in 1789 was one of the richest and most powerful nations in Europe.
Only in Great Britain and the Netherlands did the common people have
more freedom and less chance of arbitrary punishment.
Nonetheless, a popular
rebellion would first to bring the regime of King Louis XVI of France
under control of a constitution, then to depose, imprison, try, and
execute the king and, later, his wife Marie Antoinette.
Many factors led to the revolution; to some extent the
old order succumbed to its own rigidity in the face of a changing world;
to some extent, it fell to the ambitions of a rising bourgeoisie,
allied with aggrieved peasants and wage-earners and with individuals of
all classes who were influenced by the ideas of the Enlightenment.
As the revolution
proceeded and as power devolved from the monarchy to legislative bodies,
the conflicting interests of these initially allied groups would become
the source of conflict and bloodshed.
Certainly, all of the following must be counted among the causes of the revolution:
Resentment of royal absolutism. Resentment of the seigneurial system by peasants, wage-earners, and a rising bourgeoisie. The rise of enlightenment ideals. An unmanageable national debt, both caused by and exacerbating the burden of a grossly inequitable system of taxation.
Food scarcity in the years immediately before the revolution.