Revolutions are generally the result of political problems, economical problems, social reasons, or a combination of all these factors. The French Revolution of 1789-1799 was one of the most important events in the history of the world. It questioned the authority of kings, priests and nobles. The primary cause of the revolution was the dispute over the people's differing ideas of reform. It was essentially a revolution of all classes of society against the old system of government.
France, a feudal country in the eighteenth century, was ruled under the 'ancien regime'. The king was the absolute monarch. He had centralized power in the royal bureaucracy. At this time in French history, the social classes played a very important role in the lives of the people. The social structure of France was divided into three groups: The First Estate, The Second Estate and The Third Estate. The First Estate was the clergy (the church).
During the 'ancien regime', the church was equal in terms of its social, economic and spiritual power. This class owned nearly ten percent of the land in France. It paid no taxes, but to support church activities such as school running and caring for the poor, it collected a tithe, or a tax on income. About one third of the entire clergy in France served as parish priests. This estate was a minor one, making up 1 to 2 percent of the entire population.
The Second Estate was the most powerful one, made up of nobles. They enjoyed extensive rights and privileges. Although they were only about 1.5 percent of the population, the nobles owned about one third of the land in France. Thus, economically, the nobility was characterized by great land wealth. Like the First Estate, they hardly paid any taxes. Typical sources of...