The French Revolution, 1788-1792

The French Revolution, 1788-1792

The French Revolution, 1788-1792

The French Revolution, 1788-1792

Excerpt

The word 'revolution' may mean either the forcible overthrow of an established social or political order (when an unconstitutional change is effected by the Government itself it is called a coup d'état) or any great change brought about in a pre-existing situation, even slowly and without violence. It is used in the former sense with reference to the two Paris revolutions of 1830 and 1848 or the Russian revolution of 1917. It is used with the latter significance when we say that Columbus brought about a revolution in mediaeval geography, Copernicus in astronomy and Galileo in scientific method: and that an industrial revolution began in England during the second half of the eighteenth century.

The word can be used in both senses for the upheaval that took place in France towards the end of the eighteenth century. In so far as it consisted in the violent destruction of the feudal and monarchical régime, the French Revolution may be said to have come to an end on September 21st, 1792, when the monarchy was formally abolished. But as the creation of a new social and political order it continued until the coup d'itat of Brumaire, indeed, up to the time of the Consulate for Life, when nineteenthcentury France appeared finally constituted.

This book is concerned with the French Revolution as understood in the first sense. Its aim is to explain why and in what way the feudal monarchy was destroyed.

In this endeavour it has been necessary to present the four revolutionary years in relation to a complex system of cause and effect the origins of which must be traced to former times, often centuries before the Revolution itself. A considerable part of the book, therefore, is devoted to social conditions, ideas and events chronologically remote from, but logically bound up with, the revolutionary period. The author's aim has been, not to bring new facts to light, but simply to put before his readers, in a rapid synthesis, the conclusions he has reached in the course of extensive study of the subject.

The history of these years is covered by a single term, the . . .

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