Louis XVI., 1774-1789
the Economy
France 1792-1795
the Economy
France 1789-1792
Domestic Policy
France 1789-1792
Intellectual Life

Revolution and Constitutional Republic, 1789-1792 : the Economy

The ESTATES GENERAL had been called to assemble in order to avoid the proclamation of state bankruptcy, by approving an extraordinary additional tax. The situation became rather eventful, and the third estate, transformed into the NATIONAL ASSEMBLY, had higher priorities.
The financial burden on France's peasants had been too high and the revolutionary assembly was intent to relieve it, for instance by abolishing the SALT TAX. This only caused a further reduction in state revenues. In 1790, at the suggestion of BISHOP TALLEYRAND-PERIGORD, church property was confiscated, the church compensated with ASSIGNATs (paper money). As compared to coins, the assignats soon lost value; France experienced INFLATION. In 1791, the guilds were dissolved, their privileges cancelled, FREEDOM OF TRADE (as pertaining to one's choice of profession) introduced.

The peasants continued to experience difficulties in obtaining food, as the harvest had been poor; this situation contributed much to the development of the French Revolution. On October 10th 1789, a crowd of Parisian market women went into the countryside in search for food; when near Versailles, they decided to escort "the Baker and his wife" (Louis XVI. and Marie Antoinette) to Paris; from then on they lived in the Tuileries, in Paris. The economic misery of the populace created high pressure on the National Assembly to come up with a solution.
French society began to break up in groups - those who supported moderate reforms, those who believed that the reforms were not going far enough and the pace of reforms was too slow and those who were adamantly opposed to the reforms (nobility, part of the clergy, in some regions, such as the Vendee, even large groups of peasants). This disunity, mistrust of authority respectively of the other groups, resulted in the breakup of France into hostile rival camps; the ROYALISTS refused to accept revolutionary authority. In 1792 the country practically was in a civil war, to which the invasion by coalition troops only added. In such conditions, the situation of the state finances and the nation's economy could only deteriorate.

In 1791 Marie Harel found out how to produce CAMEMBERT cheese.

The French Revolution, from Woodberry Forest School (WFS), illustrated, many subfiles : March to Versailles,
DOCUMENTS Jean-Marie Roland de la Platiere, The State of the French Economy, 1789, from Modern History Sourcebook
Travelogue Arthur Young, 1792, from WFS; from Hanover Historical Texts Project
The effects of rural poverty in 1789, from WFS
Bailly's Diary account, Aug. 26th 1789, on food shortage in Paris, from WFS
Images of Assignats 1790ff., from cgb.fr
Les Monnaies de 1515 a 1789 : Louis XV., 1715-1774, from AssociationFrancaise de Genealogie, in French
France - Monnaie de Louis XIII. a Louis XVI., from Numismatique - Monnaie scroll down for Louis XV., in French
Coins of 1791, 1792, from Napoleonic Medals
VIDEOS La Marseillaise, 1937, b/w, in French with English subtitles.
REFERENCE William Doyle, The Oxford History of the French Revolution, 1989, 466 pp.

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2001, last revised on November 9th 2004

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