The Three Major Social Classes In The France Of The 1700s

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The France of the 1700s was regarded by many to be the most advanced and affluent European nation of the time, due to its cultural influence, prosperous trade and large population. However this appearance hid the social unrest brewing in the nation’s heart between the three major social classes. Though France had three major social classes called Estates, in truth it was divided in two: the privileged Estates (First and Second, clergy and aristocracy) who barely paid any taxes and the Third Estate (everyone else, from lowly peasants to the bourgeoisie) who paid the majority of the taxes.
The Third Estate was itself divided into three major groups:
1. The bourgeoisie consisting of bankers, doctors, lawyers, merchants, factory owners and skilled artisans. Though some of them reached or even surpassed the wealth of nobles, they still had to pay costly taxes, unlike them. The bourgeoisie was often well educated and read, and many within it were strong proponents of the ideals of the Enlightenment: liberty and equality. As such they were dissatisfied with the privileges afforded to the aristocracy, feeling that they were entitled to the same rights.
2. The working class, made up of labourers, tradesmen, servants and apprentices. Their jobs were transient and hard to hold, and their wages low. They frequently starved and sometimes even resorted to thievery to survive.
3. Peasants formed the majority of the Third Estate, and were the most disparaged by the privileged classes.
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