Reign of Terror was during the French Revolution.

Essay by delifreshHigh School, 12th gradeF, April 2003

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The immediate bloody aftermath , was a product of social, economic, and political forces. The spirit of idealism that gripped France during the early phases of the Revolution gave way to mass paranoia and extremism, culminating in Robespierre's cruel regime. In the beginning of the French Revolution, Enlightenment of the French Revolution, known as the Reign of Terrorphilosophy seemed like a panacea for societal woes. Prominent philosophers like Rousseau, Voltaire, and Diderot contributed to a new mentality in France, one which instigated the mass revolt that caused the storming of the Bastille. The causes for the Reign of Terror in the 1790s cannot be isolated without examining first the leading causes of the French Revolution.

Under the Reign of King Louis the XIV, France still maintained a basically feudalistic society in which the monarch ruled with divine and absolute authority. This "ancien regime" had persisted for centuries throughout Europe.

A stratified social class structure dominated French culture and politics. The privileged classes, including the clergy and the nobility, were exempt from most of the taxes passed on to the poorest rungs of French society: the farmers, the common laborers, and the peasants. This system obviously benefited the wealthy, upper classes of French society, who were unwilling to sacrifice their economic and political privilege for a more just society. However, the monarchy and the "ancien regime" came under heavy criticism by Enlightenment thinkers, philosophers, and economists. Voltaire attacked the Church and its absolutism, criticizing the Church's political and intellectual dominion. Denis Diderot advocated a new social order, while Montesquieu advocated the adaptation of an English-style constitution. Rousseau's notion of popular sovereignty was perhaps the most influential political philosophies that influenced the beginnings of the French Revolution. Although the Revolution was spurned by these Enlightenment thinkers, the...