The French Revolution
The French Revolution brought about great changes in the society and government of France. The revolution, which lasted from 1789 to 1799, also had far-reaching effects on the rest of Europe. It introduced democratic ideals to France but did not make the nation a democracy. However, it ended supreme rule by French kings and strengthened the middle class. After the revolution began, no European kings, nobles, or other privileged groups could ever again take their powers for granted or ignore the ideals of liberty and equality.
The financial crisis developed because the nation had gone deeply into debt to finance fighting in the Seven Years' War and the Revolutionary War in America. By 1788, the government was almost bankrupt. The Parlement of Paris insisted that King Louis XVI could borrow more money or raise taxes only by calling a meeting of the Estates-General. This body was made up of representatives of the three estates, and had last met in 1614. Unwillingly, the king called the meeting.
The king and the first two estates refused the demands of the third estate. In June 1789, the representatives of the third estate declared themselves the National Assembly of France. They gathered at a tennis court and pledged not to disband until they had written a constitution. This vow became known as the Oath of the Tennis Court. Louis XVI then allowed the three estates to join together as the National Assembly. But he began to gather troops to break up the Assembly.
The Assembly later drafted a constitution that made France a limited monarchy with a one-house legislature. France was divided into 83 regions called departments, each with elected councils for local government. But the right to vote and hold public office was limited to citizens who paid a certain amount of taxes.