French Revolution (1789-1799)
Taking place from 1789 until 1799, the French Revolution was a turning point in history that altered the course of European and global history. The revolution had multiple stages, each one marked by a dramatic shift in power and ideology, and it was sparked by severe economic misery, social inequity, and an absolute monarchy.
In 1789, in response to the people’s desire for representation and equality, the Estates-General met, eventually leading to the establishment of the National Assembly. Following the storming of the Bastille and following unrest, radical groups gained power, ushering in the Reign of Terror and the mass executions carried out by the Committee of Public Safety and Maximilien Robespierre. After Robespierre’s downfall, however, the revolution took a different turn, one that led to the advent of Napoleon Bonaparte as a military dictator and, finally, Emperor.
Liberty, equality, and fraternity are all tenets of modern political theory that owe a debt to the French Revolution. While it did accomplish certain revolutionary aims, it also shed light on the difficulties of preserving social stability in the face of drastic change.