Circumstances leading to the outbreak of revolutionary protest in France

The outbreak of revolutionary protest in France was a culmination of social, political, intellectual and economic factors.

(i) Louis XVI the king of France was autocratic, led a life of luxury, was inefficient and weak willed.

(ii) The social order of France was marked by gross inequalities. The clergy and nobility which formed the first two Estates were the privileged classes. They were exempt from payment of state taxes. The Third Estate formed the majority of the population was the unprivileged class bore the burden of taxes, with no political rights and social status. Hence, they were a profoundly discontented lot.


(iii) To add to the problem was the financial crisis that forced the situation. The treasury of the king was empty on account of long wars, involvement in the American War of Independence, luxurious living of the king and faulty system of taxation. The privileged estates that could pay would not pay. The already burdened Third Estate could not pay.

(iv) 18th century France witnessed a revolution in the realm of ideas. The philosophers refuted the theory of divine right of kings and absolute monarchy and proclaimed the doctrine of equality of man and sovereignty of the people. They played a vital role in exposing the evils of the old regime and focusing the discontent.

(v) In France the people had no share in decision making. The French Parliament known as the Estates General had not been convened for 175 years. Administration was corrupt, inefficient and disorganised.