French Revolution: Assignment #2
Identify the major social groups in France on the eve of the 1789 Revolution. Asses the extent to which their aspirations were achieved in the period from the meeting of the Estates General (1789) to the Declaration of the Republic (1792)
By the end of the 18th century, the social classes in France each had distinct characteristics and goals. The 1st, 2nd, 3rd Estate had different needs, heavily influenced by their individual subdivisions and place on the social scale. As progress was made in efforts of the Revolution, each social group achieved their aspirations to different extents. The first and highest group on the social scale in France was the 1st Estate, or the clergy. Despite making up no more than 1% of the population, the clergy had possession of approximately 10% of the land. The clergy was exempt from taxes, rather paying a “voluntary gift” to the government every 5 years. With many decisions regarding the nation in their hands, the clergy did not have the same goals as the rest of the population, but their dissatisfaction with the absolute monarchy made them vital players later on for the other social classes.
The next group on the social scale was the 2nd Estate, composed of the nobles. Like the clergy, the nobles made up a small percentage of the population, adding up to approximately 400,000 people, or 2% of the people of France. The noble’s position in the 2nd Estate provided them with more rights, including exclusion from taxes, and ownership of 20% of the land in France. Throughout the noble class, more distinct subdivisions can be observed. The class was split into 2 major groups; the nobles of the robe, who purchased their place in the hierarchy, and the nobles of the sword, who had hereditary power and some manorial rights from a feudal system that dated back to the Middle Ages. In addition to these, many nobles held “honorable” ...
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