French Revolution

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Here are the solutions, questions, answers, and notes of chapter 1: French Revolution which is a part of social science class 9 syllabus of students studying under the Nagaland Board of School Education.

The French Revolution was one of the most important events in world history. It shook the foundation of mediaeval Europe and many important events that happened after the revolution in Europe in the 19th century were directly influenced by the revolution. The French Revolution began in 1789 and lasted till 1799.

French revolution
A sketch depicting the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution (Image source: Wikimedia)

There were many reasons for the revolution. One of the most important reasons was that people were unhappy with the king and how the society was divided into different groups. The groups who are on the top used to bully the groups who were at the bottom. The rich would not pay taxes but the poor were forced to pay much taxes. These angered them and eventually it lead to a revolution. Further, there were intellectuals like Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Jean Jacques Rousseau who incited the people to revolt against the king.

In this chapter, you will learn in brief how the revolution unfolded, what were the causes, and what were the consequences of the revolution.

I. Choose the correct answer.

1. Who comprised the First Estate and the Second Estate in France?

Answer: (a) Clergy and nobles

2. Who was the king of France on the eve of the Revolution?

Answer: (c) Louis XVI

3. The law that gave a final blow to the authority of the clergy was called:

Answer: (a) Civil constitution of the Clergy

4. The majority of the French population belonged to the ______ Estate.

Answer: Third

5. Which French philosopher propagated the theory of separation of powers into three branches of govern the Legislative, the Executive and the Judiciary?

Answer: (b) Montesquieu

6. Which French philosopher wrote the famous book Social Contract?

Answer: (c) J.J. Rousseau

7. Which emperor of France was publicly guillotined in January 1793?

Answer: (c) Louis XVI

II. Very Short Answer Type questions:

1. When did the French Revolution begin?

Answer: The French Revolution begun on May 5, 1789.

2. Which dynasty ruled France at the time of the Revolution and what kind of monarchy it was?

Answer: Bourbon dynasty ruled France at the time of the Revolution. It was an absolute monarchy.

3. Who were the people who comprised the First, Second and Third Estates?

Answer: The First Estate comprised of the Clergy, the Second Estate comprised of the Nobles and the Third Estate comprised of the common people.

4. Name three famous writers and philosophers who influenced the French Revolution with their ideas.

Answer: The three famous writers and philosophers who influenced the French Revolution with their ideas were Voltaire, Montesquieu and Jean Jacques Rousseau.

5. On what date is Bastille Day celebrated?

Answer: France celebrates Bastille Day on July 14 each year.

6. Which law turned the clergy into paid servants of the church?

Answer: The law that turned the clergy into paid servants of the Church was The Civil Constitution of the Clergy 1790.

7. Who were able to control the Sans Culottes in the end?

Answer: The Sans Culottes were brought under control finally by a Directory of Five in 1795 and then by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1799.

8. Into how many branches did Montesquieu suggest the separation of the powers of the Government?

Answer: Montesquieu suggested the separation of the powers of the Government into three branches i.e., the Legislative, the Executive and the Judiciary.

III. Short Answer Type Questions.

1. Describe the role of the Bourbon kings in the French Revolution.

Answer: The Bourbon kings believed in absolute monarchy. Towards the end of the 18th century, France’s financial condition had become desperate. Louis XV emptied the treasury by his extravagant living and poor governance. His son Louis XVI also failed to improve the condition of the country. He failed to tax the first and the second estates and the Third Estate was already taxed to its limits. These all played a big role in the revolution.

2. Explain the role of the middle class in the French Revolution.

Answer: The 18th century saw the emergence of the middle class. Apart from merchants and manufacturers, the Third Estate included professions such as lawyers, teachers, authors, and administrative officials. The middle class believed that no group in society should be privileged by birth; rather one’s social position must depend on merit. Thus, the Revolution was spearheaded by the middle class.

3. In what ways did the French Revolution mean different aims to different people?

Answer: The French Revolution meant different aims to different people in the following ways:
(i) The peasants wanted an end to feudalism and the cruel taxes.
(ii) The liberals (the middle class of France) wanted a new constitution which gave equality and freedom to all.
(iii) There were the extremists who wanted a republic in France and an end to the monarchy.

4. What was the importance of the Declaration of the Rights of Man?

Answer: The Declaration of the Rights of Man was the most important papers of the French Revolution. It explained the various rights of the citizens and how everyone should have equal rights unlike the previous system. It talked about freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and separation of powers. The Declaration of the Rights of Man was issued by the Assembly in 1789.

5. Describe the Reign of Terror and role played by Robespierre in it.

Answer: The Reign of Terror was a period between June 1793 and July 1794 in France during which daily executions took place in Paris and in the provinces. Many were shot down in the countryside. The Government was in the hands of a Committee of Public Safety and its leader was Maxmillien Robespierre. Robespierre considered it his patriotic duty to execute all those who might try to put down the Revolution. Eventually, a coalition was formed against Robespierre by his colleagues who feared for their lives. The public was roused against him. Robespierre was arrested, tried and guillotined in July 1794. The reign of terror ended with his death.

IV. Long Answer Type Questions.

1. Discuss the political, economic and social causes of the French Revolution.

Answer: The political, economic and social causes of the French Revolution were:

Political causes: Before the French Revolution, France was under the Bourbon dynasty who believed in the absolute monarchy. In the 13th century, France established a parliament comprising the clergy, nobles and the common man, but the kings had stopped consulting it since 1614. The French kings believed in the Divine Right Theory. They thought that they were only responsible to God for the way they ruled. King Louis XIV taxed the people heavily’ without consulting the Estates General, and the common people in France suffered great hardships. The kings (Louis XIV and XV) were Catholics and they persecuted other religious groups. The kings also had no able ministers to guide them.

Economic causes: When King Louis XVI became king at the age of 20 years, he found an empty treasury. Long years of war had drained the financial resources of France. Under Louis XVI, France helped the thirteen American colonies to gain their independence from Britain. The war added more than a billion livres to a debt that had already risen to more than 2 billion livres. Lenders who gave the state credit now began to charge l0 per cent interest on loans. To meet its regular expenses the state was forced to increase taxes but this would not have sufficed and only the members of the Third Estate paid taxes.

Social causes: The French society was divided into three estates and yet only the Third Estate used to pay taxes. The First and Second Estates, though enjoyed maximum privileges and ruled over the common people, didn’t pay any taxes. The Third Estate paid about 50% of their income by way of taxes and resented the unfair and oppressive taxes forced on them by the kings. The government did not care for their welfare. It was from this middle class that the main push for the revolution came. Peasants made up about 80 per cent of the population, but only a small number of them owned the land they cultivated.

2. The French philosophers of the 18th century greatly influenced the people and it led to the French Revolution. Comment on this statement.

Answer: The ideas to govern the world always come from philosophers. Prior to the French Revolution, great philosophers like Voltaire, Montesquieu and above all Rousseau paved the way for the revolution.

A. Voltaire: He launched bitter attacks against the church and the state. He made fun of the nobles and the way they behaved and governed and was against absolute monarchy. Voltaire defended freedom of speech and religious tolerance. Through mockery, Voltaire exposed the evils present in the social, political and religious lives of the French people.

B. Montesquieu: Montesquieu supported constitutional monarchy in France. He wanted the power to be shared between the king, the nobles and the Third Estate. In his book The Spirit of the Laws, he propagated the theory of separating powers into three branches of government – the Legislative, the Executive and the Judiciary.

C. Jean Jacques Rousseau: In his famous book Social Contract, he explained that the king and his subjects are parties to a contract, and therefore, if the king does not rule the people according to their general will, he loses their loyalty. He said that the people have every right to overthrow the monarchy under such circumstances. Rousseau advocated Popular Sovereignty Theory. He emphasised the equality and freedom of the citizens.

3. Explain the importance of the following events on the course of the French Revolution:
(a) The storming of the Bastille.
(b) March on Versailles by the women of Paris.
(c) The passing of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy.

Answer: (a) There was a state of confusion and anarchy in the city of Paris in the first two weeks of July 1789. Protests against the high price of bread were held almost every day. Rumours spread on 14 July that the king had ordered troops to move into the city, to fire at unruly citizens. Some 7,000 men and women gathered in front of the town hall and decided to form a people’s army. A group of several hundred people stormed the fortress prison, the Bastille and killed the commander and all the seven prisoners were set free. The Bastille was hated by all as it stood for despotism. The fall of Bastille brought the masses to the forefront. To this day France celebrates July 14 as the Bastille Day.

(b) During the fourth stage of the French Revolution when the king summoned troops to frighten the Paris mob, it led to a further escalation of mob fury. Hungry women of Paris, infuriated by the price and scarcity of bread, marched on Versailles. The mob consisted of fisherwomen, market women, bourgeois housewives, and was followed by the working people of Paris. The mob forced the king and queen to give in to all their demands. The march brought to an end to the monarchy of Versailles. It forever transformed the role of women in the revolution.

(c) The clergy, the Bishops and others, were paid a salary by the state like Civil Servants by a law passed in 1790. This law was called the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. The National Assembly decided to confiscate the immense wealth of the Church to pay off the huge debt which had brought France to financial ruin. The clerics were made to take an oath of allegiance to the government. The Civil Constitution of the Clergy established that the church would be under state control, and abolished the privileges of the Church. 

4. How far was the subsistence crisis responsible for the French Revolution? Examine.

Answer: The French system of taxation was both unjust and unfair and put a heavy burden on the common people, the only class who paid taxes. The common in addition to the Royal Texas had to pay taxes to the church also. Most workers were employed as labourers in workshops but their wages did not keep pace with the rise in prices. So the gap between the poor and rich widened. Things would become worse whenever a drought or hail would reduce the harvest. These would lead to a subsistence crisis, which occurred often in France during the old regime. All these over the years culminated ultimately in the form of the French Revolution.

5. The French Revolution led to many “isms”. Explain.

Answer: French Revolution marked the beginning, for the first time in the history of active and institutionalised mass participation in the government. The revolution led to many “isms” nationalism, liberalism and socialism.

Nationalism: Nationalism led to many new nations emerging in Europe, Asia and Africa. A nation now no longer was the king’s territory or his subjects. Rather, it now comprised of citizens.
Liberalism: The main feature of this was the emancipation of the individual from class, corporate or governmental restraint. The Declaration of Rights of Man inspired and guided many newly independent
nations to frame their constitutions based on similar principles.
Socialism:  Socialism emphasises the community and its collective welfare. This was also a result of the work of Sans Culottes during the Revolution. It promoted a society designed to promote collective
well being rather than individual profit.

6. Mention the legacy of the French Revolution.

Answer: The French Revolution not only affected France and changed its entire social and political system. It also had a lasting effect on the people of Europe in the 19th century. It inspired the Germans, Italians, and Austrians to overthrow their oppressive regimes. It led to a decade of political changes and Europe saw many revolutions inspired by the French Revolution. The watchwords of the French Revolution such as liberty, equality and fraternity reflected the coming of a new democratic and social order in Europe and the world. The French Revolution also inspired the struggling nations of Asia and Africa. The French Revolution opened the eyes of the world to a profound social revolution.

Click here for notes of other chapters of Class 9 Social Science


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