French Revolution and Its Enlightenment Ideas About Essay

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French Revolution and its Enlightenment ideas about nationalism, universal rights and equal citizenship for all was extremely influential at the time it occurred, and was widely studied and imitated afterwards. Liberals and radicals in Europe, and increasingly the rest of the world, always recognized that the French Revolution was somehow uniquely theirs, especially in its attempt to end feudalism, state-supported churches, and the entrenched privileges of monarchs and aristocracies. It led to an expansion of commerce, industry, science and public education, and also created a new class of small farmers who owned land (Furet 35). It established the idea for the first time that women, the lower classes and religious and ethnic minorities should have equal right under the law, and that slavery and serfdom should be abolished forever. Conservatives who opposed the French Revolution, especially supporters of the monarchy and the Catholic Church, continued to oppose it throughout the 19th Century and up to the time that they helped establish Vichy France after the defeat of 1940. They were always hostile to the republic and its liberal-democratic ideas and preferred a corporatist or authoritarian state, and for this reason opposed the revolutions of 1830, 1848 and the Paris Commune of 1871 (Hobsbawm 131).

France was not yet an industrialized country in 1789, and would not be for many decades, so in that sense the most important economic effect was in agriculture and the weakening of power of the church and aristocracy by confiscation and redistribution of land. This land reform aspect of the French Revolution is often overlooked, but it has been a standard feature in most revolutions since that time, including Russia, China, Cuba and Vietnam.
It influenced all future revolutions by also abolishing feudal titles, hereditary offices, exemptions and privileges, and by declaring that all citizens had equal rights under the law, and created a new type of citizen who actually had a duty to rebel against the state in the name of human rights (Souillac 169). The Revolution also created the concept of the modern, unified administrative state with a centralized bureaucracy, which had existed in embryo form before that time. It abolished tradition guilds, associations and rule by local 'notables' and elites in favor of the more modern concept of the nation-state (Furet 71).

Even in the early phases of the French Revolution, equal citizenship rights were granted to the Protestant and Jewish minorities in France for the first time in history. This established another pattern that was widely imitated in Europe in the decades ahead of separating the state from the church, emancipating the Jews and guaranteeing equal rights to all individuals, although conservatives strongly opposed this (Hunt: 16). Edmund Burke and other conservatives dismissed the idea of universal human rights and "metaphysical abstractions" and a threat to order and stability, which indeed they were (Freeman 32). In its more radical, Jacobin phase, the Revolution also abolished slavery in the French Empire and granted equal citizenship rights to blacks, which had never before occurred in Western history. One of the most important accomplishments of the French Revolution and its ideas was to undermine the idea of caste systems, slavery, serfdom and traditional hierarchies of every kind….....

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