The Importance Of Napoleon To Essay Research

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The Importance Of Napoleon To Essay, Research Paper THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION AND THE NAPOLEONIC WARS TO MODERNITY The French Revolution and Napoleonic years are very important to European history because they mark a time of great change and transformation, a time when Europe was in the thrall s of its rise to modernity. Two of the aspects of modernity brought to light during the French Revolution were the increasing importance of the middle class and the idea, though not necessarily the practice, of political liberty. However, some of strides made in France toward modern liberty were almost completely erased only a few years after the Revolution by Napoleon Bonaparte, who brought his own thoughts on modernity to Europe with the advent of nationalism and total

warfare. One of the other ways in which the Revolution affected the rise of modernity was by asserting the importance of the middle class and masses. Before the revolution, France was made up of three estates: The First Estate was the Church, which made up 1-2% of the population, the Second Estate was the nobility which made up less than 2% of the population and the Third Estate was the commoners, which made up approximately 96% of the population. Whereas the First and Second estates enjoyed luxury, extensive privileges and great wealth, the Third Estate were the heavily taxed and poorly treated bourgeoisie, peasants and city workers. One of the reasons the revolution originated was the discontent among the lower and middle classes in France. Those in the Third Estate grew tired

of the unjust laws and taxes they were forced to live by and decided to take a stand, eventually making their mark in French society. One of the first times the masses asserted themselves was when the newly formed National Assembly was drawing up a Constitution. Angry crowds in Paris rioted, forcing the National Assembly to recognize their demands. The people were protesting heavy taxes, and outrageous food prices. Next, the masses demanded that King Louis XIV return to Paris where they could watch him, and to prevent further uprisings, Louis agreed. It was at this time that the power of the masses was truly realized; for a group of the Third Estate to band together and make demands of the King, and for the King to listen was a great step in the establishment of the middle class

as a force to be reckoned with. The masses were not merely content with having the King agree to follow their demands, they wanted to have some power over their own lives. Thus even when Louis yielded and legalized the National Assembly, the crowd rioted because of his dismissal of a reform-minded minister, leading to the infamous storming of the Bastille by an excited Paris mob. Louis, anxious to avoid bloodshed gave in once more and Necker was reinstated. Later, when rumours of counterrevolutionary court intrigues were exploited, an angry mob marched to Versailles and forcibly moved the royal family and the Assembly to Paris. The tables were now completely turned, instead of the Third Estate being run by the King, the King was being run by the masses. This stunning changeover

of power acted as a starting point for the modern notion of the middle class and masses having an important place in society. After the French Revolution, no European kings, nobles, or other members of the aristocracy could take their powers for granted or ignore the cries of the masses. The French Revolution was not only caused by the rebellion of the Third Estate against feudal oppression, but also the liberal Enlightenment of the 18th century and the assertion of the new capitalist bourgeoisie against the fixed order of the ancient regime. The common thread between these three groups was their desire of a form of political liberty. On August 26, this desire manifested itself in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, a document that proclaimed liberty and