THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION AND THE NAPOLEONIC WARS TO MODERNITY
The French Revolution and Napoleonic years are very important to European history because they mark a time of great change and transformation, a time when Europe was in the thrall’s of its rise to modernity. Two of the aspects of modernity brought to light during the French Revolution were the increasing importance of the middle class and the idea, though not necessarily the practice, of political liberty. However, some of strides made in France toward modern liberty were almost completely erased only a few years after the Revolution by Napoleon Bonaparte, who brought his own thoughts on modernity to Europe with the advent of nationalism and total warfare.
One of the other ways in which the Revolution affected the rise of modernity was by asserting the importance of the middle class and masses. Before the revolution, France was made up of three estates: The First Estate was the Church, which made up 1-2% of the population, the Second Estate was the nobility which made up less than 2% of the population and the Third Estate was the commoners, which made up approximately 96% of the population. Whereas the First and Second estates enjoyed luxury, extensive privileges and great wealth, the Third Estate were the heavily taxed and poorly treated bourgeoisie, peasants and city workers. One of the reasons the revolution originated was the discontent among the lower and middle classes in France. Those in the Third Estate grew tired of the unjust laws and taxes they were forced to live by and decided to take a stand, eventually making their mark in French society.
One of the first times the masses asserted themselves was when the newly formed National Assembly was drawing up a Constitution. Angry crowds in Paris rioted, forcing the National Assembly to recognize their demands. The people were protesting heavy taxes, and outrageous food prices. Next, ...