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French Society Before the Revolution

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French Society Before the Revolution - Lesson Summary

1774, King Louis XVI ascended the throne of France at the age of 20. He was married to Marie Antoinette and led an extravagant life.

He decided to support the American War of Independence and hence increased France’s debt to over 3 billion Livres.

The 18 th century French society was divided into three estates. The first estate consisted of the clergy. The second estate comprised the nobility while the third estate, which formed about 97% of the population, consisted of the merchants, officials, peasants, artisans and servants.

The clergy and nobility did not have to pay any taxes. It was only the third estate that paid taxes. A part of third class called the middle class was part of the third estate. This group consisted of educated people such as teachers, lawyers, artisans and merchants.  They started to question the privileges being enjoyed by the nobility.

In the midst these thoughts, the increase in the price of bread added to the existing taxes, resulting in riots. King Louis decided to convene the Estates General and put forth his proposal.

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