The Political Revolution: The Causes Of The French Revolution

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The period between 1661 and 1715 saw France become the most powerful nation in Europe before it entered into a deep decline. As other nations adapted their system of government in the Eighteenth century in order to remain relevant in a more anthropocentric age France maintained its system of Divine Right Absolutism, which by the late Eighteenth century had become something of an anachronism that was overthrown in revolution. The answer to this question hinges on the view taken on why the Bourbon monarchs didn’t reconceptualise their rationale for rule as well as a consideration of the wider factors beyond the walls of Versailles. Historians to this day continue to argue over the causes of the French Revolution and can broadly be divided into two main schools of thought. The classical view of the revolution which attained orthodoxy during the Nineteenth century was essentially a Marxist view. Georges Lefebvre perhaps articulated this perspective most prominently and framed the downfall of the Bourbon monarchy as a ‘social revolution’ which was the ‘culmination of a long social and economic development which made the bourgeoisie the masters of the world’ . This view was challenged by a revisionist school most commonly associated with Alfred Cobban mainly writing in the 1950s who framed the revolution as a political revolution rather than a social uprising as the classical interpretation argued. In 1661 Louis XIV had come of age, he had been king since 1643 but as he was only 5
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