TEXTBOOK QUESTIONS SOLVED
Q1. Find out more about any one of the revolutionary figures you have read about in this chapter. Write a short biography of this person.
Olympic de Gouge was born to working class parents but was regarded as one of the most-talked about French intellectuals who contributed significantly to the French Revolution.
She was a well-known playwright at the time of French Revolution. She strongly advocated the rights of French women. After the publication of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen she wrote Declaration of the Rights of Woman and Citizen. She also wrote Social Contract immediately after coming through Rousseau’s Social Contract. In her book she proposed gender equality in marriage. She supported the French Revolution and wrote more than 30 political pamphlets to further its cause.
Her act of moral courage cost her dearly. She was ultimately guillotined.
Q2. The French revolution saw the rise of newspapers describing the events of each day and week. Collect information and pictures on any one event and write a newspaper article. You could also conduct an imaginary interview with important personages such as Murabeau, Olympic de Gouges or Robespierre. Work in groups of two or three. Each group could then put up their articles on a board to produce a wallpaper on the French. Revolution.
Ans. Students are suggested to do this activity themselves.
Q1. Describe the circumstances leading to the outbreak of revolutionary protest in France.
The following circumstances led to the outbreak of revolutionary protest in France:
(i) Louis XVI was an autocratic ruler who could not compromise with his luxurious life. He also lacked far-sightedness.
(ii) Upon his accession the royal treasury of France was empty. Long years of war had drained the financial resources of France. Added to this was the cost of maintaining an extravagant court at the immense palace of Versailles.
(iii) Under Louis XVI, France helped the thirteen American colonies to gain their independence from Britain. The war added more than a billion livres to a debt that had already risen to more than 2 billion livres. Leaders who gave the state credit, now began to charge 10 per cent interest on loans. So, the French government was obliged to spend an increasing percentage of its budget on interest payments alone.
(iv) The state finally increased taxes to meet its regular expenses such as the cost of maintaining an army, running government offices or universities.
(v) The French society was divided into three estates but only members of the third estate (peasants, artisans, workers, etc.) had to pay taxes. The members of the first two estates, i.e. the clergy and the nobility, were exempted to pay state taxes. They belonged to privileged class. Thus, the burden of financing activities of the state through taxes was borne by the third estate alone.
(vi) The middle class that emerged in the 18th century France was educated and enlightened. They refuted the theory of divine right of kings and absolute monarchy. They believed that a person’s social position must depend on his merit. They had access to the various ideas of equality and freedom proposed by the philosophers like John Locke, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Montesquien etc. Their ideas got popularised among the common mass as a result of intensive discussions and debates in salons and coffee houses and through books and newspapers.
(vii) The French administration was extremely corrupt. It didn’t give weightage to the French common mass.
All the above circumstances paved the way for revolutionary protest in France.
Q2. Which groups of French society benefitted from the revolution? Which groups were forced to relinquish power? Which sections of society would have been disappointed with the outcomes of the revolution?
(i) The wealthy class of the third estate which came to be known as the new middle class of France benefitted the most from the revolution. This group was comprised of big businessmen, petty-officers, lawyers, teachers, doctors and traders. Previously these people had to pay state taxes and they did not enjoy equal status. But after the revolution they began to be treated equally with the upper sections of the society.
(ii) With the abolition of feudal system of obligations and taxes the clergy and the nobility came on the same level with the middle class. They were forced to give up their privileges. Their executive powers were also taken away from them.
(iii) The poorer sections of the society i.e. small peasants, landless labourers, servants, daily wage earners would have been disappointed with the outcome of the revolution. Women also would have been highly discontented.
Q3. Describe the legacy of the French Revolution for the peoples of the world during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
The French Revolution proved to be the most important event in the history of the world.
(i) The ideas of liberty and democratic rights were the most important legacy of the French Revolution. These ideas became an inspiring force for the political movements in the world in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
(ii) The French Revolutionary ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity spread from France to the rest of Europe, where feudal systems were finally abolished.
(iii) Colonised peoples reworked the idea of freedom from bondage into their movements to create a sovereign nation state.
(iv) The idea of nationalism that emerged after the French Revolution started mass movements all over the world. Now, people began to question the absolute power.
(v) The impact of the French Revolution could be seen on India too. Tipu Sultan and Rammohan Roy got deeply influenced by the ideas of the revolution.
In nutshell, we can say that for the first time after the French Revolution people all over the world became aware of their rights.
Q4. Draw up a list of democratic rights we enjoy today whose origins could be traced to the French Revolution.
The list of democratic rights that we enjoy today is given below:
(i) Right to equality
(ii) Right to freedom of speech and expression
(iii) Right against exploitation
(iv) Right to religious freedom
(v) Cultural and educational rights
(vi) Right to vote
(vii) Right to live
(viii) Right to get education
Q5. Would you agree with the view that the message of universal rights was beset with contradictions? Explain,
(i) The message of universal rights was definitely beset with contradictions. Many ideals in the Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen’ were not at all cl ear. They had dubious meanings.
(ii) The French Revolution could not bring economic equality and it is a fact that unless there is economic equality, real equality cannot be received at any sphere. The Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen laid stress on equality but a large section of the society was denied to it. The right to vote and elect their representatives did not solve the poor man’s problem.
(iii) Women were still regarded as passive citizens. They did not have any political rights such as right to vote and hold political offices like men. Hence, their struggle for equal political rights continued.
(iv) France continued to hold and expand colonies. Thus, its image as a liberator could not last for a long time.
(v) Slavery existed in France till the first half of the nineteenth century.
Q6. How would you explain the rise of Napoleon?
(i) The political instability of the Directory paved the way for the rise of Napoleon Bonaparate. Napoleon had achieved glorious victiories in wars. This made France realise that only a military dictator like Napoleon would restore a stable government.
(ii) In 1804, he crowned himself the emperor of France. He set out to conquer neighbouring European countries, dispossessing dynasties and creating kingdoms where he placed members of his family. Napoleon viewed himself as a moderniser of Europe. He introduced many laws such as the protection of private property and a uniform system of weight and measures provided by the decimal system.
But his rise did not last for a long time. He was finally defeated at Waterloo in 1815.