The Origins of the French Revolution (Short-Term)


Louis XVI becomes King

10 May 1774

The Financial Crisis

Seven Years' War

1756 - 1763

-France is humiliated on land by Prussia and on sea by Britain (both Mediterranean&Atlantic).
- Lost territories in North America and India.
-Left with a huge debt

Jacques Turgot - Comptroller-General

24 August 1774 - 12 May 1776

Wanted to:
-Improve accounting procedures
-Reduce the amount of government officials
-Restrict the guilds
-Reintroduce free trade of grain
-Introduce a asingle tax on land

The Paris Parlement refused all his reforms, so he was dismissed.

American War of Independence

1775 - 1783

-Costly build their Navy up from scratch, as it was destroyed in the Seven Years' War
-The cost of helping American colonists - 1006 mil. livres.
-Won the war, but no territorial gains.

Jacques Necker - Director-General of Finance

June 1777 - 19 May 1781

-Secured loans to finance wars (520 mil. livres).
-Published Compte rendu (Crown's balance) for which the public liked him. The account omitted the war costs so it showed a surplus.
-Abolished many of the venal offices.

Dismissed because he wanted to become the King's secret council (but was a Protestant).

Charles de Calonne - Comptroller-General

3 November 1783 - 9 April 1787

Tax Reform:
-Replace capitation (tax on people)&vingtième (5% income tax) with a single land tax on all Estates
-Abandoning controls on the grain trade and abolishing internal customs barriers, which prevented trade = Fiscal stimulus
-Restoring national confidence for new loans, through an image of national unity

Due to wide criticism, dismissed.

The Government is on the verge of bankruptcy

20 August 1786

-Calonne informs Louis of the dismal financial situation.
-Deficit - 112 mil. livres

Assembly of the Notables

February 1787

144 princes, parlement members and bishops met in the Palace of Versailles

Rejected Calonne's proposals:
-Disliked Calonne
-Didn't want to give up privileges
-Some insisted on Estates-General

Royal Treasury is empty

August 1788

The Political Crisis

Loménie de Brienne - Comptroller-General

1 May 1787 - 25 August 1788

Seen as more cooperative by the Assembly of Notables

-Calonne's land tax
-End of venal offices
-New central Treasury
-Codified, printable laws
-Educational reform
-Religious toleration
-Army reform (less expensive&more efficient)

Year of the Political Crisis


Aristocratic revolt due to the Paris Parlement exile - riots in Parlement cities (e.g. Rennes, Grenoble) and unauthorised assemblies to discuss parlement support

Clergy also supports the Parlement - only pays 1/4 of don gratuit

Louis agrees to call the Estates-General

Loius exiles Paris Parlement to Troyes

15 August 1788 - September 1788

-Parlement exiled because they refused to pass Brienne's reforms, demanding an Estates-General

-Returned as the King is forced to concede.

The Economic Crisis

Bad Harvests

1785 - 1788

Leads to:
-Massive unemployment
-Rise in the price of food - lower demand for manufactured goods
= Rise in the power of bread

Eden Treaty


Allows for cheaper imports into France, which later leads to worsening economic conditions

Textiles production falls by 50%


-Formed 50% of all industrial production
-Led to further unemployment
-Adverse effects of the Eden Treaty - cheap imports

Price of bread rises by 60%


In comparison to 1726

Food riots and attacks on grain stores

March 1789 - August 1789

-Ordinary people blamed landowners for the food shortages - accused them of hoarding
- Led to the politicisation of the 3rd Estate