The petitions from rural communities focused in part on the abuse of seigneurial dues owed by peasants to lords for which, in principle, they received protection and supervision. But by 1789, on the verge of the French Revolution, these excerpts demonstrate that peasants considered their lords not as protectors but as exploiters who constantly turned the screws to extract ever more rent or... Read More »
This engraving of the attack highlights the heroism of the people charging determinedly into the billowing clouds and firing relentlessly in the face of strong resistance emanating from the fortress.
With the Bastille being destroyed in the background, a member of the Third Estate breaks his shackles. Here, the clergy and nobility recoil in fear, thereby emphasizing the conflict between the estates during the French Revolution.
Long after sans–culotte influence on the government had waned, social conflicts continued to drive some revolutionary events. Throughout 1794 and 1795, urban and rural radicals alike demanded "bread and the constitution of 1793," meaning that the government should feed the people and grant universal male suffrage. One such radical, who took the name Gracchus Babeuf, supposedly... Read More »
Novelist Honoré de Balzac (1799–1850) was a giant of nineteenth–century European literature. In his multivolume The Human Comedy, he investigated the general desire for social advancement in the post–revolutionary world. Although generally supportive of the Revolution, Balzac could also portray those rebels in the Vendée known as Chouans in a sympathetic or even romantic light, as the... Read More »
Here Antoine–Pierre Barnave, a well–connected and influential lawyer from Grenoble, represented those interests that wanted to hold onto France’s rich colonial possessions. He wanted to treat the colonies separately from mainland France in order to exempt them from the Constitution as a means of maintaining the production of those colonial products that were such a large part of France’s... Read More »
Like his predecessors of earlier generations, playwright Pierre–Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais—who became an important figure of the late Enlightenment because of the controversy surrounding his work The Marriage of Figaro —believed that a truly rational society would not tolerate arbitrary inequality.
The term "bourgeoisie" had many meanings in eighteenth–century France, from the most literal sense of "citizens of a city" to a more sociological meaning of talented and cultivated members of the Third Estate. Some eighteenth–century writers also used the term to refer to merchants. However, it did not yet connote upper–middle–class status or adherence to certain dominant social norms, as the... Read More »