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Why Did the French Revolution Alter Europe So Profoundly?

Essay by   •  April 4, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  1,703 Words (7 Pages)  •  2,498 Views

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Why did the French revolution alter Europe so profoundly?

The French Revolution is undoubtedly one of the most pivotal events in Europe's modern history. Having changed the social and political system in France, the French peoples actions had shook the rest of Europe into action. With the protest movements of Britain in the 19th century and most notably the Russians who took inspiration from the French Revolution in 1917 showing the extent of the French Revolutions impact on Europe as. The French Revolution however is not just one single event, but a collection of them that helped to alter Europe over time. There is debate among historians on the true implications of the French Revolution as "The revolutionaries perceived the possibility that all men might participate in the regulation of communal affairs, by they could not discover how this could be done" ; I believe that its impact is profound in shaping France and the rest of Europe as "the legacy of the achievements and the failings of that age are still with us" .

The French Revolution can first be seen to change the country's political system, with the collapse of the absolute Monarchy and were replaced with ideas of the Enlightenment supported by intellectuals such as Robespierre. The people of France wanted to move away from the divine rights of the Monarchy and gain a constitution and government that could govern for the third estate without power being centred in the clergy and monarchy. This was unprecedented in Europe and caused shockwaves through the contintent as "since 1789-1799 in France, such massive social revolutions have punctuated modern world history" highlighting the fear that it put in other leaders of the time, that a similar revolution could happen to them, and it did. The Revolution showed the collective power that French society had and that they could use it to become citizens instead of subjects and gain liberties and rights and an end to the greed of the bourgeoisie. We can see the effects the French Revolution had on France when more revolutions take place after; this is supported by JF Bolsher when he says that "The Revolution echoed loudly through French life in the nineteenth and twentieth century's" and this is shown in the later revolutions that followed in 1848 for example. The revolutions that took place around Europe would not have happened if the French Revolution had not have happened, as it provided the much needed inspiration to the people that they had collective power. JF Bolsher follows this point claiming that the French people "had rioted long before the French Revolution, and would have rioted again without it" however I feel that although they might have rioted again, it would not be to the extent or have the success that the French Revolution inevitably had. Grachus Babeuf's point that the French Revolution is "the forerunner of a much bigger much more solemn revolution that will be the final one" I feel is more realistic in showing the impact of the Revolution in its influence to later movements that would not have happened if the French Citizens did not revolt. This therefore tells us that the French Revolution clearly was the catalyst for more social and politically driven movements in Europe, even though not having short term success did help to modify Europe greatly as the "French Revolution in the end established a Liberal Democracy" that would be the framework for modern Europe's political systems that we have today.

Another way in which we can further see the French Revolutions influence on altering Europe is the fact it encouraged political ideology to be formed during its time. Utopian socialisms beginnings can be seen to have the influence of the French Revolution in their goal of a united and fair society being created. Communism has obvious influences from the French Revolution, with the Bolshevik party and the 1917 Russian revolution taking motivation from the French Revolution as aspects of Socialism can be seen in the goals of the Revolutionaries. An example of this is the Jacobins being in favour of redistributing wealth and even some of the intellectuals such as Pierre Joseph-Proudhon who declared that "Property is theft" which is a key thought of the Socialist ideology.

We can further see the French revolution is "the great turning point of modern civilization" due to its influence on other movements after it. There are claims that many political ideologies had drawn much of its doctrine from the French Revolution; however I would take this further and claim that "France provided the first great example, the concept and the vocabulary of nationalism" which would become a major part in European history. This is clearly seen when it says that "from it" , the revolution "accentuated divisions of the Earth among national sovereignties" which is one of the key features of Nationalism itself, and it is interesting that this can be seen to be forming from the French Revolution as it was not a conflict between Nations, but instead a civil war with a divided nation. This point does show the way that the French

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