Class 9 Social Science | Chapter 1 | The French Revolution | Textbook Questions
Here are answers for textbook questions from Class 9 Social Science Chapter 1 The French Revolution.
1. Describe the circumstances leading to the outbreak of revolutionary protest in France.
There were social, political, economic and intellectual factors leading to the outbreak of revolutionary protests in France.
(i) The King of France, Louis XVI was an autocratic leader who didn’t care about his subjects. As a ruler, he was weak and inefficient and led a life of luxury.
(ii) There were gross inequalities in the French society. The clergy and nobility made up the first two estates and enjoyed privileges that other classes did not enjoy. They were exempt from state taxes. The majority of the population belonged to the third estate. They had no political rights, social status or privileges and had to bear the burden of taxes. This led to profound levels of discontentment among them.
(iii) To make matters worse, France was going through a financial crisis. The treasury was empty due to the involvement of France in long wars including the American war of independence. The luxurious lifestyle of the King and his family and the flawed taxation system further worsened the economic situation. The clergy and nobility who could pay the tax had no obligation to do so whereas poor people belonging to the third estate had to pay the tax but they were unable to do so.
(iv) France was going through an intellectual and ideological revolution in 18th century. The theory of ‘divine right’ of kings and absolute monarchy was refuted by the philosophers who also proclaimed the doctrine of equality of man and sovereignty of the people. The philosophers exposed the evil of the ruling class and added fuel to the discontent.
(v) People had no role in decision making in France. The French parliament had not been convened for 175 years and the administration was weak, corrupt and inefficient.
2. Which groups of French society benefitted from the revolution? Which groups were forced to relinquish power? Which sections of society would have been disappointed with the outcome of the revolution?
People who gained
The revolution benefitted the third estate. It included the new middle class comprising of big businessmen, court officials, merchants and other professionals like lawyers. Before the revolution, they were forced to pay all the taxes and faced humiliation at the hands of clergy and nobility. The revolution enhanced their social status and they started being considered as equal to the clergy and nobility. Some of them also gained political rights.
People who lost
The revolution forced privileged sections like the nobility, the clergy and aristocracy to relinquish their special privileges. Thus, it paved the way for building a French society based on social equality. The revolution also led to the nationalization of church property.
People who remained disappointed
The resolution didn’t do much to improve the living standards or social status of the less privileged sections of the society like servants, landless labourers, small peasants, servants, artisans and daily wage earners and women. So, they remained disappointed.
The clergy and nobility who lost all of their privileges also remained disappointed.
3. Describe the legacy of the French Revolution for the people of the world during the 19th and 20th centuries.
The French revolutionary ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity inspired political movements across the world in the 19th and 20th centuries. Actually, the social and political reforms all over Europe had their origin in the French revolution.
The idea of liberty expressed in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen laid the foundation of the new social order.
Personal liberty led to the abolition of serfdom and liberated poor peasants from the tyranny of landed aristocrats and churches. It also brought in the age of capitalism.
Political liberty of democratic rights led to the abolition of the privileges of monarchs.
French revolution also sowed the seeds of nationalism. It led to the launching of mass movements all over the world. This played a crucial role in reshaping the boundaries of Europe and South America.
The revolution inspired people of colonies like India to fight for their freedom.
4. Draw up a list of democratic rights we enjoy today whose origins could be traced to the French revolution
The democratic rights whose origins can be traced to the French revolution are:
Right to equality including equality before law, prohibition of discrimination and equality of opportunities in matters of employment.
Right to freedom of speech and expression including the right to practice any profession or occupation.
Right against exploitation
Right to life
Right to vote
Promotion of fraternity by maintaining good relations with foreign countries
5. Would you agree with the view that the message of universal rights was beset with contradictions?
Yes. The message of universal rights was beset with contradictions.
The revolution came about with the support of the poor and the peasantry. It did offer them the right to vote and elect representatives; however, these rights could not solve their problems. They needed economic equality.
Only selected persons who paid taxes equal to at least 3 days of a labourers’ wage had the right to vote.
Women did not enjoy the same political rights as men. They could not vote or hold political offices like men. Their wages were not equal to the wages of men either.
Though the French revolution began in the name of liberty and equality, the French ended up being conquerors instead of liberators and went on to expand their colonies.
The revolution did not abolish slave trade. The exploitation of slaves continued and it was another glaring contradiction.
6. How would you explain the rise of Napoleon?
The rise of Napoleon was an aftermath of the French revolution. The revolution led to political and economic instability in France and there was a struggle for power.
After the collapse of the Jacobin government, a new constitution was introduced. The new constitution established two legislative councils and an executive consisting of five members (Directory). Clashes between the Directory and the legislative councils were common and this led to political instability. Napoleon took advantage of this situation and proclaimed himself the emperor in 1804 with the help of the army.
Napoleon was a brilliant general and conquered and dominated all the neighbouring countries except Britain and Russia. His victories convinced the French that only a soldier’s sword could restore discipline and establish a stable government.
Social wrongs and economic injustices were the actual triggers of French revolution and it wasn’t really concerned about addressing political grievances. Since Napoleon was a product of revolution, the French people were convinced that aristocratic privileges would not be restored. Because of this belief they continued to trust him.