The French Revolution

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The French Revolution began in May 1789 with the meeting of the Estates-General--a general assembly representing the three French estates of the realm: the nobility, the church, and the common people. Summoned by King Louis XVI to propose solutions to his government's financial problems, the Estates-General sat for several weeks in May and June 1789 but came to an impasse as the three estates clashed over their respective powers. It was brought to an end when many members of the Third Estate formed themselves into a National Assembly, signaling the outbreak of the Revolution. On July 14 of that same year, the Bastille--a medieval fortress and prison which represented royal authority in the center of Paris--was stormed by a mob that demanded the arms and ammunition stored there.

After Louis XV and his wife tried to escape Paris in 1791, the French revolutionary wars began soon thereafter; however, fighting soon went badly and prices rose sky-high. In August 1792, a mob assaulted the Royal Palace in Paris and arrested the King. In September, the Assembly abolished the monarchy and declared a republic.

The "Reign of Terror" was a period of violence that occurred after the onset of the French Revolution, incited by conflict between rival political factions, and marked by mass executions of "enemies of the revolution." The death toll ranged in the tens of thousands, with 16,594 executed by guillotine and another 25,000 in summary executions across France.

In the last stages of the French Revolution, Napoleon Bonaparte overthrew the French Directory, replacing it with the French Consulate. Napoleon rose to power under the French First Republic, which formed at the end of the French Revolution, and proclaimed himself dictator and eventually emperor under the First French Empire in 1804.

This series contains four videos.

Source: Khan Academy,
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Last modified: Wednesday, December 27, 2023, 11:09 AM