The French Revolution

The enormous struggle in which the English colonists in North America obtained their independence from the king of England helped to accelerate the French Revolution.  The storming of the Bastille, the signing of the Declaration of the Rights of Man, and the reforms that followed brought about sweeping social change in France.

The philosophies of Locke and Rousseau, which stressed individual freedoms, and the recent American Revolution helped to accelerate the French Revolution, which began in 1789.  It was in 1789 that the ancient regime, a French social classification system in which society was divided into clergy, nobility, and everyone else, disintegrated following a meeting of the Estates General in 1789 in which the excesses and failures of Louis XVI were discussed.   At this time, the National Assembly was formed, and the Tennis Court Oath was signed, further cementing the country on the path toward revolution.

Great art, music and literature flourished during this peroiod.  Neoclassicism, or a return to the forms and influences of Greek and classical art, took hold.  Theories of the sublimity of nature, the nobility of the “noble savage,” and other Romantic ideals expressed by Rousseau were expressed in poetry by Wordsworth, music by Beethoven, and art by John Constable.

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