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T h e    F r e n c h    R e v o l u t i o n
1
In Section I, you will read about the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution,
and the rise of Nazism. In different ways all these events were important in the
making of the modern world.
Chapter I is on the French Revolution. Today we often take the ideas of liberty,
freedom and equality for granted. But we need to remind ourselves that these ideas
also have a history. By looking at the French Revolution you will read a small part
of that history. The French Revolution led to the end of monarchy in France. A
society based on privileges gave way to a new system of governance. The Declaration
of the Rights of Man during the revolution, announced the coming of a new time.
The idea that all individuals had rights and could claim equality became part of a
new language of politics. These notions of equality and freedom emerged as the central
ideas of a new age; but in different countries they were reinterpreted and rethought
in many different ways. The anti-colonial movements in India and China, Africa and
South America, produced ideas that were innovative and original, but they spoke in
a language that gained currency only from the late eighteenth century.
In Chapter II, you will read about the coming of socialism in Europe, and the dramatic
events that forced the ruling monarch, Tsar Nicholas II, to give up power. The Russian
Revolution sought to change society in a different way. It raised the question of
economic equality and the well-being of workers and peasants. The chapter will tell
you about the changes that were initiated by the new Soviet government, the problems
it faced and the measures it undertook. While Soviet Russia pushed ahead with
industrialisation and mechanisation of agriculture, it denied the rights of citizens
that were essential to the working of a democratic society. The ideals of socialism,
EVENTS AND PROCESSES
SECTION I I I I I
EVENTS AND PROCESSES
Rationalised 2023-24
Page 2


T h e    F r e n c h    R e v o l u t i o n
1
In Section I, you will read about the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution,
and the rise of Nazism. In different ways all these events were important in the
making of the modern world.
Chapter I is on the French Revolution. Today we often take the ideas of liberty,
freedom and equality for granted. But we need to remind ourselves that these ideas
also have a history. By looking at the French Revolution you will read a small part
of that history. The French Revolution led to the end of monarchy in France. A
society based on privileges gave way to a new system of governance. The Declaration
of the Rights of Man during the revolution, announced the coming of a new time.
The idea that all individuals had rights and could claim equality became part of a
new language of politics. These notions of equality and freedom emerged as the central
ideas of a new age; but in different countries they were reinterpreted and rethought
in many different ways. The anti-colonial movements in India and China, Africa and
South America, produced ideas that were innovative and original, but they spoke in
a language that gained currency only from the late eighteenth century.
In Chapter II, you will read about the coming of socialism in Europe, and the dramatic
events that forced the ruling monarch, Tsar Nicholas II, to give up power. The Russian
Revolution sought to change society in a different way. It raised the question of
economic equality and the well-being of workers and peasants. The chapter will tell
you about the changes that were initiated by the new Soviet government, the problems
it faced and the measures it undertook. While Soviet Russia pushed ahead with
industrialisation and mechanisation of agriculture, it denied the rights of citizens
that were essential to the working of a democratic society. The ideals of socialism,
EVENTS AND PROCESSES
SECTION I I I I I
EVENTS AND PROCESSES
Rationalised 2023-24
India and the Contemporary World
2
however, became part of the anti-colonial movements in different countries. Today
the Soviet Union has broken up and socialism is in crisis but through the twentieth
century it has been a powerful force in the shaping of the contemporary world.
Chapter III will take you to Germany. It will discuss the rise of Hitler and the
politics of Nazism. You will read about the children and women in Nazi Germany,
about schools and concentration camps. You will see how Nazism denied various
minorities a right to live, how it drew upon a long tradition of anti-Jewish feelings
to persecute the Jews, and how it waged a relentless battle against democracy and
socialism. But the story of Nazism’s rise is not only about a few specific events,
about massacres and killings. It is about the working of an elaborate and frightening
system which operated at different levels. Some in India were impressed with the
ideas of Hitler but most watched the rise of Nazism with horror.
The history of the modern world is not simply a story of the unfolding of freedom
and democracy. It has also been a story of violence and tyranny, death and destruction.
Rationalised 2023-24
Page 3


T h e    F r e n c h    R e v o l u t i o n
1
In Section I, you will read about the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution,
and the rise of Nazism. In different ways all these events were important in the
making of the modern world.
Chapter I is on the French Revolution. Today we often take the ideas of liberty,
freedom and equality for granted. But we need to remind ourselves that these ideas
also have a history. By looking at the French Revolution you will read a small part
of that history. The French Revolution led to the end of monarchy in France. A
society based on privileges gave way to a new system of governance. The Declaration
of the Rights of Man during the revolution, announced the coming of a new time.
The idea that all individuals had rights and could claim equality became part of a
new language of politics. These notions of equality and freedom emerged as the central
ideas of a new age; but in different countries they were reinterpreted and rethought
in many different ways. The anti-colonial movements in India and China, Africa and
South America, produced ideas that were innovative and original, but they spoke in
a language that gained currency only from the late eighteenth century.
In Chapter II, you will read about the coming of socialism in Europe, and the dramatic
events that forced the ruling monarch, Tsar Nicholas II, to give up power. The Russian
Revolution sought to change society in a different way. It raised the question of
economic equality and the well-being of workers and peasants. The chapter will tell
you about the changes that were initiated by the new Soviet government, the problems
it faced and the measures it undertook. While Soviet Russia pushed ahead with
industrialisation and mechanisation of agriculture, it denied the rights of citizens
that were essential to the working of a democratic society. The ideals of socialism,
EVENTS AND PROCESSES
SECTION I I I I I
EVENTS AND PROCESSES
Rationalised 2023-24
India and the Contemporary World
2
however, became part of the anti-colonial movements in different countries. Today
the Soviet Union has broken up and socialism is in crisis but through the twentieth
century it has been a powerful force in the shaping of the contemporary world.
Chapter III will take you to Germany. It will discuss the rise of Hitler and the
politics of Nazism. You will read about the children and women in Nazi Germany,
about schools and concentration camps. You will see how Nazism denied various
minorities a right to live, how it drew upon a long tradition of anti-Jewish feelings
to persecute the Jews, and how it waged a relentless battle against democracy and
socialism. But the story of Nazism’s rise is not only about a few specific events,
about massacres and killings. It is about the working of an elaborate and frightening
system which operated at different levels. Some in India were impressed with the
ideas of Hitler but most watched the rise of Nazism with horror.
The history of the modern world is not simply a story of the unfolding of freedom
and democracy. It has also been a story of violence and tyranny, death and destruction.
Rationalised 2023-24
T h e    F r e n c h    R e v o l u t i o n
3
On the morning of 14 July 1789, the city of Paris was in a state of
alarm. The king had commanded troops to move into the city. Rumours
spread that he would soon order the army to open fire upon the citizens.
Some 7,000 men and women gathered in front of the town hall and
decided to form a peoples’ militia. They broke into a number of
government buildings in search of arms.
Finally, a group of several hundred people marched towards the eastern
part of the city and stormed the fortress-prison, the Bastille, where they
hoped to find hoarded ammunition. In the armed fight that followed,
the commander of the Bastille was killed and the prisoners released –
though there were only seven of them. Yet the Bastille was hated by all,
because it stood for the despotic power of the king. The fortress was
demolished and its stone fragments were sold in the markets to all
those who wished to keep a souvenir of its destruction.
The days that followed saw more rioting both in Paris and the
countryside. Most people were protesting against the high price of bread.
Much later, when historians looked back upon this time, they saw it as
the beginning of a chain of events that ultimately led to the execution
of the king in France, though most people at the time did not anticipate
this outcome. How and why did this happen?
The French Revolution The French Revolution The French Revolution The French Revolution The French Revolution
T h e    F r e n c h    R e v o l u t i o n
Fig.1 – Storming of the Bastille.
Soon after the demolition of the Bastille,
artists made prints commemorating the event.
Chapter I
Rationalised 2023-24
Page 4


T h e    F r e n c h    R e v o l u t i o n
1
In Section I, you will read about the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution,
and the rise of Nazism. In different ways all these events were important in the
making of the modern world.
Chapter I is on the French Revolution. Today we often take the ideas of liberty,
freedom and equality for granted. But we need to remind ourselves that these ideas
also have a history. By looking at the French Revolution you will read a small part
of that history. The French Revolution led to the end of monarchy in France. A
society based on privileges gave way to a new system of governance. The Declaration
of the Rights of Man during the revolution, announced the coming of a new time.
The idea that all individuals had rights and could claim equality became part of a
new language of politics. These notions of equality and freedom emerged as the central
ideas of a new age; but in different countries they were reinterpreted and rethought
in many different ways. The anti-colonial movements in India and China, Africa and
South America, produced ideas that were innovative and original, but they spoke in
a language that gained currency only from the late eighteenth century.
In Chapter II, you will read about the coming of socialism in Europe, and the dramatic
events that forced the ruling monarch, Tsar Nicholas II, to give up power. The Russian
Revolution sought to change society in a different way. It raised the question of
economic equality and the well-being of workers and peasants. The chapter will tell
you about the changes that were initiated by the new Soviet government, the problems
it faced and the measures it undertook. While Soviet Russia pushed ahead with
industrialisation and mechanisation of agriculture, it denied the rights of citizens
that were essential to the working of a democratic society. The ideals of socialism,
EVENTS AND PROCESSES
SECTION I I I I I
EVENTS AND PROCESSES
Rationalised 2023-24
India and the Contemporary World
2
however, became part of the anti-colonial movements in different countries. Today
the Soviet Union has broken up and socialism is in crisis but through the twentieth
century it has been a powerful force in the shaping of the contemporary world.
Chapter III will take you to Germany. It will discuss the rise of Hitler and the
politics of Nazism. You will read about the children and women in Nazi Germany,
about schools and concentration camps. You will see how Nazism denied various
minorities a right to live, how it drew upon a long tradition of anti-Jewish feelings
to persecute the Jews, and how it waged a relentless battle against democracy and
socialism. But the story of Nazism’s rise is not only about a few specific events,
about massacres and killings. It is about the working of an elaborate and frightening
system which operated at different levels. Some in India were impressed with the
ideas of Hitler but most watched the rise of Nazism with horror.
The history of the modern world is not simply a story of the unfolding of freedom
and democracy. It has also been a story of violence and tyranny, death and destruction.
Rationalised 2023-24
T h e    F r e n c h    R e v o l u t i o n
3
On the morning of 14 July 1789, the city of Paris was in a state of
alarm. The king had commanded troops to move into the city. Rumours
spread that he would soon order the army to open fire upon the citizens.
Some 7,000 men and women gathered in front of the town hall and
decided to form a peoples’ militia. They broke into a number of
government buildings in search of arms.
Finally, a group of several hundred people marched towards the eastern
part of the city and stormed the fortress-prison, the Bastille, where they
hoped to find hoarded ammunition. In the armed fight that followed,
the commander of the Bastille was killed and the prisoners released –
though there were only seven of them. Yet the Bastille was hated by all,
because it stood for the despotic power of the king. The fortress was
demolished and its stone fragments were sold in the markets to all
those who wished to keep a souvenir of its destruction.
The days that followed saw more rioting both in Paris and the
countryside. Most people were protesting against the high price of bread.
Much later, when historians looked back upon this time, they saw it as
the beginning of a chain of events that ultimately led to the execution
of the king in France, though most people at the time did not anticipate
this outcome. How and why did this happen?
The French Revolution The French Revolution The French Revolution The French Revolution The French Revolution
T h e    F r e n c h    R e v o l u t i o n
Fig.1 – Storming of the Bastille.
Soon after the demolition of the Bastille,
artists made prints commemorating the event.
Chapter I
Rationalised 2023-24
India and the Contemporary World
4
In 1774, Louis XVI of the Bourbon family of kings ascended the
throne of France. He was 20 years old and married to the Austrian
princess Marie Antoinette. Upon his accession the new king found
an empty treasury. 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. Under Louis
XVI, France helped the thirteen American colonies to gain their
independence from the common enemy, Britain. The war added more
than a billion livres to a debt that had already risen to more than 2
billion livres. Lenders 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. To meet its regular expenses, such as the cost of maintaining
an army, the court, running government offices or universities, the
state was forced to increase taxes. Yet even this measure would not
have sufficed. French society in the eighteenth century was divided
into three estates, and only members of the third estate paid taxes.
The society of estates was part of the feudal system that dated back to
the middle ages. The term Old Regime is usually used to describe the
society and institutions of France before 1789.
Fig. 2 shows how the system of estates in French society was organised.
Peasants made up about 90 per cent of the population. However,
only a small number of them owned the land they cultivated. About
60 per cent of the land was owned by nobles, the Church and other
richer members of the third estate. The members of the first two
estates, that is, the clergy and the nobility, enjoyed certain privileges by
birth. The most important of these was exemption from paying taxes to
the state. The nobles further enjoyed feudal privileges. These included
feudal dues, which they extracted from the peasants. Peasants were obliged
to render services to the lord – to work in his house and fields – to serve
in the army or to participate in building roads.
The Church too extracted its share of taxes called tithes from the peasants,
and finally, all members of the third estate had to pay taxes to the state.
These included a direct tax, called taille, and a number of indirect taxes
which were levied on articles of everyday consumption like salt or tobacco.
The burden of financing activities of the state through taxes was borne
by the third estate alone.
New words
Livre – Unit of currency in France,
discontinued in 1794
Clergy – Group of persons invested with
special functions in the church
Tithe – A tax levied by the church, comprising
one-tenth of the agricultural produce
Taille – Tax to be paid directly to the state
1  French Society During the Late Eighteenth Century
Clergy
Nobility
Peasants and
artisans
Small peasants,
landless labour,
servants
Big businessmen,
merchants, court
officials, lawyers etc.
Fig.2 – A Society of Estates.
Note that within the Third Estate some were
rich and others poor.
1st estate
3rd estate
2nd estate
Rationalised 2023-24
Page 5


T h e    F r e n c h    R e v o l u t i o n
1
In Section I, you will read about the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution,
and the rise of Nazism. In different ways all these events were important in the
making of the modern world.
Chapter I is on the French Revolution. Today we often take the ideas of liberty,
freedom and equality for granted. But we need to remind ourselves that these ideas
also have a history. By looking at the French Revolution you will read a small part
of that history. The French Revolution led to the end of monarchy in France. A
society based on privileges gave way to a new system of governance. The Declaration
of the Rights of Man during the revolution, announced the coming of a new time.
The idea that all individuals had rights and could claim equality became part of a
new language of politics. These notions of equality and freedom emerged as the central
ideas of a new age; but in different countries they were reinterpreted and rethought
in many different ways. The anti-colonial movements in India and China, Africa and
South America, produced ideas that were innovative and original, but they spoke in
a language that gained currency only from the late eighteenth century.
In Chapter II, you will read about the coming of socialism in Europe, and the dramatic
events that forced the ruling monarch, Tsar Nicholas II, to give up power. The Russian
Revolution sought to change society in a different way. It raised the question of
economic equality and the well-being of workers and peasants. The chapter will tell
you about the changes that were initiated by the new Soviet government, the problems
it faced and the measures it undertook. While Soviet Russia pushed ahead with
industrialisation and mechanisation of agriculture, it denied the rights of citizens
that were essential to the working of a democratic society. The ideals of socialism,
EVENTS AND PROCESSES
SECTION I I I I I
EVENTS AND PROCESSES
Rationalised 2023-24
India and the Contemporary World
2
however, became part of the anti-colonial movements in different countries. Today
the Soviet Union has broken up and socialism is in crisis but through the twentieth
century it has been a powerful force in the shaping of the contemporary world.
Chapter III will take you to Germany. It will discuss the rise of Hitler and the
politics of Nazism. You will read about the children and women in Nazi Germany,
about schools and concentration camps. You will see how Nazism denied various
minorities a right to live, how it drew upon a long tradition of anti-Jewish feelings
to persecute the Jews, and how it waged a relentless battle against democracy and
socialism. But the story of Nazism’s rise is not only about a few specific events,
about massacres and killings. It is about the working of an elaborate and frightening
system which operated at different levels. Some in India were impressed with the
ideas of Hitler but most watched the rise of Nazism with horror.
The history of the modern world is not simply a story of the unfolding of freedom
and democracy. It has also been a story of violence and tyranny, death and destruction.
Rationalised 2023-24
T h e    F r e n c h    R e v o l u t i o n
3
On the morning of 14 July 1789, the city of Paris was in a state of
alarm. The king had commanded troops to move into the city. Rumours
spread that he would soon order the army to open fire upon the citizens.
Some 7,000 men and women gathered in front of the town hall and
decided to form a peoples’ militia. They broke into a number of
government buildings in search of arms.
Finally, a group of several hundred people marched towards the eastern
part of the city and stormed the fortress-prison, the Bastille, where they
hoped to find hoarded ammunition. In the armed fight that followed,
the commander of the Bastille was killed and the prisoners released –
though there were only seven of them. Yet the Bastille was hated by all,
because it stood for the despotic power of the king. The fortress was
demolished and its stone fragments were sold in the markets to all
those who wished to keep a souvenir of its destruction.
The days that followed saw more rioting both in Paris and the
countryside. Most people were protesting against the high price of bread.
Much later, when historians looked back upon this time, they saw it as
the beginning of a chain of events that ultimately led to the execution
of the king in France, though most people at the time did not anticipate
this outcome. How and why did this happen?
The French Revolution The French Revolution The French Revolution The French Revolution The French Revolution
T h e    F r e n c h    R e v o l u t i o n
Fig.1 – Storming of the Bastille.
Soon after the demolition of the Bastille,
artists made prints commemorating the event.
Chapter I
Rationalised 2023-24
India and the Contemporary World
4
In 1774, Louis XVI of the Bourbon family of kings ascended the
throne of France. He was 20 years old and married to the Austrian
princess Marie Antoinette. Upon his accession the new king found
an empty treasury. 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. Under Louis
XVI, France helped the thirteen American colonies to gain their
independence from the common enemy, Britain. The war added more
than a billion livres to a debt that had already risen to more than 2
billion livres. Lenders 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. To meet its regular expenses, such as the cost of maintaining
an army, the court, running government offices or universities, the
state was forced to increase taxes. Yet even this measure would not
have sufficed. French society in the eighteenth century was divided
into three estates, and only members of the third estate paid taxes.
The society of estates was part of the feudal system that dated back to
the middle ages. The term Old Regime is usually used to describe the
society and institutions of France before 1789.
Fig. 2 shows how the system of estates in French society was organised.
Peasants made up about 90 per cent of the population. However,
only a small number of them owned the land they cultivated. About
60 per cent of the land was owned by nobles, the Church and other
richer members of the third estate. The members of the first two
estates, that is, the clergy and the nobility, enjoyed certain privileges by
birth. The most important of these was exemption from paying taxes to
the state. The nobles further enjoyed feudal privileges. These included
feudal dues, which they extracted from the peasants. Peasants were obliged
to render services to the lord – to work in his house and fields – to serve
in the army or to participate in building roads.
The Church too extracted its share of taxes called tithes from the peasants,
and finally, all members of the third estate had to pay taxes to the state.
These included a direct tax, called taille, and a number of indirect taxes
which were levied on articles of everyday consumption like salt or tobacco.
The burden of financing activities of the state through taxes was borne
by the third estate alone.
New words
Livre – Unit of currency in France,
discontinued in 1794
Clergy – Group of persons invested with
special functions in the church
Tithe – A tax levied by the church, comprising
one-tenth of the agricultural produce
Taille – Tax to be paid directly to the state
1  French Society During the Late Eighteenth Century
Clergy
Nobility
Peasants and
artisans
Small peasants,
landless labour,
servants
Big businessmen,
merchants, court
officials, lawyers etc.
Fig.2 – A Society of Estates.
Note that within the Third Estate some were
rich and others poor.
1st estate
3rd estate
2nd estate
Rationalised 2023-24
T h e    F r e n c h    R e v o l u t i o n
5
‘This poor fellow brings everything,
grain, fruits, money, salad. The fat lord
sits there, ready to accept it all. He does
not even care to grace him with a look.’
‘The nobleman is the spider,
the peasant the fly .’
Explain why the artist has portrayed the
nobleman as the spider and the peasant
as the fly.
Fig.3 – The Spider and the Fly.
An anonymous etching.
‘The more the devil has, the more he wants.’
Activity
1.1 The Struggle to Survive
The population of France rose from about 23 million in 1715 to 28
million in 1789. This led to a rapid increase in the demand for
foodgrains. Production of grains could not keep pace with the
demand. So the price of bread which was the staple diet of the majority
rose rapidly. Most workers were employed as labourers in workshops
whose owner fixed their wages. But wages did not keep pace with
the rise in prices. So the gap between the poor and the rich widened.
Things became worse whenever drought or hail reduced the harvest.
This led to a subsistence crisis, something that occurred frequently
in France during the Old Regime.
New words
Subsistence crisis – An extreme situation where
the basic means of livelihood are endangered
Anonymous – One whose name remains
unknown
Rationalised 2023-24
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162 videos|652 docs|359 tests

FAQs on NCERT Textbook: The French Revolution - History for UPSC CSE

1. What were the causes of the French Revolution?
Ans. The causes of the French Revolution were the financial crisis, social inequality, political incompetence, and Enlightenment ideas.
2. What were the major events of the French Revolution?
Ans. The major events of the French Revolution were the storming of the Bastille, the Reign of Terror, and the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte.
3. How did the French Revolution impact Europe?
Ans. The French Revolution had a significant impact on Europe, leading to the spread of revolutionary ideas and the overthrow of monarchies in other countries.
4. Who were the key figures in the French Revolution?
Ans. The key figures in the French Revolution were Maximilien Robespierre, Georges Danton, and Napoleon Bonaparte.
5. What were the outcomes of the French Revolution?
Ans. The outcomes of the French Revolution were the establishment of a republic, the end of the monarchy, the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte, and the spread of revolutionary ideas across Europe.
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