4 stages of the French revolution causes definition aftermath

French Revolution

Political, social and ideological movement that developed in France, from 1789 to 1804. In this article we will provide you the 4 stages of the French revolution.

The French Revolution was a political, social and ideological movement that developed in France , from 1789 to 1804 . It began with the Storming of the Bastille , on July 14, 1789, and culminated with the coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte as Emperor of the French, on December 2, 1804.

The French Revolution had as its protagonists opponents and supporters of the Old Regime . This political, social and economic system was characterized by the absolute monarchy and a class society legally divided into privileged and non-privileged sectors .

The French Revolution put an end to absolutism, feudalism , serfdom, and the privileges of the clergy and nobility. Their mottos were “liberty, equality and fraternity.” Together with the Industrial Revolution , it marks the beginning of a new era in European history, known as the Contemporary Age .

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Causes and consequences of the French Revolution


The main causes of the French Revolution were the following:

  • The arbitrariness of a monarchical absolutism that oppressed the majority of its subjects.
  • A great social inequality due to the heavy burdens (taxes, tributes and tithe) that fell on the French peasants, who with their work had to support themselves and the privileged groups: the nobility and the clergy.
  • The discontent of intellectual sectors for the lack of rights and freedoms. These intellectuals were greatly influenced by the ideas of the Enlightenment .
  • The economic and financial crisis in which France was. The excess spending of the Crown and the expenses derived from participation in the war for American Independence had caused a budget deficit.
  • A series of bad harvests that caused excessive increases in the price of bread, which was the main food of the popular sectors.
  • The aspirations of a rising bourgeoisie that wanted its economic position to correspond to its social situation and its political rights.


The main consequences of the French Revolution were the following:

  • End of the feudal system: the French Revolution suppressed all expressions of feudalism, including serfdom, the payment of tributes, the privileges of the clergy and the nobility.
  • Declaration of new individual rights: freedom, equality before the law, abolition of slavery, among others. These ideas spread throughout Europe and influenced the leaders of the independence revolutions in America.
  • Suppression of the absolute monarchy and establishment of a republican system with division of powers, election of officials by the people and limited duration in public office.
  • Rise of the bourgeoisie , which gradually became the predominant social group in France.
  • Extension of the war in Europe , due to the attempt of the monarchies of the continent to unite to restore the Old Regime.
  • Ascent to power of Napoleon Bonaparte , as a result of military victories against foreign powers. The result was paradoxical: Napoleon saved the French Revolution from its foreign enemies, then ended it and replaced it with an imperial monarchical system. After his defeat, the absolute monarchy was restored and Louis XVIII was crowned King of France.

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Stages of the French Revolution

The French Revolution can be divided into the following stages:

Monarchical stage Republican stage Imperial stage
States General
The Convention
(1792 – 1795)
The Empire
(1805 – 1815)
National Assembly
The Directory
(1795 – 1799)
Constituent Assembly
(1789 – 1791)
The Consulate
(1799 – 1804)
Legislative Assembly
(1791 – 1792)

Monarchical stage

It includes the beginnings of the revolution, from 1789 to 1792 , when the monarchy was abolished.

States General

They were an assembly that met in moments of crisis and in which representatives of the three states or estates of French society transmitted their needs or listened to those of the Crown.
In King Louis XVI he summoned the States General to request an increase in taxes and that the nobles began to pay them. But the representatives of the Third Estate (made up of bankers, merchants, artisans, peasants and urban popular sectors), took advantage of the call to request individual votes , instead of the traditional vote by estates. As this request was rejected by both the king and the first two states (clergy and nobility),the Third Estate withdrew from the Estates General and formed a National Assembly. 

National Assembly

King Louis XVI tried to dissolve the National Assembly by force. But on July 14, 1789, the popular sectors of the city of Paris stormed the Bastille, a fortress in which the monarchy kept weapons and imprisoned opponents The storming of the Bastille saved the National Assembly , which was able to continue meeting to suppress feudalism and the rights and privileges of the nobility.

constituent Assembly

The National Assembly, transformed into a Constituent Assembly, proclaimed the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen and sanctioned the Constitution of 1791 . This Constitution created the parliamentary monarchy , by establishing the division of powers and a Legislative Assembly that would be responsible for the enactment of laws. In the parliamentary monarchy only a sector of the Third Estate, the bourgeoisie, had the right to vote for political leaders.

legislative Assembly

The Legislative Assembly was dominated by two political factions:

  • Girondists : led by Jacques Pierre Brissot, they favored an agreement between the king and the bourgeois sectors, who wanted to end the revolution.
  • Jacobins : under the command of Maximilien Robespierre, they were more radical since they wanted to improve the situation of the popular sectors and proclaim the republic.

At first the position of the Girondists predominated, but suspicions that Louis XVI conspired with other monarchs to attack France led to the arrest of the royal family and the suppression of the monarchy.

Republican stage

It began with the abolition of the monarchy, in 1792, and lasted until 1804 .


In 1792 a new body called the Convention was formed This assembly decided to execute King Louis XVI by guillotine, an act that symbolized the end of the monarchy . The king‘s assassination provoked the reaction of Great Britain, Holland, Spain, Austria and Prussia, who joined forces to end the French Revolution.

The fear of foreign attack was used by the Jacobins to take control of the Convention and arrest the Girondin leaders. The Jacobins promoted the following measures:

  • Sanction of the Constitution of 1793 that established the Republic and proclaimed universal male suffrage.
  • Obligation to serve in the army for all men between 25 and 30 years old. This massive cam made it possible to form an army that defeated the European powers and led the war outside the borders of France.
  • Establishment of maximum prices for basic necessities , such as bread.
  • Threat to execute any person suspected of being a counterrevolutionary, which resulted in more than 50,000 deaths by guillotine.

In 1794, these measures caused discontent on the part of the population, who withdrew their support for the Jacobins. This was used by bourgeois sectors to arrest and execute Robespierre and other Jacobin leaders.

The Directory

In 1795 a Constitution was enacted, which created a five-member Executive Branch called the Directory. A male suffrage was also established restricted to people of greater fortunes.
The Directory had to face several uprisings, both by monarchists and Jacobins. To end this instability, in 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte led a coup that overthrew the Directory. For many historians, this coup marks the end of the French Revolution.

The consulate

The Consulate, made up of three consuls, imposed a centralized and authoritarian government regime that restored relations with the Catholic Church .
In 1804 Napoleon decided to abolish the Consulate and proclaim himself emperor.

Imperial stage

Napoleon’s coronation in 1804 signified the rise of the Napoleonic Empire , which tried to conquer all of Europe. The Empire lasted until 1815, when Napoleon was defeated by the British and Prussians and confined to the island of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic.

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