The French Revolution
Open Circle or The ODD group, Tue 2nd Dec 08
1. The French Revolution seems to be regarded by many as the prototype for many
subsequent ones. Why?
2. Did it go wrong and if so, why? Was its evolution into violence inevitable?
3. The original ideals of the Revolution were:
Equality for all, under the law;
Rule by elected parliament;
Freedom of speech and print;
Freedom of conscience and religion
None of these were “class-based” - ie solely to redress the disadvantages of an underclass.
The Revolution eventually betrayed these ideals and left a bloody stain on the nation traces
of which, for example in the Vendee, remain to this day.
4. The American Revolution could perhaps be described as an at least partial inspiration
for the French Revolution. But although ’no taxation without representation’ came into it,
it was fought, primarily, for independence. Opposing sides, Republicans and Loyalists,
were supported by all classes.
Why did the French Revolution evolve into a dictatorship whereas the American
Revolution did not?
Was it just because, after years of chaos, the French longed for “order and
Could Napoleon have come to power under the Ancien Regime, based on his proven
military prowess and popularity?
6. His legacy:
The French system of civil administration, qualifications for public office etc..
The Code Napoleon adopted by all European countries except the UK.
The idea of a “Nation in Arms” ie. A large conscripted standing army,
unknown in Britain until midway through WW1.
The army and navy completely reorganised on meritocratic line. The
purchase of army officers’
Commissions was banned, many years before we did so in Britain.
The idea of European citizenship and a federal Europe, under French direction,
To what extent was any of this due to the Revolution itself? By clearing away feudalism
and the over-powerful and reactionary nobility did it facilitate what Napoleon did?
7. What influence had the Revolution on political development in England?
8. Does the French Revolution merit an honoured place in the history of social and