1-3: Causes of the French Revolution

french revolution

Causes of the French Revolution


Part 1 of 1: Look over the causes of the French Revolution below and determine which Bold title is the most appropriate caption for each primary source. You can Either print out and directly label the 6 sources or in your homework portfolio indicate which sources is which by placing the title next to the letter of the source. (For Example: A – Absolute Monarchy; B – Social and Political Inequality; C – Economic Injustices etc)


Causes of the French Revolution

  • Social and Political InequalityFrance had three social classes.The clergy were the First Estate.The titlednobilitywere theSecond Estate.The Third Estate was made up of the rest of society including the bourgeoisie (middle class), poor city workers, and rural peasants(the largest group).The Third estate resented heavy taxes and lack of rights.
  • Absolute MonarchyOn the eve of the revolution,France had an absolute monarchy under Louis XVI.  Under Louis, most people were denied basic rights and any say in government while he lived in a lavish palace at Versailles.
Estate Percentage ofPopulation Land ownership
First 0.5% 70%
Second 1.5% 20%
Third 98% 10%


  •  Natural Disasters France had suffered one of the worst winters in memory and several years of bad harvests were beginning to wreak havoc on food prices. As a result more and more peasants went hungry.
  • EnlightenmentEnlightenment thinkers criticized France’s absolute monarch and the tax burden on the Third Estate.They also called for democratic reforms.
  • English and American ExamplesEngland’s Glorious Revolution provided an example of how an absolute monarch could be defeated by their own people.The American Revolution proved that it was possible to set up a government based on liberty and equality.
  • Economic InjusticesBy the late 1780’s, the government with its lavish court and expensive wars spent more money than it earned (deficit spending). Taxes were raised on the Third Estate.In addition, there was a poor harvest in 1789 which caused food prices to rise. Many did not have enough to eat and began to riot demanding bread.



Source A Title:_______________________________________


Source B Title: _______________________________________

“Man was born free, yet every where he is in chains.”

–Rousseau, SocialContract

“Rousseau believed that government should work for the benefit of the common good, not for the wealthy few…. Rousseau despised inequality in society. He believed that all people were equal and should be recognized as equal in society. His view would inspire Revolutionaries in years to come”

–Taken From: Goldberg, Steven(Ed.).(2008).Humanlegacy,Modernera.Austin,TX:Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.


Source C Title:_______________________________________

The plan of this book is fairly simple. We must ask ourselves three questions.

  1.  What is the Third State? ~ Everything.
  2. What has it been until now in the political order? ~ Nothing.
  3. What does it want to be? ~ Something….

The Third Estate embraces then all that which belongs to the nation; and all that which is not the Third Estate, cannot be regarded as being of the nation.

What is the Third Estate? ~ It is everything.

Abbe Sieyes,Qu’est-ce que le tiers état,),pamphlet written as an attack on the Clergy and Nobility


Source D Title:_______________________________________

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”

                                                            ~ Declaration of Independence (1776)

“Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good”

“The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.

                                                                   ~ Declaration of Rights of Man and the Citizen (1789)



Source E Title:_______________________________________



Source F Title:_______________________________________

“Nature was creating economic problems.  First, a hail storm and a drought ruined the harvest.  Then the winter of 1788 was the worst in 80 years. Frozen rivers prevented water wheels from powering the mills that ground wheat into flour.  Food and firewood were scarce and expensive. As hunger and cold made life wretched for thousands of French citizens, misery grew into anger.”

~ Taken From:Goldberg, Steven(Ed.).(2008).Human legacy, Modern era.Austin,TX:Holt,Rinehart,and Winston.