The French Revolution: Assess the view that the main cause of the French revolution was popular discontent.

Essay by speechlessCollege, Undergraduate September 2003

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"Assess the view that the main cause of the French revolution was popular discontent"

The main cause of the French Revolution was not popular discontent but rather the financial decline of France's economy together with other minor yet significant events.

Popular discontent was an effect brought upon by the financial situation within France, which, for example, can clearly be demonstrated in the March Of The Women of 1789 in Versailles. The decline of the power of the French monarchy, of the First Estate comprising of the clergy and lastly of the Second Estate comprising of the nobility was also due to the reaction to France's poor financial situation. The upper Third Estate, that is, the bourgeoisie and the lower Third Estate, that is, the majority of the population, benefited greatly financially from the revolution (though the bourgeoisie also benefited politically). France's participation in wars prior to 1789 also added to the economic drainage on the country as well as the excess spending of the state's revenue by Marie Antoinette.

A bad harvest in 1788 and 1789 led to a serious financial crisis that only agitated peasants even more and stirred up revolutionary ideas, which had been sowed by enlightened figures like Rousseau and Voltaire.

The list of reasons of why the economy of France fell leads us into considering firstly the monarchy. According to H.a.l Fisher, Louis xvi did not possess "the clearness of mind (and) the decision of purpose ... which make the statesman". Louis lacked the strength of character to control the nobility or even his wife, Marie Antoinette who spent hundreds of livres daily of the state's money on her wardrobe. Her monetary generosity drove France into deeper financial troubles, evoked a letter of disapproval of her extravagance by her mother and created hatred among the Third...