What was the French Revolution? The French Revolution was a period of social, political, and cultural upheaval in the late 18th century. It is widely seen as one of the most violent and globally significant revolutions in history.
Why did the French Revolution happen? As royalty and the nobility lived a life of lavish excess (for royal history buffs, this is where Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France, played a significant and controversial role in the French Revolution due to her actions and image of excess and extravagance). Add to that, resentment for restrictions imposed on the working class by the ruling class, a growing economic crises—driven by involvement in the American Revolution—deepened in France, fueling the resentment and discontent of the bourgeoisie and peasant classes
Finally, a crop failure in 1788 sent living standards in France, then Europe’s most populous country, tumbling. As many citizens faced famine and poverty, restlessness with, and distaste for, the establishment grew. Many protests and uprisings preceded the noted start of the French Revolution.
How did the revolution start? On July 14th, 1789, a mob of Parisians stormed the prison at Bastille. Tired of the King imprisoning any political adversary, and hungry from a lack of food due to poor harvests, the mob released the prisoners and started the French Revolution.
Most historical records and scholars date the French Revolution as starting in 1789, when King Louis XVI and the French monarchy were overthrown. While this is when most of the key events of the era started, the beginnings of the revolution can be traced back to 1787 with the aristocratic revolt—a period when the French nobility sought to curtail the monarchy’s absolute power.
How did the revolution end? On November 9th, 1799, the revolution finally came to an end when Napoleon was declared the “first consul” of the Republic of France. While many of the bloodiest days of the revolution were over by then, this declaration brought 12 years of revolution to a close.
What did the revolution change? The French Revolution saw the end of the ancien régime (old regime) in France, turning the country from one ruled by a monarch to a republic. However, this change was challenged twice more during the 19th century, with mini revolutions happening in France in 1830 and 1848.