NCERT Class 9 History Chapter 1: The French Revolution YouTube Lecture Handouts

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NCERT Class 9 History Chapter 1: French Revolution

French Revolution – Introduction

  • End to monarchy in France & announcement of Declaration of Rights of Man – ideas of equality, freedom and liberty
  • 1774 – Louis XVI of Bourbon family ascended to throne (20 years old) & married to Marie Antoinette
  • Inherited empty treasure
  • Drained financial resources
  • High cost to maintain immense palace of Versailles
  • Helped 13 American colonies gain independence from Britain
  • War added debt – about 2 billion livres (French currency)
  • Lenders to govt. charged 10 % interest rate – expense of govt. increased
French Revolution
  • Peasants – 90 % population, very less land
  • Nobles, Church & Rich – owned 60 % land
  • Clergy & Nobility – enjoyed privileges by births
  • Only 3rd Estate – to pay taxes
  • Nobles – feudal dues from peasants (was obliged to work in his house and fields)
  • Church extracted tithe – tax 1 ⁄ 10th of agricultural produce
  • Direct tax known as taille
  • 14 July 1789 – king ordered troops to move into city; people formed militia and broke in govt. buildings in search of arms & marched till Bastille (fortress prison) . Bastille was demolished & fragments sold in market as souvenir of destruction.
  • Population increased from 23 million in 1715 to 28 million in 1789. Production could not meet the demand. Rich & poor gap widened. People protested against price rise of bread – lead to subsistence crisis (food riots, scarcity of grains, higher deaths, increased prices and weaker bodies)

Growing Middle Class – New Wave

  • Peasants and workers lacked idea to bring social change
  • 18th century saw emergence of social groups (middle class) – expansion of trade, professionals like lawyers and administrative officials – who were educated
  • Belief – no group should be privileged by birth but by merit by John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau
  • Locke wrote “Two Treaties of Government” – he refuted divine and absolute right of monarch
  • Rousseau – social contract between people and representatives
  • Montesquieu – wrote “The Spirit of the Laws” – division of power between judiciary, executive and legislative
  • Ideas were discussed in salons and coffee-houses & by books and newspapers


  • 1774: Louis XVI becomes king of France, faces empty treasury and growing discontent within society of the Old Regime.
  • 1789: Convocation of Estates General, Third Estate forms National Assembly, the Bastille is stormed, and peasant revolts in the countryside.
  • 1791: A constitution is framed to limit the powers of the king and to guarantee basic rights to all human beings.
  • 1792 - 93: France becomes a republic, the king is beheaded. Overthrow of the Jacobin republic, a Directory rules France.
  • 1804: Napoleon becomes emperor of France, annexes large parts of Europe.
  • 1815: Napoleon defeated at Waterloo.

Outbreak of Revolution

  • Old Regime – taxes imposed to be decided by meeting of Estate General (had representatives from three estates)
  • Monarch could decide when the meeting was called – last in 1614, next on 5th May 1789 for new tax proposal
  • 1st estate – 300 representative
  • 2nd estate – 300 representative
  • 3rd estate – 600 representative (stand at back)
  • Who were denied entry to assembly? Peasants, artisans and women – demands were listed in 40,000 letters
  • Till now – 1 vote for 1 estate
  • Now demand – 1 vote for 1 member (as under social contract) – rejected by kings & members of 3rd estate walked out in protest
  • On 20th June – they gathered in ground of Versailles to declare National Assembly & draft constitution to limit powers of monarch (were led by Mirabeau – born in noble family but was convinced with need to do away with feudal privilege & Abbe Sieyes – originally a priest wrote pamphlet “What is Third Estate?” )
  • Simultaneously in remaining France,
  • 14th July – Bastille was destroyed
  • Rumors that lords of manor had hired brigands to destroy ripe crops – peasants seized hoes and attacked chateaux (residence of nobleman)
  • 4th Aug 1789 – Assembly abolished feudal system of obligations and taxes, no privilege to clergy, tithe was abolished & land owned by Church was confiscated
  • Constitutional Monarchy
  • Limited powers to monarch
  • Powers to make laws by National Assembly (indirectly elected)
Judiciary, Executive and Legislature

Who Could Vote?

  • Only men above 25 years of age who paid taxes equal to at least 3 days of a laborer՚s wage were given the status of active citizens, that is, they were entitled to vote.
  • To qualify as an elector and then as a member of the Assembly, a man had to belong to the highest bracket of taxpayers
  • The revolutionary journalist Jean-Paul Marat commented in his newspaper L՚Ami du peuple (Friends of people) – explained how wealth influence laws
  • The Constitution began with a Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. Rights such as the right to life, freedom of speech, freedom of opinion, equality before law, were established as ‘natural and inalienable’ rights, that is, they belonged to each human being by birth and could not be taken away. It was the duty of the state to protect each citizen՚s natural rights.

The Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen

  • Men are born and remain free and equal in rights.
  • The aim of every political association is the preservation of the natural and inalienable rights of man; these are liberty, property, security and resistance to oppression.
  • The source of all sovereignty resides in the nation; no group or individual may exercise authority that does not come from the people.
  • Liberty consists of the power to do whatever is not injurious to others.
  • The law has the right to forbid only actions that are injurious to society.
  • Law is the expression of the general will. All citizens have the right to participate in its formation, personally or through their representatives. All citizens are equal before it.
  • No man may be accused, arrested or detained, except in cases determined by the law.
  • Every citizen may speak, write and print freely; he must take responsibility for the abuse of such liberty in cases determined by the law.
  • For the maintenance of the public force and for the expenses of administration a common tax is indispensable; it must be assessed equally on all citizens in proportion to their means.
  • Since property is a sacred and inviolable right, no one may be deprived of it, unless a legally established public necessity requires it. In that case a just compensation must be given in advance.

Political Symbols

  • Broken chain – act of becoming free
  • Bundle of rods – strength lies in unity
  • Eye with triangle radiating light – rays of sun drive away clouds of ignorance
  • Sceptre – symbol of royal power
  • Snake biting its tail to form ring: ring has no beginning or end (symbol of eternity)
  • Blue-white-red: national colors of France
  • Red Phrygian Cap: cap worn by slaves on becoming free
  • Winged woman: Personification of law
  • Law Tablet: Law is same for all and all are equal before law

Turning to Republic

  • Louis XVI signed secret negotiations with Prussia
  • But in 1792, National Assembly raised war against Prussia and Austria – many people joined army
  • Patriotic songs they sang was the Marseillaise, composed by the poet Roget de L՚Isle. It was sung for the first time by volunteers from Marseilles as they marched into Paris and so got its name. Marseillaise is now national anthem of France.
  • Losses and economic difficulties cropped in
  • Men were at fronts and women were earning living and looking after families
  • Many clubs were formed – major was Jacobins (after St. Jacob in Paris)
  • Jacobins - included small shopkeepers, artisans such as shoemakers, pastry cooks, watch-makers, printers, as well as servants and daily-wage workers with leader - Maximilian Robespierre – they wore long striped trousers which was different from knee breeches of fashionable section – they were called as sans-culottes, literally meaning ‘those without knee breeches’ along with red cap (liberty)
  • Jacobins along with Parisians stormed Palace of Tuileries & held king as hostage for many hours.
  • Later the Assembly voted to imprison the royal family. Elections were held. From now on all men of 21 years and above, despite of wealth, got the right to vote.
  • The newly elected assembly was called the Convention. On 21 September 1792 it abolished the monarchy and declared France a republic (people elect government and there is no hereditary monarchy) .
  • Louis XVI was sentenced to death on charge of treason on 21 January 1793 - executed publicly at Place de la Concorde. Same happened with Queen Marie Antoinette shortly.

Robespierre – Reign of Terror

1793 - 1794 – severe control and punishment – all enemies of republic (ex-nobles or clergy) were arrested, imprisoned and tried. If found guilty were guillotined

The guillotine is a device consisting of two poles and a blade with which a person is beheaded & named after Dr. Guillotin who invented it.

  • Maximum ceiling on wages and prices
  • Meat and bread was rationed
  • Expensive white wheat was forbidden
  • All citizens were required to eat the pain d′égalité (equality bread) , a loaf made of wholewheat
  • Rather than traditional Monsieur (Sir) and Madame (Madam) all French men and women were Citoyen and Citoyenne (Citizen)
  • Churches were shut & their buildings converted to barracks

Even his supporters demanded moderation – he was sent to court in 1794 & guillotined

Directory Rules France

  • After Jacobian government fell, wealthier middle class seized power
  • New constitution – denied vote to non-propertied section
  • Provided 2 elected legislative councils & appointed Directory (executive of 5 members) to safeguard concentration of power in one hand as under Jacobins
  • But directors clashed with Legislative council who dismissed them – this led to military dictator – Napoleon Bonaparte

Women & Entry

  • Most women had no access to education or job training
  • Only wealthier class could study in convent and later marriage could be arranged
  • Wages of women were lower than men
  • Women started political clubs to raise voice with 60 such clubs in various cities
  • Most famous club - The Society of Revolutionary and Republican Women
  • Disappointed that Constitution of 1791 reduced them to passive citizens
  • Demands – right to vote, to be elected, hold political office and get representation in government
  • During the Reign of Terror, the new government issued laws ordering closure of women՚s clubs and banning their political activities but it continued
  • Women got right to vote in France in 1946 (result of international suffrage movement)
  • Olympe de Gouges – politically active women in revolutionary France, in 1791 wrote “Declaration of Rights of Woman and Citizen” , she opposed Jacobins govt. forceful closure of women clubs & was executed

Abolition of Slavery

  • Effort of social reform of Jacobin in French colonies in Caribbean - Martinique, Guadeloupe and San Domingo (suppliers of tobacco, indigo, sugar and coffee)
  • Triangular slave trade between Europe, Africa and Americas. The slave trade began in the seventeenth century. French merchants sailed from the ports of Bordeaux or Nantes to the African coast, where they bought slaves from local chieftains. Packed on 3 month voyage and were sold to plantation owners
  • Convention in 1794 legislated to free all slaves in the French overseas possessions. However, it was reintroduced 10 years later by Napoleon. Finally abolished in French colonies in 1848.

Revolution & Everyday Life

  • Abolition of censorship
  • Freedom of speech and expression
  • Freedom of press
  • Conclusion
  • 1804 – Napoleon crowned himself Emperor of France – became modernizer of Europe
  • He introduced many laws such as the protection of private property and a uniform system of weights and measures provided by the decimal system
  • Initially was seen as liberator but later as invading force
  • In 1815 – Defeated at Waterloo
  • Tipu Sultan and Rammohan Roy are two examples of individuals who responded to the ideas coming from revolutionary France.
  • Raja Rammohan Roy was one of those who was inspired by new ideas – French Revolution & later July Revolution (he insisted to visit warships flying revolutionary tricolor)

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