Historical Interpretation Of The Causes Of The French Revolution

The Marxist explanation of the French Revolution’s origins wasn’t widely accepted until 1960. This interpretation was used to view the revolution as the result of a classic Marxist struggle by a rising class. In France, this was the time when wage earners were disillusioned. It was also evident that they had growing economic power which was not possible to reflect under the constraints of the Old Regime. Albert Soboul recognized the importance lower classes in 1968’s publication, ‘The Sans-Culottes. It stated that life was difficult in the peasantry due to poor harvests in 1787-1789. The Assembly of the Notables (February 22nd, 1789) shows how the bourgeoisie failed to exert any influence on France’s financial system. The Controller of General Finances, Charles Calonne, then urged tax exempts to accept financial reform to help France’s dire financial situation. However they refused. Many historians believe France could have climbed the economic ladder had his proposals been accepted. However, France did not have representation from the 2nd estate or the third estate. This was because the nobility wanted what was best for their country and not for France as a whole.

Because Marxist history is correct, it recognizes how the bourgeoisie was dissatisfied with the Ancien Regime’s limitations and led them to challenge the monarchy. This interpretation is especially credible because of the rapid growth in urban population in the period leading up to the revolution. By 1989, there were approximately 30 French towns with a population exceeding 150,000. The major problem with Marxist interpretations is their oversimplification. They claim that the causes for the revolution were due solely to this factor. George Taylor, a revisionist historian says that the interpretation has been ‘interred at the graveyard for lost paradigms assassinated with critical research’. This is widely believed to be true by many. Revisionists challenged this view by pointing out that some enlightened elites ‘actively supported France’s political, economic and modernisation’ and were aligned with the wishes of the bourgeoisie and not in opposition. Revisionists also believe that the post-revolutionary revolution was not caused by class conflict. They claim that noblemen won over the bourgeoisie. Alfred Cobban, a historian, stated that history’s change is not the result of clearly defined class interests. His interpretation does much to discredit Marxist views, but it is not original enough to counter them. It instead denigrates Marxist views and doesn’t offer any other alternative. This is contrary to what the New Revisionist interpretation tends to do. It focuses on political facts to explain the French Revolution’s causes. This is why Post-Revisionisms do not only focus on political processes, institutions, or policies’ but also on the ’emergency of distinctive policies and the emergence of new types and conflicts of politicians, organisations, and other cultural factors’. This interpretation may be the best of all historical views, since it acknowledges that the primary factor responsible for the French Revolution is political change through many socio-economic factors. Mona Ozouf, a historian noticed a link between the Ancien Regme’s death and the rise public opinion. ‘There was never public opinion in Louis XIV’s time. Instead, the royal brilliance outshone it. The same thing happened when the public opinion was king. It made it impossible for the royal to exercise any authority. The revolution was triggered by changing public opinion. However, the Enlightenment is highlighted in this study.

This recent interpretation is certainly more useful than the others. However, it does not fully reflect the impact financial ruin in France had on the political changes which led to France’s revolution.

Given these facts, the post revisionist thought emerges as the most useful in reflecting upon the causes of France’s Revolution. It is because it allows you to look at the revolution from both a political and economic perspective.



Makhi is a 34 yo educational blogger who is passionate about writing and exploring new content ideas. She has a degree in English from the University of Utah and is currently working as a teacher in a public school in Utah. Makhi has been published in numerous online journals and has been featured on national television networks.