The French Revolution of 1789 was essentially influenced by the socio-economic milieu of the time. At that time the French society was divided into three estates/classes.

  1. The First Estate (Bishops)
  2. The Second Estate (Aristocrats & Noblemen)
  3. The Third Estate (Proletariat)

In the first estate Archbishops and Abbots i.e., the higher clergy exacted all the luxuries and the Priests of local churches i.e., the lower clergy, who were poor and looked down upon by the higher clergy, shared the pains with the proletariat.

In all the the first two estates, which formed around 6 percent of the total population, owned around one-fifth of the total property in France.

But the fact that they owned such a whooping property, didn’t, in any way made them liable to pay taxes because they were exempted from paying taxes.


Added to this they enjoyed many privileges. Their life was one of pomp and extravagance.  They used to hold high offices in the government.  The third estate was under privileged and the whole burden of taxes fell upon the frail shoulders of the proletariat, especially the taxes were deleterious to the poor artisans and labourers than to the rich burgeoisie.

This 94 percent of the population had to face untold miseries to make the first two estates enjoy their luxuries.

Every event in history has an economic angle to it and the French Revolution was definitely on economic issues.

The erratic taxation policy, lack of difference between the king’s personal income and that of the state, the glaring cleavage between man and man in according terms of privileges, denial of higher posts to the people of third estate, all these conditions suffocated the proletariat and pushed them to revolt to exact social justice and equality.


Thus the revolution was purely against the privileges, both social and economic, and not against property.



Kranthi Kumar