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Causes of the French Revolution – Dickens Told the Truth

Causes of the French Revolution – Dickens Told the Truth

Anyone who has read Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities will have an excellent understanding of the causes of the French Revolution. In fact, his opening line of the book says it all. “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” For the aristocracy in France it certainly was the best of times. This group ruled the country, exploited the masses, and had no concern for the poverty, the starvation, and the horrible living conditions they endured. It was the worst of times for the masses – no way out of their poverty, doomed to a life of struggling for every piece of food and clothing they could get. King Louis XIV and wife Marie Antoinette seemed oblivious to the suffering of their people. The whole situation was a powder keg just waiting to explode. And it did. What followed, now called the “reign of terror” was the revenge of these masses on their exploiters.

Developing the French Revolution Essay

The possible topics for an essay on the French Revolution are extensive. Here are some possibles:

  1. Take any of the major events of the French Revolution and write an expository essay – the storming of the Bastille; the rounding up of aristocracy and the tribunals,; the guillotine executions; the storming of the palace of the king and queen; the inability of the new government to be effective; the legacy of the terms “right,” “center,” and “left” in modern politics.
  2. Write an essay on the causes of the French Revolution that may not be typically reported. Everyone is aware of the smoldering anger of the poverty-stricken masses and the condition in which they lived. But there were external forces at work as well. The colonies in America had recently successfully overthrown their British rule, and the French revolutionaries were highly encouraged by this. Do some research on the influence of American political figures on the decision of the French revolutionaries to move forward. What support did America give, if any?
  3. Other essay questions can prompt great responses. Why, for example, was it impossible for the French revolutionaries to establish a workable new democracy when America had been able to do so? Did the radicalism of the left prevent a stable democracy? What factors allowed someone like Napoleon to gain control of France and was his reign any different from that of the former royalty?

The French Revolution is a fascinating piece of world history. The suffering, the aftermath, the failures, and the ultimate triumphs of democracy depict a people who were intent on ultimately establishing a democracy for the French people but who had to go through a pretty long period of experimentation and pain to get there. Today, their democratic republic is firmly established in the principles that all lives matter, that every citizen deserves to participate in the democratic processes, and that government by the people is what makes a country stable.