Segment descriptions

Countries of the World Series
France, Part 2

                  Description: France 2

   France, Part 2:     
   sampler  3’50”    (58’ lecture)

What is the basis of the horror of the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution, and why did the Jacobins give it their blessing?.
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The 18th Century  (continued)




French Revolution of 1789.  The 2 crises of debt and food shortage.  The debt result largely from the substantial aid France extends to the American Revolution.  A session of the Estates General, composed of the clergy, nobility, and the commoners (Sans-Culottes) 1s convened.  The bourgeoisie form the National Assembly to recreate France with a constitutional monarchy. The Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizens is rejected by the King Louis XVI.  Spontaneous uprisings by the peasants.  Many nobles flee and peasants claim land. 




First, Moderate Phase from 1789-1791.  Bourgeoisie see capitalism as the economic future of France.  They use the legislature to seize political power.  Europe's nobility is fearful these ideas will spread, mobilize armies to attack France. 




Second, Radical Phase from 1791-1794.  France is attacked by European armies.  The French revolutionary army fights brilliantly.  A reign of terror by the Jacobins under Robespierre lasts 14 months.  17,000 are killed as revenge against nobles, including the king and queen.  A faction of the Sans-Culottes demand abolition of religion.  This is rejected by the Jacobins and Robespierre.  This small faction takes power and in days executes Jacobin leaders including Robespierre. 




Third, Moderate Phase.  The bourgeoisie win and the Jacobins (the peasants) lose.  Yet Europe continues war against France, making the revolutionary army all the more significant.




The 19th  Century




The Napoleonic Era.   Napoleon seizes power in1799He identifies with the bourgeois gains of the French Revolution, shifts to secular in social institutions.   The Napoleonic Code of Law, a major achievement.  Napoleon wins significant military victories, giving France control of Europe. 




Russia.  His invasion of Russia is a disaster and his army is all but wiped out.  He raises a new army, but inexperienced, it is defeated by coalition forces. 


Waterloo.  He is captured, escapes from Corsica, builds a new army, loses his last battle at Waterloo, and is exiled to St Helena in 1815.  Napoleon dies of cancer in 1821 at the age of 51. 


The Congress of Vienna accepts the bourgeois gains of the past 25 years, but brings back the monarchy without divine right absolute power.   


The White Terror.  The exiled nobles return to reclaim land, kill peasants.  The toll is greater than the reign of terror of the 1790s. 



The Revolution of 1830.  The monarchy tries to restore its old power but is stopped by Louis Philippe, and the bourgeois are in control. 




Workers’ Revolution of 1848.  The peasants now have new oppressors: the bourgeoisie.  In 1848 a workers' revolution breaks out in various European countries, including the Paris Commune, and is brutally crushed.  Karl Marx writes the Communist Manifesto, is expelled to London. 




The Dreyfus Affair.  He is a Jewish officer in the army charged with treason, is framed and sentenced to Devil's Island.  Emile Zola exposes this as anti-Semitism in his book, "J' Accuse!"  and Dreyfus is vindicated.  This is also seen as an example of the struggle between the royalists and the anti-royalists. France joins in carving up of Africa by the European colonial power, and had already taken over Algeria much earlier in the 1820s.  Germany, now unified, defeats France in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871.