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Social Context of French Revolution

Essay by   •  March 21, 2018  •  Course Note  •  299 Words (2 Pages)  •  685 Views

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The eighteenth century was a time of economic expansion, increasing urbanisation, rising population and improving communications in comparison to the stagnation of the previous century. As prior to the French Revolution, French citizens were part of a strictly limited society with very little freedom of speech, referred to as the Ancien Regime. At the head was the king would who ruled in divine right as an absolute monarch, which meant there was no legal limits to his power over his subjects.

The social context in which enlightenment ideas were produced, received and marketed in the late eighteenth century was saw as a turning point, a time when more reading material of a more varied character was eagerly seized upon by a broader reading public than ever before. This was made possible the penetration of ideas expressed in print to both genders and to social strata well outside the elites. The period saw the rise of the novel, directly at the expense of theology, as the major vehicle in which readers encountered new ideas and attitudes. Therefore, many enlightenment novels of the period concerned with conveying factual information and discussing controversial points of view as they are in weaving an imaginative narrative structure. The Enlightenment was an era where dramatic shifts occurred in the production and accessibility of ideas and especially in the case of print media. Increasingly, culture became ‘commodified.’ All this led to the emergence of ‘public opinion’ as a force to be reckoned with, a major paradox used in the enlightenment as a critical political force. However, this growth of public opinion raised a third fundamental problem: that of defining the real elite. The control and spread of knowledge and ideas became part of the uneasy relationships between states and societies, monarchies and social classes.

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