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Influence of the French Revolution on the Course of History

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It is argued that the great historical milestone that shook France between 1787 and 1799, known as the French Revolution, is one of the most important events of modern history due to the huge influence it had on human society and the momentous impact it had on Europe and the New World. There is no doubt that the Revolution of 1789 changed drastically the course of human history.

The success of the Tennis Court Oath facilitated the abolishment of absolute monarchy in France, perhaps the most crucial result of the French Revolution. Consequently a new constitutional monarchy was implemented. The French revolution brought about the abolition of Feudalism. Due to it there wasn’t anymore a difference between the privileged and non-privileged, ending the despotic system. With the feudal system ending, the farmers would no longer be obliged to pay tithes to the church and large amounts of unnecessary taxes to the landlords, improving significantly their conditions.

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The revolution of 1789 reinforced the extension of Human Rights and spread across not just Europe but worldwide a message of liberty, equality and fraternity (the famous French motto: liberté, égalité, fraternité). The country was ruled under the theory of divine right of kingship, however this changed after the revolution. This spirit of liberty, equality and fraternity is what caused nationalism to rise. It gave a deathblow to social status by birth. The French ended up having a stronger sense of nationalism after the revolution, and inevitably it didn’t take long for these patriotic feelings to spread across other countries in Europe. Solving the class inequalities would be impossible, however the only thing it could to was lead to the emergence of the middle class. From now on, France would face any possible threats as one nation. Due to the revolution, importance was given to culture. The country gave importance to art, literature and science. The controversy sparked by the French Revolution inspired people in many countries all around Europe to fight against the divine right of their kings hence provoking the political revolution taking place in Europe soon after the success of the French revolution. In 1848, France had yet another revolution that spread across Europe. These revolutions gave hope to societies where people were free and equal and made way for democracy in Europe as the 20th century. (Inspiring other Political revolutions in Europe, paving the way to democracy)

No one can deny the fact that the French Revolution inspired several other movements across Europe. It caused an economic crisis to outbreak in the Britain. This financial crisis had a deep effect British politics since it led the country to support anti-revolution parties, just like in Ireland and Poland. As soon as the the news about the revolution in France broke out in May 1789, here were a number of different mixed reactions in Britain in response to the news of the Revolution in France. The London Chronicle reported “In every province of this great kingdom the flame of liberty has burst forth,” warning however that “before they have accomplished their end, France will be deluged with blood.” The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1789, William Pitt the Younger, just like the government, were not against the events of the French revolution, unlike the majority of the British people. Even though the British people were against the revolution once they saw the aftermath of it and how much blood was shed, movement for social and political reforms started due to the spirit of liberty, equality and fraternity that dominated Europe at the time. These social and political reforms caused the division of the Whig party of Britain ultimately weakening it.

As a result of the fact that the French Revolution had upset the status quo which existed for centuries in France, and had influenced liberals and revolutionaries throughout Europe. The French revolution was the occasion for the outbreak of numerous other wars in Europe. It had a massive influence on Ireland and Poland as it was responsible for the encouragement of revolutionary activities in the countries, forcing the British and Polish governments to adopt more oppressive measures. The revolution caused different European countries to fear the autocrat rulers, spread the revolution, Europe was in a state of anti-revolutionary wars. The emigres which had fled the revolutionary upheaval during the early stages of the Revolution, ended up in supportive autocratic states such as Austria. Emerging in 1792, the Republican forces declared war on Austria. This resulted in the defeat of the Austrian forces at Valmy, furthering the victorious fervour of this new system. These warring circumstances however, were reinforced with the emergence of Britain in the conflict in 1793. As the French Revolutionary wars developed, the emergence of the brilliant military leadership of Napoleon Bonaparte is displayed, and in 1796, after two victories in Italy, the monarch of Sardinia, cedes the island, expanding his control eventually to Bologna and Ferrara. Eventually, with the Treaty of Campo Formio, 1797, the victories of Napoleon were entrenched, and the Republics of Cisalpine and Ligurian were established under French influence. The Map of Italy had been redrawn, and Austrian influence in Italy, had been effectively ended, until 1815, with the defeat of Napoleon, and the Congress of Vienna, which restored Austrian monarchic rule in the Kingdoms of Italy. During the rule of Napoleon and France in Italy, the Napoleonic Code was established, despite the his ultimate defeat in 1815, the Code had long-lasting effects. The Code established universal male suffrage in Italy, and fundamentally, civilian institutions were made secular, diluting the extent of Church Control which was so entrenched in Italy. Civil rights such as the right to divorce, or annulment were enacted, and property right such as ownership entrenched. Apart from Italy, the countries which had this Code applied by 1804 were Belgium, Luxemburg, parts of Western Germany, Geneva and Monaco.

A long term influence of the Civil Code is evident since when the monarchy in the Italian states was reinstated in 1815 with the Congress of Vienna, the liberals in Italy would begin to seek the freedoms that they had acquired during the period of Napoleonic Rule, and eventually develop into the growth of nationalistic organizations, and movements seeking alternative methods of rule such as constitutional monarchy, or even, a Republic, like that established by Mazzini in Rome in 1849. The French revolution enabled the ultimate decline of the Church’s influence on the people, resulting in the disappearance of the power that the high priests had on the French society. With the French Catholic Church having so much power and almost everyone being Catholic, the people of France started doubting the blind faith they were imposed to have and they finally were able to adopt a rather sensible and logical attitude towards religion. Dechristianisation was the attempt at the time to abolish religion in France during a two-year period known as the Reign Of Terror between the years 1793 and 1794 by creating new calendars, renaming religious landmarks and by plundering religious buildings. In addition to that, an “anti-religious campaign” had been established which included the execution of the clergy, the closing of many churches and both public and private worship of Christianity to be banned.

Things had changed, it’s almost as if the roles had been swapped; the priests were to be loyal to the French nation because of the oath they took on the new constitution. The state became the owner of the wealth of the church and the priests started receiving salary from the state.

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