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The French Revolution by Dave Martin
Due date: 03/01/2017 Questions: 0/5
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Completed
The French Revolution by Dave Martin
Due date:
03/01/2017
Questions:
0/5
Why is the French Revolution so interesting - and so important?

As pages 4-7 have shown, the French Revolution was not one brief moment, lasting a week, a month or even a year. The events that made up the Revolution last a decade. Think of it as the time it takes for a child of 10 to grow into an adult of 20 and you will gain a sense of the duration of the events of the Revolution.

What was the Revolution? It is obviously about far more than the execution of the King. in fact the Revolution began without any thought of removing the King from power, let alone executing him. The aim of the revolutionaries was, at first, far more moderate - to end absolute monarchy and give many more people a say in government. However, as in the English Civil Wars of the 1640s, the actions and indecisions of individuals, their fears of what might happen and their inability to agree on how the country would be governed as well as counter-revolution and foreign threats, led to escalating violence. As so often in History, events turned out very differently from how anyone had imagined at the start.
Why did the French Revolution become so violent?
This sense of events escalating and changing quickly, explains why these were terrifying, puzzling, exciting, frequently uncertain and anxious times for the people of France. They constantly had to rethink their ideas, decide what kind of government they wanted, what degree of violence they could accept in the name of the Revolution, whether to compromise their principles for the public good or to save their own lives. One of the fascinations of studying the Revolution is discovering how people behaved under such extreme, rapidly-changing conditions. We also have to think about whether the course of events was decided by individuals such as Robespierre or whether such 'great men' were carried along by the wishes of the masses who were at least as interested in having enough to eat as they were in revolutionary ideals.
what does the above paragraph imply about the relationship between the individual and history?
Another reason for studying the Revolution is that it did not end in the 1790s - the effects of it have continued to reverberate through world events ever since. It had an impact on the revolutionary upheavals in France in 1830, 1848, and 1871, and on revolutions elsewhere, particularly on the Russian Revolution in 1917. The Bolshevik revolutionaries in 1917 saw themselves are the new Jacobins overthrowing the tyranny of another absolute ruler, Tsar Nicholas II. Later still the revolutionary anthem, the Marseillaise,. was hear again, sung by Polish nationalists as they fought invading Soviet forces in 1956 and by Chinese protesters in Tienanmen Square in Beijing in 1989. More broadly, the French Revolution gave rise to two major international developments. One was the assertion of universal human rights, the second the emergence of the modern state. In the beginning the revolutionaries wanted to combine the two, to create a constitutional government that would secure and protect personal freedom. But by the 1790s it became apparent that these two ambitions were not necessarily compatible. The increase in state power and centralised government during the Terror came at the expense of individual liberty. Today this same tension can still be seen in societies across Europe and around the world, including our own.
What paradox or contradiction was revealed by the French Revolution?
Debates and arguments about the Revolution
The Revolution is so important in the wider pattern of world history that it's not surprising that people have been arguing and debating about it since the day it began. As early as in 1790 Edmund Burke wrote his Reflections on the Revolution in France in which he said that the revolutionaries were destroying society by attacking religion and the hierarchy of king and aristocracy.

Within a year Thomas Paine had written Rights of Man declaring that the revolutionaries were advancing individual freedom, human rights and acting as a beacon for all those struggling against repressive governments.

Those arguments between Burke and Paine typify how the Revolution has often been seen as all good or all evil - violence and destruction versus idealism and hope. However, one of the great values of history is learning to question such generalisations and look for complexity and variety, especially in an event as multi-faceted as the French revolution. as Professor William Doyle (2001) wrote:

"... few other historical episodes beyond living memory have remained capable of arousing such passionate admiration or loathing. That is because so many of the institutions, habits, attitudes, and reflexes of our own times can still be traced to what we think went wrong, or right, then. Greater knowledge of what occurred will not necessarily change anybody's mind. But it might offer a sounder basis for judgement than random accumulation of snippets and snapshots of which still satisfies most people/s curiosity about this crossroads of modern history."
Why has the study of the French Revolution caused such difference of opinion?
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