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Causes of the French Revolution

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The causes of the French Revolution, the uprising that brought the regime of King Louis XVI to an end, were manifold. France in 1789, although facing some economic (and especially fiscal) difficulties, was one of the richest and most powerful nations in Europe; only in Great Britain and the Netherlands did the common people have more freedom and less chance of arbitrary punishment. At the time Louis XVI called the Estates-General of 1789, he himself was generally popular, even if the nobility and many of the king's ministers were not.

Nevertheless, the ancien régime was brought down, partly by its own rigidity in the face of a changing world, partly by the ambitions of a rising bourgeoisie, allied with aggrieved peasants and wage-earners and with individuals of all classes who were influenced by the ideas of the Enlightenment. As the revolution proceeded and as power devolved from the monarchy to legislative bodies, the conflicting interests of these initially allied groups would become the source of conflict and bloodshed.

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