(1789-1815) By Lance Wilson, Cole Bachmeier, and Austen Tyryfter

"The revolution is over, I am the Revolution"- Napoleon Bonaparte

During the time of Louis XIV, the nobles were extravagant spenders. This continued into the reign of King Louis XVI. Meanwhile, the lower and middle classes were being subjected to economic depression and food shortages. Inflation of prices for food was 60%, but the inflation of wages was only 20%. As a result, prices increased to the point where a loaf of bread cost a months worth of wages. Under the old regime, which was the monarchy, the nobles and the clergy, who made up 3% of the population, paid no taxes despite being fairly wealthy. They were members of the First and Second Estate. An Estate was a social class in France. The Third Estate, which was made up of the Middle class, the laborers, and the peasants, consisted of 97% population and paid virtually all taxes, despite the fact that they were very poor and could not afford it. In an attempt to solve France's financial difficulty, Louis XVI called the Estates General, which was the French Parliament, on May 5, 1789. It was the first time since 1614. Each estate was represented by one vote, which caused the Third Estate to be shut out. On June 17, 1789, they created the National Assembly and wrote the first constitution for France. Louis XVI locked them out of the Estates General, and what followed became known as the French Revolution.

The main leader of the French Revolution was Maximilian Robespierre. Two other major leaders were George Danton, the Minister of Justice, and Jean Paul Marat, the "Friend of the People." Jean Paul Marat was the writer of the newspaper "The People's Friend", which became the newspaper of the Revolution. The summer of 1789 was known as the Great Fear. During the Great Fear the peasants rebelled against the nobles, attacking the manor houses and burning them down. On July 14, they stormed the Bastille, a French prison, and tore it apart. On August 4, the National Assembly voted to end the rights of the feudal lords and removed the financial privileges that were previously given to the nobles and the clergy. On August 26, a document similar to the American Declaration of Independence, called the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, was adopted by the National Assembly. The document ended tax exemptions and provided equal rights for all men. In 1791, a constitution was written for France. It formed a limited monarchy, and left the king as the executive branch, but transfered the law-making power to the legislative assembly, which would be made of 745 men over the age of 25. The new order was largely opposed by the people of France, and when Louis XVI attempted to flee the country in June of 1791, the people lost trust in him as well. The new order dropped further in the eyes of the people after Austria and Prussia went to war with France to prevent revolutions in their own countries. In 1792, the king was captured by commoners called sans-culottes because they had no fine clothes. They were part of the Paris Commune, which soon took power from the National Assembly. In September of 1792, a National Convention met to write a new constitution. There were several factions in the National Convention, but the main ones were the Girondins and the Mountain. While they agreed that a French Republic should be created, the Girondins preferred to keep the king. In contrast to the conservative Girondins, the Mountain was a group of radicals, and succeeded ingetting Louis XVI condemned to death. Louis XVI was beheaded on January 21, 1793. This angered the countries of Europe, and they allied together to invade France. In an attempt to protect the nation from these threats, the Committee of Public Safety, which was led by Maximilien Robespierre, was created. The Committee of Public Safety initiated the Reign of Terror, in which 40,000 French who were believed to be enemies of the republic were executed. Many of them were killed as the newly created revolutionary armies attempted to take control of the rest of France. The Committee, under influence of Robespierre, also attempted to convert the country to the worship of reason and tried to "dechristianize" the nation. Robespierre even created a new calendar to eliminate Sunday and remove Christian holidays. This attempt of dechristianization failed due to the large number of Catholic people in France. Eventually the National Convention began to fear Robespierre's power and bloodlust, and he was condemned to death; his execution by guillotine occured on July 28,1794, ending the Reign of Terror. Following the Reign of Terror, the Constitution of 1795 was written. Under this, the legislative branch would consist of the Council of 500, who proposed laws, and the Council of Elders, who approved the laws. The executive branch was shifted from one person to five elected people, who were collectively known as the Directory. The Directory, however, had many enemies, and in 1799 it was overthrown in a coup d'etat by Napoleon Bonaparte.

Napoleon Bonaparte was a celebrated military hero by the time he overthrew the Directory in 1799. Though he was only 30 years old, he had made a name for himself in the wars against Italy with his surprising, deceptive tactics, which gave him many victories. After his overthrow of the Directory, he formed a new form of government called a consulate. Napoleon became the first consul, and though the government was a republic, Napoleon held the actual power. Three years after the formation of the consulate, Napoleon was name consul for life. His power continued to grow, and in 1804 he declared himself Emperor Napoleon. As consul and later Emperor, Napoleon made peace with the Catholic Church and created a new Civil Code, which preserved many ideals of the revolution but reduced the rights of women. Beginning in 1803, Napoleon went to war with the rest of Europe. He one several battles throughout the following years, in which his Grand Army defeated the armies of Russia, Prussia, and Austria, and by 1807 he was the master of Europe. It was called the Grand Empire, and consisted of the French Empire along with its dependent and allied states. Napoleon's Grand Empire did not last long, however. Hate for Napoleon in the lands he conquered aroused a sense of nationalism, and Britain had not yet been defeated. When Russia refused to become part of Napoleon's empire in 1812, he decided to invade. However, the Russians burned all villages in their path, and the onset of winter forced Napoleon to retreat. Very few people of his army survived. Napoleon's defeated encouraged other countries to rise up and attack France, and in March 1814 they capture Paris, and sent Napoleon into exile on the island of Elba. The new king, Louis XVIII, had very little support by the French people, and on March 20,1815, Napoleon returned to Paris and took power once more. The remaining powers of Europe allied together to bring him down once and for all. Napoleon moved to attack first. On June 18, 1815, he attacked the allies stationed at Waterloo, Belgium. The armies stationed there, under the command of the Duke of Wellington, defeated Napoleon's army. Napoleon was banished again, this time to the island of St. Helena, which is located in the South Atlantic Ocean. He would take no more part in the political events in Europe.

French Revolution

French Revolution Links:

Napoleon Bonaparte This site explains the French military genuis behind Napoleon. It shows his rise, conquests, and fall of this great leader. Bonaparte created the Napoleonic Code, which basically reorganized the French legal system.
French Revolution This site explains the great impact on the France Empire. It mainly explains the main factors that influenced the revolution. It explains the major battles that made up the revolution and the winners.
Queen Marie Antoinette This site explains her early life and how she rose and became queen. This also explains how she went from Queen of France to another number added to the death count by the Guillotine.
Estates-General This site explains how the Estates-General was formed and what it was composed of. This site explains what they did during their operation time. Finally, it explains the rise and fall of the Esates-General.
The Reign of Terror This site explains that The Reign of Terror was a period of time were many people were executed. It explains why this period started and what put an end to this terrible era.
General Overview This site provides a general overview over everything that happened during the French Revolution. It also helps explain all the different influences that occurred during the french revolution.
People Overivew This tie provides an overview of every person you could possibly think of that influenced the French Revolution in any way. It also has a link for every person so if you want to get into detail about every person you can.
Timeline This site gives you a really good detailed timeline of the French Revolution. It has all the important events and it gives you a brief explanation on each of these events that happened during this time period.
Summary This site provides a detailed summary on the revolution, it has links for different people and it also provides links to different terms to help you understand different difficult terms.
Key Terms&People This site only provides information on key terms and people during the French Revolution. This site elaborates very well on the different people and terms but does not have many terms or people only the key ones.

View French Revolution and over 3,000,000 other topics on Qwiki.


The French Revolution and Napoleon Terms:

  • Factions- Groups that were spilt over the fate of the king. The most important factions were the Girondins and the Mountain. The Girondins were the conservative group that wanted the king to live, while the Mountain was a group of radicals that that wanted swift justice.
  • Nationalism- A unique cultural identity of the people that was based on common language, national symbols, and religion. Nationalism is also associated with being Patriotic and believing that ones country is superior.
  • Consulate- Napoleon’s new system of government which theoretically was a republic, but in fact Napoleon held absolute power. The Consulate was made up of three Consuls with Napoleon being the first, the one with the most power.
  • Electors- Individuals qualified to vote in an election. Theses electors had to be renters or owners of property that was worth a certain amount. This requirement limited the number of electors to 30,000.
  • Sans-culottes- Members of the Paris Commune called themselves this because they were ordinary patriots without fine clothes. These members wore long trousers instead of knee-length breeches.
  • Estates- The orders or classes of France. In Frances case, there were three orders or estates. The First Estate consisted of the clergy. The Second Estate consisted of the nobles while the Third Estate was composed of commoners of society.
  • Estates-General- A group composed of representatives from the three orders of French society. The First and Second Estates numbered about 600 total while the Third Estate numbered 600 alone. These groups formed a legislative group.
  • Reign of Terror- A period in which revolutionary courts were set up to prosecute internal enemies of the revolutionary republic. During this time thousands fell victim to the guillotine.
  • Guillotine- A device that was used for execution by decapitation. Nicknames for the guillotine are “The French National Barber” and “The Razor”. The guillotine had more than 40,000 people decapitated throughout the revolution.
  • Bourgeoisie- The Bourgeoisie is a group of the middle class. This group is part of the Third Estate and it is mainly composed of doctors, lawyers, and merchants. These members were usually the representatives of Third Estate in the National Assembly.

Key Dates
Storming of the Bastille

May 5, 1789: The Estates-General, the French Parliament, met for the first time since 1614 to discuss France's financial problems.
June 17, 1789: The Third Estate creates the National Assembly to attempt to create a French constitution.
August 26, 1789: The National Assembly adopts the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen.
June 21, 1791: Louis XVI attempts to flee France with his family. He is recognized, however, and is captured by the revolutionaries.
September 21, 1792: The National Convention votes to abolish the monarchy and created the French Republic.
January 21, 1793: Louis XVI is executed by guillotine.
September 5, 1793: The Reign of Terror, in which over 40,000 French are killed, begins.
July 28,1794: The Reign of Terror ends with the execution of Maximilien Robespierre.
November 10, 1799: Napoleon Bonaparte overthrows the French government in a coup d'etat.
1802: Napoleon is declared consul for life.
1804: Napoleon becomes the French emperor.
June 18, 1815: Napoleon is defeated in the Battle of Waterloo, and is exiled to the island of St. Helena.


  1. Napoleon Bonaparte: He dominated French and European history. He brought the French Revolution to an end in 1799. The French Revolution made possible his rise first in the military and then to supreme power in France. Napoleon was born in 1769 in Corsica. At an early age he received a royal scholarship to study at a military school in France. During these seven years, Napoleon read different military works and philosophes. Napoleon eventually became captain of the French army in 1792, then two years later he was made brigadier generally. He used many tactics to win battles and win the confidence of his men. Eventually Napoleon and his army got cornered and to avoid certain death he returned to Paris. During his time in Paris Napoleon became first consul and pretty much controlled the entire government. In 1802 Napoleon was made consul for life. Two years later he crowned himself emperor.
  2. Jean-Paul Marat: “The Friend of the People”; he published a radical journal called the friend of the people. In this journal Jean-Paul expressed his ideas which were radical during this time. He called for mob violence and the right of the poor to take by force whatever they needed from the rich. All this helped make the Jacobin more radical. He was killed while soaking in his bathtub.
  3. Maximilien Robespierre: He was considered to be one of the most important leaders during the French Revolution. Maximilien was the one who preached the male suffrage or the right to vote for all adult males. He was known as “The Incorruptible”; He believed that anyone opposed to being governed by the general will should be executed. He was beheaded on July 28 1794 to end the reign of terror.
    Stabbing of Marat
  4. Anne-Louise-Germaine de Staël: She was a prominent write of the revolutionary and Napoleonic eras in France. She established a salon for the powerful. During the Reign of Terror, she helped friends escape France.
  5. Georges Danton: Geroges Danton was born in France. He was a leader during the French revolution. Danton believed if the Revolution wanted to succeed only if limited its program which meant, upholding the rights of property, ending the war as fast as possible by negotiation. His nickname was “The Mountain” because he took the seat in the high remote branches. Later he made a political decision in suppressing the Girondins. Eventually Georges wanted the revolution to slow down and stop harming so many people but before he could say anything he was charged with treasons and beheaded.
  6. Charlotte Corday: She stabbed Jean-Paul Marat while he was soaking in his bath. Her reason on why she killed Marat was because she was sick of all the suppression on the Girondins that he was giving them. Her quote was “I killed one man to save one hundred thousand men”.
  7. Louis XVI: Married to Marie Antoinette. He was an absolute monarch of France, was a bad ruler, so eventually other leaders like Danton ect.
    Helped put an end to his crown and start the revolution. He was found trying to escape to Austria so he could try and get any army together to retake the thrown. Was executed by the guillotine in 1793.
  8. Lazare Carnot: A French soldier appointed by the Committee of Public Safety to help reorganize the failing war effort against Austria and Prussia. Carnot did so very effectively and made enough of a name for himself to earn a seat as one of the first members of the Directory. Although he was removed from this position during the overthrow of September 4, 1797, he went on to hold various posts in future governments.
  9. Olympe de Gouges: She was a French playwright and political activist whose feminist and abolitionist writings reached a large audience. She wrote the Declaration of rights of women and the female citizen which both challenged the male authority in this time period.
  10. Marquis de Lafayette: A nobleman who led French forces assisting in the American Revolution. The common people of France revered Lafayette as an idealistic man who was dedicated to liberty and the principles of the Revolution. Although Lafayette organized the National Guard of armed citizens to protect the Revolution from attack by the king, he backed away as the Revolution became more radical.


This map shows Europe as it was before Napoleon began his campaigns.



This video describes what caused Napoleon to attack Russia in 1812. The other describes what happened to Napoleon later on in his life.

Famous French Revolution People:

Napoleon Bonaparte

Queen Marie Antoinette
King Louis XVI

George Danton

Maximilian Robespierre