Social Inequality As A Reason Of French Revolution
Cobban argues that the French people had been questioning the way in which France was run and ultimately wanted major changes which are shown through events such as the Tennis Court Oath where members of the Third Estate found themselves locked out of their usual meeting hall at Versailles and thinking that the King was forcing them to disband, they moved to a nearby indoor tennis court where they took an oath never to separate until a written constitution had been established for France.
Cobban believes that the French revolution was caused on the basis that it was a political uprising to overthrow the monarchy and its unjust system of how it ruled. However, this may be viewed as a short-term factor and lacks credibility as the Enlightenment and revolutionary ideas were being spread nearing the days of the revolution occurring. However, the increase of resentment for social inequality heightened through the distribution of pamphlets. They suggested that representatives should vote by ‘head count’ rather than by ‘order’; this meant all representatives should vote collectively as a single assembly, rather than as three separate bodies representing three different social classes. In addition to this, the pamphlets would present ideas of a new idealistic society, where those in the lower classes, and the educated middle classes, would be treated the same as the other orders.
These new concepts of how society should be, increased resentment regarding the social inequality; as those in the lower classes/ third estate questioned the King’s rule and the old regime in regard to the unfair treatment of those who fundamentally uplift the whole of France on their services. All three estates had an influence on the French Revolution; without them, the revolution would have never existed. It was because of the oppression that the lower classes had feelings of resentment and revolted against the King and the higher classes and the social conditioning of France.
Moving onwards, some historians argue that the main cause of the french revolution was the problems in the economy. In the 18th century private industries, capitalism emerged into everyday life. Although there were some positive changes through the broadening of the economy and population, live in the countryside remained the same, predominantly on small family-run farms. Although their owners and workers were known as peasants they differed considerably in wealth and status. A few were viewed as “living nobly’, through the fact that they rented their land to other peasants to work on, but many were workers who work in exchange for shelter and food.
In addition to this, the lifestyles of those in the Third estate were appalling. This is argued to be because of the economic problems that plummeted the standard of living for peasants in France. They could only afford the bare necessities such as bread, which was the usual product that was consumed in their diets. However, due to the economic distress, there had been sharp increases regarding the pricing of bread. This enraged many of those in the lower classes, however, people directed their anger at those who merely supplied the bread rather than political authorities. This highlights how the economic distress at the time may have heightened emotions especially after a time of bad harvest where morale in French society would have already been low.