If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content
Current time:0:00Total duration:17:05

Video transcript

this video we're going to talk about the French the French Revolution and what makes this especially significant is that not only is this independence from a monarchy controlled Empire like in the American independence this is an actual overthrowing of a monarchy of a monarchy that controls a major world power so this is on some levels you know depending on how you view it the American Revolution came first and kind of put out the principles of self-governance and you know why do we need Kings and all of that but the French Revolution was the first time and those type of principles really took foot in Europe and really overthrew a monarchy so just to understand kind of the environment in which this began let's talk about what France was like in seventeen in 1789 which most people kind of view is the beginning of the revolution one France was poor France was poor now you wouldn't think that France was poor if you looked at louis xvi who was king of france if you looked at louis xvi and the clothes he wore if you looked at Marie Antoinette his wife and Toinette they don't look poor they lived in the Palace of Versailles which is which was you know it was ginormous it's this massive palace it would compare to the greatest palaces in the world they were living a lavish lifestyle in case you want to know where this is this is well it's now almost a suburb of Paris but at the time it was a village twenty or thirty kilometers away from Paris so they don't seem to be poor but the the actual government of France is poor and when I say poor they've they're in debt they've just had two major military adventures one was the American Revolution American Revolution they played a major part in supporting the revolutionaries because they wanted to stick it to their enemy Great Britain they wanted their empire to be to shrink a little bit so France sent significant military and military help and resources and you can imagine that's not a cheap thing when you're doing it across the Atlantic Ocean and even before the American Revolution the Seven Years War the Seven Years War that ended in 1763 this really drained the amount of wealth that the French government had and for those of you all who are more American history focused the Seven Years War is really the same thing as the French and Indian War the French and Indian War was the North American theater of the Seven Years War but the Seven Years War is a more general term because there was also a conflict going on in Europe simultaneously the French and Indian was just part of that conflict and the seven years actually engulfed most of the powers of Europe at the time so France had participated in this ended in 1763 and the American Revolution both of these really just drained the amount of funds that the government itself had at the same time the French people were starving so people people starving there was a generalized famine at the time they weren't producing enough grain people couldn't get their bread to eat so you can imagine when people are starving they're not happy and to make kind of add insult to injury you would see your Royals living like this but even worse than the Royal so you don't see everyday you saw your nobility who is roughly a little over you know they're about one and a half percent of the population but you saw the nobility really really living it up so nobility nobility living it up living it up and the nobility just so you know these are people with fancy titles who inherit land and wealth from generation to generation they don't dress too differently from the king and they essentially live in smaller versions of the Palace of Versailles and you work if you're a peasant you work on their fields do all the work you send them some of your crops and they pay no taxes so you know from your point of view and it's not hard to understand why you would think this these are essentially you know kind of parasites who are completely ignoring the the fact that you're starving and you're paying all of the taxes you can imagine people weren't too happy about that and then to top it all off you had all of these philosophers hanging around you know talking about the Enlightenment enlightenment enlightenment and this is kind of the whole movement where people and authors and and and and and and poets are starting to realize that and philosophers are starting to realize that Yugi you know maybe we don't need Kings maybe we don't need priests to tell us what it means to be good or bad maybe people could essentially could rule themselves all of a sudden and obviously the the biggest proof of the Enlightenment was the American Revolution that was kind of the first example of people rising up and saying you know gee we don't need these Kings anymore we want to govern ourselves you know for the people by the people so you also had kind of this philosophical movement going around now if you ask me my opinion of what the biggest thing I think the people starving you can never underestimate what people are willing to do when they're actually going when they're actually hungry and you know this was kind of more from the intellectual point of view people said oh and there's this Enlightenment move on you so this is the state of France they had a financial crisis so a meeting was called kind of an emergency meeting of the major groups of France to try to resolve to try to resolve some of these problems France is in it's a fiscal crisis people are starving what do you do so they called the convocation of the estates-general let me write that down convocation of the estates-general which was a meeting of the three estates of France now that sounds like a very you know what are the three estates of France you can really just view them as the three major social classes of France the first estate the first estate was the clergy the second estate is let me just write two there the second estate is the nobility and then the third estate is everyone else is everyone else but in a different color everyone else and this gives you a sense of how skewed the power structure because people kind of grouped the power is okay these are the three groups and maybe they can vote against each other but this was only 0.5% of the population this is one and a half percent of the population this was nine 8% of the population 98% of the population but these people had equal weight with these guys and but these people had the burden of most of the taxes these are people who are doing all of the work producing all of France's wealth dying in the wars but these guys despite their small population have more weight than everybody else so you had the convocation of the state's generals where representatives of these three estates met at the Palace of Versailles to essentially figure out what to do about this fiscal crisis now obviously these people right here the Third Estate they were angry they're like look we've we've taken the burden on ourselves for much of the history recent history of France we're tired of you guys getting away with not paying taxes and just you know kind of leeching off of us they didn't they were afraid that they're even more of the tax burdens going to be put on them nothing is and the nobility or the king or the clergy that they wouldn't have to make sacrifices so they came in already angry and so they really wanted to meet in one big room together because they actually had roughly six hundred representatives which only the king at the last minute agreed to before it was only going to be equal numbers of them these guys had 300 roughly these guys had 300 as well these guys were able to say hey we're at 98% of the population maybe we should have at least 600 representatives but even there they wanted to meet in the same room and essentially try to make it so it's you know one representative one vote but obviously these these other estates the clergy nobility say no no no let's each vote as the states and all of that but today these guys lost so they were essentially forced to kind of organize independently as a Third Estate so that made them even angrier so they met at an assembly hall and they said you know what if these guys are going to ignore us not only are we going to be in this room and start organizing ourselves but we're not going to call this the convocation of the estates-general we're going to declare that we are the National Assembly of France the National Assembly of France that we represent the people we are essentially become going to become the parliamentary body of France instead of just being this emergency convocation of the estates-general and actually got some from some elements of the clergy and some elements of the nobility now obviously Louie Louie the sixteenth was you know he was not amused by this whole turn of events here he was he was an absolute monarch which means that he held pretty much all of the power to do as as he saw it whatever he saw was fit and all of a sudden you had this group of upstarts you know they're taking advantage of this emergency situation where he can't you know continue to buy as many silk robes as he was before the taking advantage of the situation to declare a National Assembly of France to declare somehow that I'm not an absolute monarch that my power is going to be taken by this assembly so he wasn't happy so when they took a break he locked the door of the Assembly Room so they couldn't get in and he said oh you know I think there needs to be some repairs in that room maybe y'all can assemble later and that was kind of his way of saying no you know I'm not gonna if you're declaring your National Assembly friends I'm not even let you assemble I'm not even gonna let you get in the room so that clearly did didn't do a lot to make these guys or in particular these guys any happier people are hungry these people are living lavishly they've already been not allowed to vote in one room together when they vote in their own room and declare themselves as representative of the people of France which they really are the king locks the room doesn't let them go in so they go to an indoor tennis court in Versailles this is a picture of it right here this is an indoor tennis court tennis court and it's in Versailles and that gives you an idea of how lavish Versailles was that it had indoor tennis court in the in the late 1700s and they proclaimed the Tennis Court Oath Tennis Court Oath where they proclaimed not are we only the National Assembly of France but even more than that we all pledge to not stop until we create a constitution of France a constitution of France so they went from being a National Assembly to essentially morphing into a Constituent Assembly we're going to create a constitution Constitution for France for France and they had sympathy from some elements of the clergy and the nobility so eventually louis xvi you know he kind of saw the writing on the wall he didn't like the you know people are angry and you know every time he tries to mess them they only get angrier and they only go to even more extreme measures so he you know just to kind of make them make it seem like he's going alexa okay that's cool guys you know oh whatever y'all want to do yeah yeah maybe I'm open to it we are in an emergency and maybe it is unreasonable I have been a little bit unreasonable so he lets them be he lets them assemble again but while that's happening while that's happening people start to notice that troops are converging on Paris troops let me write that down troops converging converging converging on Paris and they're obviously being sent there by the king and I don't aren't they just any groups a lot of the actual troops even though they are they are French troops they're under the authority of France's military there are actually foreign foreign troops so if you think about it these would be the ideal types of troops to put down any type of insurgency or any type of rebellion or even better to go in and dissolve the National Assembly so people started getting a little bit paranoid you can imagine now on top of that louis xvi main financial adviser Necker Jacques Necker he told and he was sympathetic to the Third Estate to the plight of the Third Estate Capital he was sympathetic to their plight and he said hey you know mr. King why don't you you know I think it's reasonable for you to essentially budget your expenses a little bit better maybe a little bit less of a lavish lifestyle considering the state of our the government's budget then the state of the people of France they're in this you know they're they're starving why don't you do that a little bit but louis xvi instead of taking his advice he fired him he fired the financial adviser fired advisor so taken together you know troops are converging on Paris you have this these this Tennis Court Oath louis xvi has fired his advisor people are going hungry they're generally going hungry people in paris said you know what the king is going to try to suppress us again this is no good we have to end especially if he does it with troops we have to arm ourselves so they stormed the Bastille so this right here is a picture of the Bastille this is the vast deal and this is a a its most famous you know when when you first learned about it maybe this is the first time you're learning about it is oh it's a pretty they put political prisoners there and they freed the political prisoners but in reality there were only seven prisoners in the Bastille so it's not like thousands and thousands of political prisoners were being held there and they were freed the real value of the Bastille to the revolutionaries we could say is that there were weapons there there was a major arms cache there there were weapons and so by storming the Bastille and getting the weapons they all of a sudden could essentially fend off any type of threat that the troops would have but this was also kind of the very beginning of the real chaos of the French Revolution and as we're going to see over the next several years that chaos only gets worse and worse it is almost you know a lot of levels a lot worse than the American Revolution because what actually happened in the cities and what fellow Frenchman started to do each other was really on many levels barbaric and you actually saw it here for the first time where the governor of the Bastille the guy who was in charge of it you had two standoff between the troops and he eventually he called for a ceasefire because he's like oh there's too much bloodshed but once the revolutionaries got to him they stabbed him they cut his head off and then they put it on a pike and then they went back to the mayor of Paris they shot him so clearly things were really getting out of hand but this is kind of most people associate the storming of the Bastille is kind of the landmark event of the of the of the French Revolution and even today people celebrate Bastille Day and that is July 14 1789 and so just to give you a sense of how quickly all of this happened the convocation of the estates-general that was in May that escort oath was in June and then in July you have you have the storming of Bastille and then in August just to kind of complete the idea that we are definitely in a revolutionary period in August the National Assembly that you know that started off at the tennis courts in the third Third Estate they declared their equivalent of the Declaration of Independence they declared their declaration declaration of the rights rights of man rights of man and and of the citizen and of the citizen which was essentially their version of the Declaration of Independence and it's essentially put everything into question of you know what what you know what is life liberty and pursuit of meaning I'm using words from the American Revolution but this was the Declaration of indepen sit wasn't a constitution it was just a statement of the things that they think need to govern any type of Constitution or country or the ideas that any country should be based on so I'm going to leave you there this was kind of we've really now started the French Revolution and now you're going to see that over the next several years it's only going to get bloodier and bloodier and even more complex and when everything is said and done it's actually not going to end that well in terms of giving people liberty