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Why Is Momoko Attracted to a Particular Style That Preceded the French Revolution

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French Revolution, also called Revolution of 1789, revolutionary movement that shook France between 1787 and 1799 and reached its first climax there in 1789—hence the conventional term “Revolution of 1789,” denoting the end of the ancien régime in France and serving also to distinguish that event from the later French revolutions of 1830 and 1848.

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The era of the French Revolution lasted from about 1789 AD until 1799 AD. It began with a financial crisis that forced Louis XVI to summon the French parliament for the first time in over two hundred-years. It then ended with the Coup of 18 Brumaire that swept Napoleon Bonaparte to power, who would carry forward much of what the Revolution had achieved. Following in the footsteps of the American Revolution, the French Revolution was one of the most dramatic social upheavals in history. The Revolution itself was a mess, a great confused boiling-over of French society. It can best be understood as a clash between conservative royalists, moderate revolutionaries, and radical revolutionaries; although the radicals are especially hard to define for it encompassed everything from liberals to proto-communists to anarchists. It was conservative royalists who first turned the French financial crisis into a political crisis, but they soon came to realise that they had more to fear from an increasingly democratic France, than an increasingly despotic king. In the first truly revolutionary act, the moderate revolutionaries seized control of the government, abolished feudal privileges and the dominant position of the Church, and established a constitutional monarchy. Although the constitution was progressive for its time, the radical revolutionaries then seized the state and overthrew the monarchy, establishing a republic. They had sweeping plans for wealth redistribution and universal suffrage that were well ahead of their time; Switzerland became the first state to actually introduce universal male suffrage more than half-a-century later. However, these were never implemented in the face of the French Revolutionary War and conservative royalists counter-revolutionaries. Instead, emergency powers were used to conduct a repressive Terror. As the war turned in the favour of the French, the actions of the radical revolutionaries became unjustifiable and another coup of moderate revolutionaries swept them to power. However, the moderates were unable to establish stability while fending off resurgent conservative royalists and radicals, and their government became synonymous with corruption and self-interest. Ultimately, this led the French people into the safe and comforting arms of one man; Napoleon Bonaparte; essentially exchanging the authoritarian regime of an absolute monarchy, for another authoritarian regime.

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In the case of France, these binding ideals did not necessarily include language. According to official figures in 1863, 8,381 of France’s 37,510 communes were not majority French. They included a quarter of the country’s population. Thus French was basically a foreign language to many “Frenchmen. ” Despite this language barrier, the inhabitants of France somehow achieved spiritual unity beyond political or administrative structures, a unity of mind and feelings that was a reflection of a shared culture. The idea of la patrie emerged to express these binding qualities among the people of France (Ross, Steven T. , 1984). It began among certain social groups, perhaps, but soon spread beyond their origins. One result of this consciousness was the people’s will to form a nation. Prerevolutionary France had little sense of a united people. Class divisions were strong, and those of privilege generally did not associate socially with those below them. According to B. A. Avner, “Nationalist sentiments were known, then, in prerevolutionary France, but they were shared mainly by limited circles within the elite and were subordinated to the higher value system of the Church and the monarchy. It was the Revolution that transformed them into a powerful, popular force which cut itself loose from the tenets of the Old Regime and based itself upon a new set of principles.” Before the Revolution, much of the national sentiment revolved around a particular social class rather than the entire nation. On the eve of the revolution, however, class divisions became less important, and the desire for a single nation emerged (Shafer, Boyd C., 1938).

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In the final analysis, on August 22, 1795, the National Convention, composed largely of Girondins who had survived the Reign of Terror, approved a new constitution that created France’s first bicameral legislature. Executive power would lie in the hands of a five-member Directory (Directoire) appointed by parliament. Royalists and Jacobins protested the new regime but were swiftly silenced by the army, now led by a young and successful general named Napoleon Bonaparte. The Directory’s four years in power were riddled with financial crises, popular discontent, inefficiency and, above all, political corruption. By the late 1790s, the directors relied almost entirely on the military to maintain their authority and had ceded much of their power to the generals in the field.

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Ross, Steven T. French Military History, 1661-1799: A Guide to the Literature. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1984.

Shafer, Boyd C. “Bourgeois Nationalism in the Pamphlets on the Eve of the French Revolution” The Journal of Modern History. Vol. 10, No. 1. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1938.

Thompson, J. M. Leaders of the French Revolution. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1962.

Weber, Eugen. Peasants into Frenchmen, specifically Part 1. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1976.

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Why Is Momoko Attracted to a Particular Style That Preceded the French Revolution
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