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Did The Enlightenment Cause Change

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

This assignment is about how the enlightenment ideas influenced the political, social and cultural policies of the French people during the revolutionary period of 1789-1815. The Enlightenment was an intellectual and international movement that played an important role in the development of modern Europe. Many changes occurred during this time in Europe. Thinkers such as Voltaire, Montesquieu, Jeans Jacques Rousseau and other ones who started to criticize and attack three institutions, the monarchy, aristocracy and the church. They wanted to solve the problem of the middle class and wanted the church to lose the power. The Enlightenment ideas changed the way people viewed religion and the government. They try to understand happiness, politics, society, and started to think for themselves. One of the three major important aspects of enlightenment was democracy, citizenship, and human rights. The working class fought for a new reform where they had the right to vote and had the same right under the law. They wanted a new government that cared about their necessities and solved their problem.

The monarchy was one of the major problems during this time. Monarchy is a system where the king decides and controls everything that happens. The monarch doesn’t care about the opinions of the working class because he has absolute power. The French Revolution brought huge changes to the role of the middle class, which included the working class and the bourgeoisie. At the end of the revolution, the third Estate acknowledged that all men were born equals, and should have the same rights as the other two estates: the aristocracy and the monarchy. Also, the third estate fought for improve the government, education and society. According to French Revolution Article “these rights were first noted in the American Constitution and were then transferred to France through the Declaration of the Rights of Man by General Lafayette.” The national Assembly also promoted religious tolerance, approved Protestant and Jewish individuals to have full political rights, and abolished slavery. The French Revolution broke many of the previous stereotypes of the middle class, and women argued that they have right to vote and the right to participate in government as the other two estates. Many nobles started to worry about the new reforms of the government. The national assembly reorganized the old French system of province with the creation of 83 departments, which are still used today in France. Political policies not only changed, but social policies changed as well.

Social policies changed dramatically. The French society was divided among three classes: the First class was the clergy, the most privileged class. They had land, title and social status. The second class was the nobles, which was the second most privileged class and didn’t pay taxes. The third class was the middle class, peasants and city workers, which was the least privileged class. The middle class represents 96% of the population, but they did not have the same rights as the aristocracy and the monarchy, and many believed it was unfair. The disruption of the social class was the most obvious change of the French Revolution. Before the Revolution, both the nobility and the church didn’t pay any taxes, and a large part of the land was owned by them. They owned beautiful house, had money and title, collected taxes and had absolute power in the intellectual and social life of the middle class. On the other hand, peasants were forced to pay high taxes, sometimes more than 60 percent of their salaries. They didn’t even have enough money to buy food, and there was inflation. After the French Revolution, the property confiscated from the churches and nobilities were distributed among the poor people, the tax system was abolished, giving common people both financial and social relief, and a new reform gave them more power over the economic decisions of their country. Society started experience a great change. There was an increase of middle class and families in both towns and cities began to earn money by becoming professionals such as lawyers, or doctors. A new way of thinking emerged, literacy and education was now valued, and ideas were spread by thinkers during that time. Education and literacy spread throughout the country and written materials were being produced. One example of this was “Candide”. This book was popular and went through 13 editions in its first year in print.

The end of the feudal system was another important change, the government sold lands to the peasant a reduced price, these lands were confiscate from the church. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Civil Constitution of the Clergy made sure that clergy in the future was elected and put under state control. With the creation of the constitution in 1971, the absolute power was taken away from the king, the king doesn’t have all the power, and he shares the power to the third state. The Napoleon code worked to make sure that there was equality for all French Citizens. According to Exploring the French Revolution Article “the time period of 1789-1815 was known as the French Revolution and the development of equality, liberty, and fraternity became apparent and continues in France today.” The existing constitutional monarchy changed to a radical democratic government because of the French revolution. Social policies not only changed, cultural policies also changed.

Cultural policies changed drastically. After the confiscation of church property, the government created a system of primary and secondary schools based on free tuition and teacher’s salaries were provided by the state. The Royal library became the National library. The government created museum with the paintings and objects confiscated from the churches. Cultural ideas were shifted. The way people saw religion changed. Christianity, especially Catholicism was attacked for the first time. People started to doubt the church. Many writers started to use the phrase liberty, equality and fraternity during that time by creating a new era, the era of the thinkers.

In conclusion of this assignment, the political, social, and cultural policies during the Enlightenment were the most important changes that occurred in France. These changes served as examples for other countries in Europe where similar conflicts had occurred. The ideas of the enlightenment during this time led to the French revolution. Many changes happened. For example, with the creation of a national Assembly, they change the constitution of France and eliminated the death penalty, which was used for torture in order to extract confessions and the use of capital punishment because they thought the act was unjust. The government began to improve the standard of living of the working class, giving attention to the people who lived in poverty, the government sold small lots to the peasants, and these lots were expropriated from the nobilities and churches. A new law put end to the existing inflation in those days. The government fixed the maximum rate of basic necessities.


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