political powerOwed heavy feudal dues to nobilityBore burden of royal taxationUrban and Rural Poor:
Susceptible to fluctuations in food pricesRioting had become a common feature of the popular cultureFinancial Crisis of the CrownRoyal revenues began to fall behind royal expenditures early 1700soExpansion of the royal authority exceeded expansion of royal taxationoExpansion of overseas empire led to constant warfare and need for large army and navyoExtravagance of courtly lifestyleRoyal treasury supported by constant borrowingoInterest rates rose steadilyBy 1788, ½ of annual income went to interest on debtoNobility and wealthy bourgeois making a fortuneRemained nearly exempt from all taxationPolitical Crisis:Crown unable to remove parlements as source of noble powero13 remaining parlements required to register royal decrees before they become lawoNobility increasingly used parlements as tool to check royal powerCrown attempted to use intendancts to circumvent parlementsoYears of selling officies and titles had left a jumble of overlapping jurisdictions and inefficienciesParlements began to reject any royal decrees affecting taxation after 1763oDemanded the calling of the Estates General (had not met since 1614)Reform efforts fail, 1774 – 1788:Louis XVI called a series of finance ministers to tackle fiscal crisiso

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