The French Revolution was a period of far-reaching social and political upheaval in France that lasted from 1789 until 1799, and was partially carried forward by Napoleon during the later expansion of the French Empire.
Dates:Jul 14, 1789 – Nov 9, 1799
Location:Kingdom of France
The French Revolution of the eighteenth century, to this day, remains a topic of very debatable, but at the same time very complex. To fit it into the format of an article, some of the stories will be built according to the chronology: the beginning of the revolution, the Jacobin dictatorship and the end of the revolution, and part will be devoted to those problems that seem most important to us: the causes of revolution, Terror, cultural changes in this era and historical significance revolution. And finally, it was impossible to do without counter-revolution: without it, the notion of this era would be incomplete. At the same time, we proceeded from the premise that our story will be about the revolutionary decade, about 1789-1799, although some historians prolong the revolution until the establishment of the empire, others include the years of Napoleonic rule, and others believe that it lasted until the 1970s XIX century.
What was the difference between the aims of revolutions in England and France? How did the French Revolution change the socio-political organization of the country? What role did the French Revolution play in the development of modern political systems in Europe and the United States? These and other questions are answered by the candidate of historical sciences Dmitry Bovykin.
The French Revolution is a phenomenon absolutely unique both in European history and, in general, in the world. From the point of view of facts, this is not always easy to grasp: what is so unique? They executed the king, established a republic – this was in England during the English Revolution: and the king was executed and the republic was established. Then France was ruled by Louis XVI, and it was not accidental that his hand book was the story of Charles I of England, he looked at the English experience, so that he would not be repeated and did not ascend the scaffold. Political struggle was fought, people were executed – this also happened in history. They wrote several constitutions – the French knew perfectly well that the Americans had written constitutions for individual states, and after the War of Independence. That is, according to events, the significance of the revolution is difficult to grasp. But at the same time there were things,
Firstly, this is the first revolution, which is turned into the future. What did the word “revolution” mean before this, in the Middle Ages? “Revolution” – that is, return to the starting point. The planet makes a circle, starts from a certain point of the orbit, makes a circle and returns to the starting point, and said that the planet has made a revolution. They said: the patient survived the revolution, that is, did not survive the October Revolution, but was ill, then there was, as we say today, a crisis, and as a result, the patient survived the revolution. And this is not a purely philological feature. During the years of the same English Revolution, everyone tried to return to the past: both the king and the parliament who fought with him, to that glorious past when England was a great power.
The French Revolution is the first one that has set its goal, as is customary for us to say, “we are ours, we will build a new world”. This, of course, made the French Revolution the first on the basis of what the enlighteners wrote, they were very trusted – an educated elite, of course. And it seemed that it was necessary to take some correct laws, write the right constitution, rebuild the country, and then happiness would come. This, in fact, the French Revolution was engaged.
In modern terms, the country has been completely reformatted. Previously, there were provinces that were familiar to us: Burgundy, Normandy, Champagne or Provence. Each province had its own customs, habits, languages, dialects, there were customs houses on the borders of the provinces, that is, to go duty-free, it was impossible to hold the goods. The inhabitants of a part of the provinces did not even consider themselves French, they said: “There they have a revolution in France, and we have something to climb into it.” The revolution has completely changed: provinces have been abolished, eighty-odd departments with more or less equal numbers of people appeared on the province’s provinces, the names of the provinces are gone, and the departments were given geographical names: Sen and Marne, Upper Alps, Mont Blanc and so on. . In addition, the goal was to combat the independence of the provinces,
The goal was set for all to speak French. It is clear that to realize this in a year, for two or ten, is unrealistic, but the path that was designated for this purpose appeared during the years of the French Revolution – it is an elementary school and a secondary school. That is, the school must teach the children to speak correctly, the school should educate the citizen of the future France. Century with superfluous for it struggled, in full this system has earned in the end of XIX century. From that moment on, the task was set for the French to speak French.
Prior to this, a Frenchman who had traveled from Paris somewhere in Montpellier, considered himself just a foreigner, he did not understand anything.
This is in the memoirs of the 17th century, when a French playwright wrote that he, like a muscovite, does not understand a word of what he is told in the streets.
In addition, the French Revolution, as far as possible, completely put an end to all the divisions of the French to create a single French people, or, as they said then, a single French nation. It is no coincidence that the nation was, and in England there was a nation, and there was the concept of the French nation, but the nation in the modern sense of the word with all that follows, with nationalism, with chauvinism is, of course, the creation of the French Revolution. And full equality was proclaimed, but before the law. They said: it is clear that the intelligent will not be equal to the stupid, the strong will not be equal to the weak, but before the law all should be equal. And the French Revolution abolishes all that the nation has divided: abolishes estates, abolishes noble titles, craft workshops, corporations – all this has been abolished.
There was a principle of electivity. Under the old order, as it was called what was before, the principle of appointment to the post reigned. Sovereignty of the king, the king appoints to all positions, some positions are sold. Now the notion of “sovereignty of the nation” appears, and all offices are elected, up to the bishops, that is, even to church offices. Later, of course, this was all corrected, some enlighteners wrote that the whole people should vote, it is unrealistic for the people to pass laws, the people elected representatives, and they adopted laws. Then, under Napoleon (Napoleon, of course, part of the revolution), the idea arose that the state appoints officials, prefects-all this survived to this day-to control what is happening on the ground. But in general, the principle of electivity has triumphed.
The principle which has received the name “meritocracy” has started to be realized – the best should rule: best on abilities, the best on talents. No European country has proclaimed this, it is unclear whether any country can achieve this at all, because there will always be some kind of struggle between people. But the French proclaimed it, began to implement it, it went with Napoleon. Marshal Ney is the son of a cooper, Marshal Murat is the son of an innkeeper, but no one cares about it – neither the origin played a role, nor wealth, nor any other virtues, but was appointed according to talent – ideally, of course. Then France will build a special system for this for about a century, and today, if you want to occupy many public positions right up to the school teacher, you must pass a contest and take exams.
There are a lot of such fragments in the history of the French Revolution, and on the whole they form the French political system, and today’s. If for us the October Revolution is an event that was unknown when, and the French one was 225 years ago, even more, and we do not have such events that would be so important, then for France the French revolution is absolutely official, at the level of official discourse it is the event is fundamental. And this is not just an ideology, it lives in the minds of ordinary Frenchmen, they are brought up by the same school. When there is a scandal on a religious basis or some other, they always say: this attempt on republican values is the values of the French Revolution, they were laid, and they can not be changed in any case.
Naturally, the revolution – an event fundamental in many respects not only for France, but for the whole of Europe. In 1792, the war begins, France itself begins it, no one, of course, could imagine that the war would last more than twenty years, until 1815 – contemporaries sometimes called it a thirty-year war. The revolutionary wars will grow into Napoleonic ones, and after the Congress of Vienna the Vienna system will be built – in 1815. The map of Europe will change, the principles that have been put in the basis of international politics will change. Historians argue how much this system has lived in its original form – 10 years, 15 years, 20 years. But there is a very curious fact that the nineteenth century is the most peaceful of all the previous ones. That is, some kind of international system after the revolution still managed to build.
And the importance for the whole world, which is not limited to either France or Europe.
The principle of 1789, as it is customary to say in France, is what is today the basis, the axiom of the European political model.
Freedom, equality of all before the law, the presumption of innocence, the law is one for all, people’s sovereignty, everyone should be elected – this remains the basis of both the European political model and the American political model, and from there it already spreads to the whole world. If we take the ideological currents that set the grid for events in Europe and the world in the 19th and 20th centuries – liberalism, socialism, conservatism, communism, whatever – everyone is looking for and finding predecessors during the years of the French Revolution, everyone is leading their own sources from there.
Virtually every revolution of the nineteenth century is believed in the French Revolution – and not only of the nineteenth century: the October Revolution – the beginning of the 20th century, and for the October Revolution, the French Revolution was officially recognized (this is in official speeches) as a prototype revolution. What happened in France more than 200 years ago became a prototype for what was happening under completely different conditions in a completely different country, and the prototype on many levels, starting from vocabulary – the same to us habitual commissars appear during the years of the French Revolution – and ending with the fact that during the October Revolution they constantly watched what stages the French had gone through, how the political struggle was going on in it, that’s where they have terror, and whether we have a thermidor. This was officially discussed at the level of the Central Committee of the Party, at the level of the largest party figures.