The Roman Period
The 100 Years' War
The French Revolution
Restoration of the Monarchy
First World War
Second World War
The Fourth Republic
The Algerian War
De Gaule's Policy
The 1970's - Pompidou and Giscard D'Estaign
Mitterrand and Chirac
Source: France Ministry of Foreigh Affairs, The Library of Congress Country Studies and other sources.
<< Back to France History Index
The French Revolution
In the mid-18th century, France was weakened internationally by the expensive and fruitless Wars of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years' War. Under the Treaty of Paris (1763), France ceded control of Canada to Great Britain. The Enlightenment made France a world center of intellectual activity but also led to the questioning of the political and social bases of the French monarchy. An increasingly wealthy but powerless bourgeoisie chafed under the restrictions of an archaic socioeconomic order.
France under Louis XVI supported the American colonies in the Revolutionary War, incurring a large public debt in the process. Combined with unrestrained extravagance on the part of the court and the aristocracy, poverty increased among the rural peasantry and the urban working class, while the bourgeoisie demanded a greater voice in government. These trends came to a head with the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789; soon thereafter, the Estates-General took control of the country, and France was in the throes of revolution.
Revolutionary leaders at first allowed Louis XVI to remain on the throne in a limited monarchy, but the king and Marie Antoinette were subsequently tried for treason and executed in 1793. Thousands died during the Reign of Terror which continued until July 1794, ending with the execution of its primary architects, Augustin Robespierre and Georges Danton. The Directory, with five heads of each division of government (1795–99), failed to maintain public order and suffered military reverses in foreign wars in which successive revolutionary governments had been embroiled since 1792. On Nov. 9, 1799, the Directory was overthrown by the Consulate, with Napoleon Bonaparte named first consul.
NOTE: The information regarding France on this page is re-published from The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of French History information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about France History should be addressed to The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Copyright © 2005 Photius Coutsoukis (all rights reserved)