France was deeply in debt from wars, including insisting the Americans during the American Revolution. France had borrowed money from different countries to sustain itself, however in the 1780s these debts to other countries had been catching up with France.
Because of France's debt to other countries in the 1780s, in 1787, King Louis XVI (the reigning king at the time) attempted to tax the the Second Estate. However, the Second Estate, consisting mainly of nobles and wealthy business owners, refused to pay the taxes.
Not that much later than the Tennis Court Oath, King Louis started ordering soldiers into Paris and Versailles to ensure the continuation of the monarchy. The National Assembly was afraid that the King would use his military to end reverse everything that had happened. Therefore, citizens from the Third Estate stormed a prison in Paris to arm themselves against possible persecution by King Louis.
Shortly after storming of the Bastille, the Third Estate began to worry that King Louis would punish them and send his army in to kill them. Therefore fear gripped the revolution, and people began to gossip about what King Louis was up to or create stories about massacres that never happened.
Napoleon Bonaparte before he rose to power was a well-known and respected general in the French army. He forced British soldiers out of the port of Toulon and also defeated Australian troops in Italy. In 1795, Napoleon stopped an attempt to regain governmental power from a mob of royalists. Napoleon also disrupted the trade routes between Great Britain and India, as well as giving France more territory thanks to victories in Italy against Austrian-Italian troops.
The next reform that the National Convention made was an abolition of the old system of weights and measures and replacing it with the metric system, which was a completely new ideal at the time. A new calendar was also created at the time which had 3 weeks of 10 days each, but this calender quickly fell out of use.
After the end of the feudal dues for the citizens of France, the citizens reverted back to their conservative views. They disagreed with the anticlerical moves of the National Convention. When the draft came about, the citizens declared: "They have killed our king; chased away our priests; eaten everything we have and now they want to take our bodies... no, they shall not have them." This would lead to a Civil War, also called a counterrevolution.
Many people in France began questioning and doubting the revolution in the middle of 1793, and in order to prevent a counterrevolution, revolutionary leaders took drastic action and began a series of accusations, trials and executions that would become known as the Reign of Terror.
The meeting of the Estates-General is what the United States might call Congress or what Britain calls Parliament. The Estates-General is a meeting in which representatives from the First (the Churches), Second (Nobles) and Third (Commoners) would meet and vote on major issues. The Estates-General had not met for 175 years until this meeting. Each of the three Estates had only one vote and typically, the First and Second Estates voted together, outvoting the Third Estate. However, the Third Estate went into the Estates-General with a new plan; they wanted to change the voting process.
At the start of the Estates-General, King Louis declared that the voting process will continue as it has in the past. The Third Estate was not happy, and refused the Kings order. The Third Estate went on to proclaim themselves a legislature, at an indoor tennis court. At this tennis court, they wrote out a constitution for France, and because of this Tennis Court Oath to not be defeated, King Louis allowed each representative to have a vote at the Estates-General.
The violence which ensued at the start of the revolution had calmed down, and the National Assembly had created and adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. This was based off of the English Bill of Rights from the Magna Carta, and the American Declaration of Independence written just thirteen years earlier.
Due to a French defeat in a war between France and an Austria-Prussian army, France was in a lot of trouble. Food shortages and high prices due to the war swept across the country. People blamed the army's defeat on King Louis, and on August 10, 1792, a mob would march on Tuileries Palace in Paris and throw Louis, his wife, Marie-Antoinette and their children in jail. At this same time, the newly elected Legistlative Assembly felt powerless & elected itself out of the government and called for the election of a National Convention.
After the National Convention convened, the king was placed on trial by the Montagnards. They wanted King Louis quickly executed to prevent the return of the monarchy and defend the revolution. The former king was sentenced to death by guillotine, and on January 21 was executed. After he was killed, a guard held up Louis' head for everyone to see. The other monarchies around Europe believe this execution to be savagery.
After the establishment of the Committee of Public Safety, the National Convention created a new court called the Revolutionary Tribunal. This court was supposed to protect the revolution by eliminating people who threatened the revolution.
After the death of former King Louis XVI, the new National Convention immediately began to establish itself and begin healing France. The first of these establishments were the Committee of Public Safety. This was set up to manage the country's military defense against foreign invaders. This committee created a draft of all unmarried men between 18 and 45 into the French military.
As Napoleon won more battles, his popularity among French citizens soared. Once again, as a result of fear, a group of conspirators began a plot to seize absolute political power for Napoleon. In November of 1799, armed Napoleon supporters overthrew the Directory in a forced transfer of power called a Coup d'état (Coo-deh-taw). A new group called the Consulate would replace the Directory and members voted Napoleon Bonaparte in as first Consul.
Napoleon created the Napoleonic Code. This made the laws all the same across France and gave more fairness to the citizens. An example of this would be Freedom of the Press. However, because this was back in the 1800s, the code only applied to males, not females. Napoleon also established a network of high schools and colleges to prepare minors for jobs to support the French.
Many citizens did not appreciate the anti-religious nature of the last few governments, and Napoleon recognized this. Napoleon knew that most French citizens were Roman Catholics. Therefore, he allowed the Roman Catholic Church and influence back into France, much to the joy of the French citizens.
Napoleon established the Bank of France in order to regulate the economy. He also set up a more efficient tax collection system.
After Napoleon's defeat in Russia, Great Britain, Austria and Prussia allied with Russia against the French. In March if 1814, the allied troops entered Paris and defeated Napoleon, and made Napoleon surrender the throne. Napoleon was sent into exile in a small Mediterranean island named Elba with a little money and 400 guards.
Right before Napoleon's escape from Elba, diplomats from around Europe gathered in Vienna to create and restore order & stability to Europe after the Napoleonic wars. These people included Lord Castlereagh of Great Britain, Czar Alexander I of Russia, King Frederick William III of Prussia, Prince Klemens von Metternich of Austria, and Charles Maurice de Talleyrand (Charles attended on behalf of King Louis XVIII who had retaken the throne in France). Metternich wanted to restore old monarchies and compensate the allies for their losses in their recent campaign. The entire Congress agreed that the revolution was to be put down wherever it may appear. Through this Congress, many national borders were changed and monarchies were restored.
Napoleon decided to invade Russia. He began to position troops near the western border of Russia, and this made Czar Alexander I (the Russian ruler at the time) very nervous. Napoleon marched 600,000 soldiers across the border of Russian in June of 1812. However, many of these soldiers felt no loyalty or nationalism towards France or Napoleon because they were soldiers captured from former battles. Between hunger, extreme heat & disease, the French ranks were soon thinned. When they finally clashed with Russian opposition, the casualties were high for the French, around 250,000 dead. Napoleon and his army were forced to retreat back into France before making it to Moscow. Only 94,000 out of the 600,000 soldiers remained alive and made it back to France.
Russia, Prussia, Austria & Great Britain allied together to fight France. The Battle of Leipzig was the first battle in this new war. France would surrender in 1814
Napoleon came out of exile thanks to the help of Napoleon loyalists in 1815. This scared Louis XVIII and sent him running for Belgium. Belgian, Dutch and German troops aided the British against the French for a last showdown against Napoleon in Waterloo, Belgium. Napoleon was outgunned & out-manned, and lost fairly swiftly.