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The History and Overview of French Revolution

Overview

The French revolution is perhaps the most significant event not only in the history of France but also in the whole of Europe. The revolution represents the transition to liberty and freedom for the Frenchmen1. This can be traced from the fact that France had been ruled by monarchs for a long time. The French revolution therefore symbolized the end of the tyranny of monarchs and barbaric regimes2.

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However another key aspect of the French revolution is the role that Napoleon Bonaparte played in shaping the history of Europe. Napoleon played a vital role in shaping the European revolution and brought an end to the same revolution by fulfilling the demands of the same revolution. The revolutions’ ideals were fulfilled by none other than Napoleon. His contribution was manifested though the French revolution in which his leadership and deeds are still memorable up to date.

French revolution not only came to an end but the ideals of the revolution also got fulfilled. This essay is intended to bring out the fact that, Napoleon Bonaparte brought the revolution to its logical conclusion. In order to explore this assertion it will be vital to analyze the entire role that Napoleon played in the revolution. The discussion will culminate in the evaluation of the reign and rule of Napoleon when he was the emperor of France. To explain the real significance of Napoleon in the French revolution the paper will carefully examine his leadership and how it contributed to fulfilment of the ideals of the French revolution.

Critics have faulted the role of Napoleon in the fulfilment of the French revolution ideals. Several individuals have expressed dissatisfaction with the manner in which he conducted the matters of the state. In fact some have argued that his administration betrayed the ideals of the French revolution3. However in this paper I will endeavour to explore areas in which Napoleon concluded the revolution by fulfilling its ideals during his reign.

Thesis Statement

Napoleon Bonaparte was the main figure in the whole French revolution. In fact the French revolution is synonymous with him. Not only did he take full participation in the whole process but he also carried it through to its fulfilment. As result the whole ideals of the French revolution got fulfilled during the reign of Napoleon. He is the single man who determined the end of the entire revolution by triumphing not only in military but also in the moral aspects. Napoleon’s reign represented the peak of the French revolution. Having won many military battles at home and abroad Napoleon finally ceased power and became the emperor of France.

During his reign Napoleon brought liberty, equality, fraternity and prosperity to the Frenchmen. France became an epitome of prosperity and liberty during the reign of Napoleon. Yet all these aspects were the real ideals of the French revolution. Therefore by fulfilling the ideals of the French revolution during his reign, Napoleon brought a conclusion to the whole revolution. France launched the revolution so as to emancipate themselves from the barbaric rule of the monarch and other dictators. In fact the revolution was nothing but a quest for freedom, fraternity and liberty. These were the real causes of the French revolution.

The battles were fought with the intention of bringing change to France. As much as the monarchs were defeated long time before Napoleon ascended to power, it was only during the reign of Napoleon that the ideals of the revolution became a reality4. A perfect example is the discrimination of the Jews. Before Napoleon the Jews had no rights and were discriminated against. However after the overthrow of the Directory, Napoleon initiated changes that brought about liberty and freedom to the Jews. Critics have always blamed Napoleon for not fulfilling certain ideals during his administration.

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Some have questioned the treatment of women during his regime. However an analytical look at the time of has reign reveals that equality, freedom and liberty were evident. As far as women are concerned the culture provided for their protection and Napoleon could not do much. However Napoleon was indeed the hero of the French revolution and he brought out the fulfilment of the ideals of the evolution.

Napoleon and the French Revolution

The French revolution represents a season in the history of France in specific and Europe in general during which there as social and political uncertainty.5 It was time for revolution in the way politics and society was concerned. This was the time when the rule of monarchy came to an end. The monarchy had dominated French politics for centuries. After the fall of the monarchy France went through radical episodes which signified transformation in the social and political strata. During the entire period France was ruled by different forms of governments.

At one point the monarchy made a return but this did not last for along time. The whole period were symbolized by oppression as the rights of many were trampled upon. This in one way or the other denoted the purpose of the revolution. But since the revolution was yet to conclude the Frenchmen had to tolerate the painful process of transformation. The revolution dates back to the year 1789, during this time there were several attempts to bring democracy to the states. This was represented by the quest for the recognition of the assembly.

The march of Versailles is known to have been instrumental in making the monarchy to recognize the assemblies. However this did not bring about the democracy and freedom sought by the French men.6 The monarchy tried every means in the book to kill the dreams for democracy and freedom. This was met by strong opposition by many who were fighting for freedom and emancipation.

However in 1792 France became a republic and the reign of the conservative monarchs was brought to an end. The French revolution as also shaped by external compulsions. Wars and their corresponding victories had far reaching effects on the revolution at home.7 As the revolution picked up uncertainty was prevalent especially during the reign of terror. However the fulfilment of the revolution only came closer after the coup de tat that brought Napoleon Bonaparte to power.

The reign of Napoleon change the entire course of the revolution. It was only during the reign of Napoleon that the peak of the revolution came to practical significance. In fact the conclusion of the revolution can be traced in the rule of Napoleon during which the fulfilment of the revolution became a reality. In reality it is Napoleon who fulfilled the essence of the revolution. As much as the revolution began long before he assumed power; Napoleon was the man who fulfilled the spirit and ideals of the revolution.

A look at the causes of the French revolution points at the role of Napoleon in the whole process. In fact without a through look at the history and causes of the revolution it is difficult to ascertain the real significance of Napoleon in the process. Aspects of the economy are one of the principal causes of the revolution. Poverty, famine and high costs of basic commodities fuelled dissent which led to the French revolution. In other words the Frenchmen wanted to have a society where the economic needs of the poor were taken care of. In their opinion the high cost of living and poverty were as a result of the apathetic policies which dominated the rule of the monarchs.

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The revolution was therefore meant to bring more people conscious governance in place. Lack of basic necessities led to sicknesses that were mostly affecting the poor. This was however not confined to France alone but the whole Europe.8 Aspects of economic nature were pivotal in the beginning of the revolution. The revolution was perceived as the only vehicle towards the Promised Land for these destitute French men.

No one ever doubts the role of Napoleon bring about prosperity and success in the French economy. In fact the French currency was at its peak during the reign of Napoleon. As a result Napoleon was the fulfilment of the economic quests which was a major drive of the revolution. The revolution therefore derives its conclusion from Napoleon. It is only Napoleon who brought about the fulfilment of the grievances that drove the revolution.

Prior to the revolution the monarchy under Louis XV had brought France to near bankruptcy. This was as a result of the many military engagements. This had made France to spend a lot of money in the battles causing a huge strain of the coffers. Apart from the financial consequence of the wars, the battles had far reaching social implication on the society. This was made worse by the monarchy’s policies of apathy and negligence.

This had made the lives of many to be in trouble. Among other problems which led to the revolution was lack of jobs for the majority of the population which led to poor living conditions of many.9 The tax burden was also a significant cause of the revolution. A look at the reign and administration of Napoleon indicates how all these endeavours were achieved. The French launched the revolution so as to bring in good governance which was going to take care of their interests.

Napoleon fulfilled all these during his tenure as the emperor. Napoleon not only brought about change the economy but also social life. Emancipation was symbolized through equality and fraternity policies which were introduced by Napoleon.

Politics also played a great role in the beginning of the French revolution. Aspects of resentment to the rule and authority of the monarchs led to the advent of the French revolution.

Enlightenment was another factor that led to the revolution. A series of ambitious individuals rose and endeavoured to play part in the public affairs of the state. As a result they endeavoured to challenge the authority of the monarchs who were seen as conservative and rigid to change. Furthermore the failures of the administration to provide quality leadership led to dissent among the elites. Most of them saw it as an opportunity to seize power and put in place a new government that was answerable and accountable to them.10

The endeavour to put in place a democratic government also led to the revolution. Restriction had been placed of various freedoms by the monarchy. Secularism also played a crucial role in the whole process. The rise of Napoleon as the emperor of France fulfilled all these requirements.11 For instance Napoleon brought about freedom of religion. The catholic hegemony was brought to an end.

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Napoleon was not only the heir of the French revolution but he was also instrumental in the fulfilment of the ideals of the revolution. The revolution ended with him. He brought an end to the revolution by implementing the ideals which drove the whole process. As a result the French revolution could not have been complete without the role and accomplishments of Napoleon. His reign brought to practice the many ideals that had been wished for by the Frenchmen. In other words Napoleon gave France what they had always wanted to have.

The French revolution was intended to bring about change in the society. This change was of divergent nature. It involved social equality and emancipation, proper economic management, and political emancipation (democracy).

All theses became realities with the reign of Napoleon. Napoleon not only brought good economic management to France but also freedom of religion and social emancipation. As result the revolution came to an end since Napoleon fulfilled the purpose of the revolution. Napoleon was therefore a very significant personality in the whole history of the revolution. He is the man that gave the whole period of transformation an end through his administration which was the answer of the needs and wishes of the Frenchmen.

References

Breunig, C, & M Levinger, Mathew, The revolutionary era from 1789-1850, Norton, New York, 2002.

Doyle, W, Oxford history of the French revolution, Clarendon, Oxford, 1989.

Droz, J, Europe between revolutions, Collins, London, 1967.

Ford, F, Europe from 1780 to 1830, Longman, London, 1989.

George, R, Revolutionary Europe from 1783 to 1815, Glasgow & Collins, London, 1970.

Hearder, P, Europe in the nineteenth century, Longman, London, 1988.

Sperber, J, Revolutionary Europe, 1780-1850, Longman, 2002.

Footnotes

  1. Sperber, J, Revolutionary Europe, 1780-1850, Longman, 2002.
  2. Doyle, W, Oxford history of the French revolution, Clarendon, Oxford, 1989.
  3. Sperber, J, Revolutionary Europe, 1780-1850, Longman, 2002.
  4. Sperber, J, Revolutionary Europe, 1780-1850, Longman, 2002.
  5. George, R, Revolutionary Europe from 1783 to 1815, Glasgow & Collins, London, 1970.
  6. Breunig, C, & M Levinger, Mathew, The revolutionary era from 1789-1850, Norton, New York, 2002.
  7. Rude George, Revolutionary Europe, 1783-1815, Glasgow & Collins, London, 1970, 85.
  8. Droz, J, Europe between revolutions, Collins, London, 1967.
  9. Jacques Droz, Europe between Revolutions, Collins, London, 1967, 44.
  10. Hearder, P, Europe in the nineteenth century, Longman, London, 1988.
  11. Ford, F, Europe from 1780 to 1830, Longman, London, 1989.

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