Assess the View That the Enlightenment Had Been the Main Cause of the French Revolution.

Topics: French Revolution, Voltaire, Age of Enlightenment Pages: 4 (1987 words) Published: January 29, 2011
Assess the view that the Enlightenment had been the main cause of the French Revolution. The French Revolution of 1789 was inarguably a significant turning point in the history of Europe. However, there have been historical debates over the major contributing factor that had caused the French Revolution. Many historians have argued that the French Revolution was sparked by the emerging new age ideas of Enlightenment in the 18th century, which encouraged people to think logically and critically about their society. Many notable writers such as Diderot and Voltaire began to publicly criticise the social structure and the governance of France. (Darlington et al., 2004, p.25) But other historians argue that ideas affected the way people saw the ancien régime but cannot be the sole cause of a revolution. (Adcock, 2004, p.32) Marxist historians like Georges Lefebvre argue that the French Revolution was caused by the emerging capitalist class, the Bourgeoisie, who held a deep resentment towards the nobility and the church for their uselessness and unjust inheritance of their privileges. (Lefebvre, 1947, p. 47)

The Enlightenment is the most common explanation that historians overtime have used to explain the cause of the French Revolution. According to writer Kyella Farrah James, the Enlightenment had established the revolutionary climate in France by encouraging people to view their society critically and logically.(James, n.d., Society under the ancien régime was one that was ruled by a “culture of deference”, where people were taught to accept their own plights of suffering, and that the rich were superior to them.(Adcock,2004, p.15) The ideologies of the Enlightenment taught people to reject the inequality imposed upon them and demand for their rights. The Enlightenment asserted criticism towards the ancien régime, the monarchy and the Catholic Church, on such issues as...

Bibliography: BOOKS
* Adcock, M. 2004, Analysing the French revolution, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. pp. 15, 24, 27, 32, 33, 35.
* Darlington, R. et al., 2004, Turning points: modern history depth studies, Reed Heinemann Education, Port Melbourne. p. 25.
* Lefebvre, G. 1967, The coming of the French revolution, Princeton University Press, New Jersey
* James, K. F. (n.d.), French history: the causes of the French revolution. Retrieved: April 10, 2010, from
* McElroy, W. 1998, Philosophical letters by Voltaire. Retrieved: May 19, 2010, from
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