NCERT Class 9 History Chapter 1 - The French Revolution

Chapter 1 - The French Revolution

Question 1: How was the French society divided during the Old Regime or late 18th century?
The French society was divided into 3 estates during the Old Regime or late 18th century.
• 1st estate: The first estate was the clergy which consisted of priests of Church.
• 2nd estate: The second estate was the nobility which consisted of king, nobles and their families.
• 3rd estate: The third estate consisted of big businessmen, merchants, court officials, lawyers etc. (on the top), peasants and artists (in the middle) and small peasants, landless labourers, servants (on the bottom).

Question 2: What were the privileges enjoyed by the first and second estate?

• The members of first two estates, that is, the clergy and nobility, enjoyed privileges by birth.
• They were exempted from paying the taxes to the state.
• The nobles further enjoyed feudal privileges. These included feudal dues, which they extracted from the peasants.
• Peasants were obliged to render services to the lord - to work in his house and fields and to serve in the army or to participate in building roads.

Question 3: What were the causes for the empty treasury of France under the rule of Louis XVI?
Upon his accession, the new king Louis XVI found an empty treasury because of the following reasons:
• Long years of war had drained the financial resources of France.
• Maintaining an extravagant court at the immense palace of Versailles.
• France helped 13 American colonies to gain independence from Britain.
• The war added more than a billion livres that had risen to more than 2 billion livres. Lenders now began to charge 10 per cent interest on the loans.
• Maintenance of miscellaneous like the cost of maintaining an army, the court, running government offices or universities.

Question 4: What is subsistence crisis? Mention the factors responsible for the same.
Subsistence crisis is an extreme situation where the basic means of livelihood are endangered. The factors responsible for subsistence crisis are:
• The population of France rose from about 23 million in 1715 to 28 million in 1789. This led to a rapid increase in the demand for food grains.
• Production of grains could not keep pace with the demand. So the price of bread rose rapidly.
• Most workers were employed as labourers in workshops whose owner fixed their wages.
• But wages of the workers did not keep pace with the rise in prices. So the gap between the poor and the rich widened.
• Things became worse whenever drought or hail reduced the harvest.

Question 5: What was the Estates General? Why did Louis XVI summoned the Estates General? What was the system of voting in the Estates?

• The Estates General was a political body which the three estates sent their representatives.
• The last meeting it was done in 1614. Voting in the Estates General in the past had been conducted according to the principle that each estate had one vote.
• This time too Louis XVI was determined the same practice. But the third estate demanded voting now be conducted by the assembly as a whole, where each member would have one vote.
• On 5 May 1789, Louis XVI called together an assembly of the Estates General to pass proposals for new taxes.
• The first and second estate sent 300 representatives each, who were seated in rows facing each other on two sides, while 600 members of third estate had to stand at the back.

Question 6: Write briefly about the Reign of Terror.
The period from 1793 to 1794 is referred to as Reign of Terror. Robespierre followed a policy of severe control and punishment.
• All those whom he saw as being ‘enemies’ of the republic: ex-nobles and clergy, members of other political parties even the members of his own party who didn’t agree with his methods were arrested, imprisoned and then tried by a revolutionary tribunal.
• If the court found them ‘guilty’ they were guillotined.
• Robespierre’s government issued laws placing a maximum ceiling on wages and prices. Meat and bread were rationed.
• Peasants were forced to transport their grain to the cities and sell it at prices fixed by the government.
• The use of more expensive white flour was forbidden; all citizens were required to eat the equality bread, a loaf made of wholewheat.
• Instead of the traditional Monsieur (Sir) and Madame (Madam) all French men and women were henceforth Citoyen and Citoyenne (Citizen).
• Churches were shut down and their buildings converted into barracks or offices.

Question 7: How did France become constitutional monarchy?

• The National Assembly completed the draft of the constitution in 1791. Its main object was to limit the powers of the monarch.
• These powers instead of being concentrated in the hands of one person, were now separated and assigned to different institutions like the legislature, executive and judiciary.
• This made France constitutional monarchy.
• The Constitution of 1791 vested the power to make laws in National Assembly.
• Only men above 25 years of age who paid taxes equal to 3 days of a labourer’s wage were given the status of active citizens.

Question 8: Write a short note on the Jacobin Club.
Many political clubs began to emerge from 1791.
• The most successful of these clubs was that of the Jacobins, which got its name from the former convent of St Jacob in Paris.
• The members of the Jacobin club belonged to the less prosperous sections of the society.
• These included small shopkeepers, artisans such as shoemakers, pastry cooks, watch-makers, printers as well as servants and daily-wage workers.
• Their leader was Maximilian Robespierre. A large group among the Jacobins decided to start wearing long striped trousers similar to those worn by dock workers.
• These Jacobins came to be known as the sans-culottes, meaning ‘those without knee breeches’. Sans-culottes men wore in addition the red cap that symbolised liberty. Women however were not allowed to do so.

Question 9: What was the condition of women in France before and after the revolution?

• About sixty women’s clubs came up in different French cities in 1791.
• Women were active participants in the revolution which brought about so many important changes in the French society.
• Most women of the third estate had to work for a living. They worked as seamstresses or laundresses, sold flowers, fruits, vegetables at the market or were employed as domestic servants in the houses of prosperous people.
• Most women didn’t have access to education or job-training. Only daughters of nobles or wealthier members of third estate could study at a convent, after which their families arranged a marriage for them.
• Working women had also to care for their families, that is, cook, fetch water, queue up for bread and look after the children. Their wages were lower than those of men.
• The revolutionary government introduced law that helped improve the lives of women. Schooling was made compulsory for all girls. Their fathers could no longer force them into marriage against their will. Marriage was made into a contract entered into freely and registered under civil law.
• Divorce was made legal, and could be applied for by both men and women. Women could now be trained for jobs, could become artists or run small businesses.
• However, women were disappointed that the Constitution of 1791 reduced them to passive citizens. Finally, in 1946 the women in France won the right to vote.

Question 10: Write a brief note on triangular slave trade.

• The slave trade began in the seventeenth century. French merchants sailed from the ports of Bordeaux or Nantes to African coast, where they brought slaves from local chieftains. The slaves were branded, shackled, and tightly packed to Atlantic to Carribean.
• Then they were sold to plantation owners.
• The colonies in the Caribbean - Martinique, Guadeloupe and San Domingo were important suppliers of commodities such as tobacco, indigo, sugar and coffee. But the reluctance of Europeans to go and work in distant and unfamiliar lands meant a shortage of labour on the plantations. So this was met by a triangular slave trade between Europe, Africa and the Americas.
• Finally the Convention which in 1794 legislated to free all slaves in the French overseas possessions.
• Ten years later Napolean reintroduced slavery. Slavery was finally abolished in French colonies in 1848.


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