The French Revolution: Crash Course European History #21

The French Revolution: Crash Course European History #21

Hi I’m John Green and this is Crash Course
European History. It’s 1789 and Europe has been through an
endless number of wars. Territory has changed hands, hundreds of thousands
of people have died, and crop yields have been bad lately. War is bad for agriculture, for one thing,
but also the weather hasn’t been too cooperative. Reformers across the Dutch states and the
Habsburg Netherlands want to be more like the new United States, while Poles are demanding
that the partition of their country be undone. And one kingdom had emerged a hero from all
the overseas revolutions because of its support for the rebels in the thirteen North American
colonies. France has stood up for liberty and democracy
and fraternity–in North America, anyway. At home, it remained an absolute monarchy,
and was virtually bankrupt from all the warring. Its countryside was full of beggars–as was
much of the European countryside even as aristocrats grew ever wealthier. And the poor and middle-class paid virtually
all the tax collected to support these ceaseless wars. All of which is to say that in 1789, France–the
strongest and most populous country on the continent–was in crisis. [Intro]
In 1789 Louis XVI ruled France. He loved to hunt and tinker with mechanical
objects, especially locks. His wife Marie Antoinette was the daughter
of Maria Theresa of the Habsburg Empire and the sister of Joseph II, its current ruler. In a world where the marriage of two powerful
royal families had long been seen as key to stability and prosperity, what could go wrong? Marie Antoinette was a big spender who had
trouble relating to the poor of which France had many. As bad harvests made the price of bread soar,
more families couldn’t afford to eat, or else were eating bread that was cut with up
to 50% sawdust. In response to unaffordable bread, Marie-Antoinette
reportedly said, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche,” which is a great opportunity to trot out my
amazing French accent. And also, to talk about brioche, which is
in the center of the world today. IIn English, the line is usually translated
“let them eat cake,” but as you can see, brioche isn’t cake exactly. It’s just a different fancier more delicious
kind of bread. Mmm! It’s delicious. Fluffy, eggy, quite light. I don’t understand why the peasants couldn’t
just eat this stuff… Stan says I’m hopelessly out of touch, to
which I say, can I have some more of that brioche? At any rate, France as a whole was broke. Now, its reform-minded ministers tried to
revise the tax system so that the church and the aristocracy would have to pay at least
some taxes. But you’ll recall, there was a group of
appellate judges, the Parlement, who had to register royal decrees, and they refused to
register this one. Bankers, meanwhile, refused to provide the
Crown with additional loans. Which led to a proper financial crisis. Let’s go to the Thought Bubble. 1. In response to this crisis, Louis XVI was
forced to summon the Estates-General 2. —that is, a group of representatives of
the clergy (the first estate), 3. the aristocracy (second estate), 4. and ordinary people (third estate). 5. In cities, towns, and villages across the
kingdom, people met to set out their grievances in cahiers or register books 6. for their representatives to take to this
historic meeting. 7. Meanwhile, discontent was rising as Marie-Antoinette
played at being a shepherdess 8. in a pretend farm that was built for her
on the grounds of Versailles 9. so she could imbibe the air of nature and
play at the work so many were forced to do. 10. On May 5, 1789 members of the Estates-General
paraded in great ceremony through Versailles to begin deliberations. 11. Louis XVI wrote of the events that day “Nothing
happened. Went hunting.” 12. Which just goes to show you that history is
about perspective. 13. Members of the Third Estate, meanwhile, immediately
protested that their one vote as a group would always be beaten by the two votes of the first
two estates. 14. So members of the third estate retreated to
a nearby tennis court, declaring themselves the National Assembly 15. and claiming to represent all French people
better than the Estates General did. 16. These representatives swore (in the so-called
Tennis Court Oath) that they would not disband until they had constructed a nation of individual
citizens instead of a kingdom of servile subjects. Thanks, Thought Bubble. So, the National Assembly’s moves toward
enacting a reform program were backed by the muscle of ordinary people—many of them furious
about injustice and poverty. On July 14, the people of Paris seized the
Bastille fortress—a prison full of weapons and a symbol of the monarchy’s ability to
imprison anyone arbitrarily. And in the countryside peasants took over
chateaux and destroyed aristocratic titles to land and peasant services. Terrified aristocrats met on August 4, 1789,
and surrendered their privileges as feudal lords. The National Assembly then elaborated in a
series of decrees declaring feudal society had come to an end. That same month the Assembly passed the Declaration
of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen—a document that protected property, ensured
trial by jury, and guaranteed free speech. It read, in part: “Men are born and remain
free and equal in rights.” And that included freedom of religion. It’s hard to overstate how radical a change
that was from a France in which, just months earlier, peasants were seen as neither free
nor equal, and Catholicism was the kingdom’s official religion. On October 5, market women from Paris marched
to Versailles in the so-called Women’s March to bring the king and royal family to Paris,
where they could be monitored by the people. Although the family was unharmed, some members
of the royal circle, including the queen’s best friend, were violated, murdered, and
mutilated. Their heads and genitals were displayed on
pikes. And aristocrats began fleeing the country. Critically, the Declaration of the Rights
of Man also stated that the power of the monarch flowed not from some divinity, but from the
nation. And to that end, the Assembly proceeded to
draw up a constitution, making the monarchy a constitutional one. then in 1790, they adopted the Civil Constitution
of the Clergy, ultimately confiscating church property and mandating the election of priests
by their parishioners. And then in 1791, the royal family was like,
“we should try to get out of here.” And they tried to flee but were caught. Meanwhile, war broke out between the revolutionary
government in France and Austria and Prussia, who were intent on crushing the revolution
and putting the royals back in full control. Partly because they, you know, had a vested
interest. Their relatives were on the French throne,
but also, as a general rule, monarchs like monarchy. As the republic began to take shape, so did
political parties. They arranged themselves in the assembly hall
so that republicans, who wanted to do away with monarchs entirely, sat on the left and
monarchists sat on the right. An array of others grouped themselves as parties
across the hall. And from this arrangement, we got the modern
idea of politicians’ ideas being left, center, or right. The Jacobin club, a rising political party,
was to the left. But it soon broke into several factions that
were on the center, left, and radical left of the political spectrum. Ah, politics, where the left has a right and
the right has a left and they both have centers that no one listens to. Amid these tremendous changes, women were
claiming their rightful place as citizens to match the official expressions of equality
and rights for all. In 1791, Olympe de Gouges, author and daughter
of a butcher, published the Declaration of the Rights of Woman, stating explicitly women’s
equality with men. Women participated in political clubs and
successfully pushed for laws that ended men’s power over the family and also ended the practice
of men getting a larger percentage of inheritances than women. As war advanced, women also lobbied for the
right to serve in the army. And was war ever advancing! In 1792 the Parisian masses, threatened by
the approach of foreign royal armies, took extreme action. They invaded the Parisian palace where the
royal family lived—and forced new elections for a National Convention. Then in the fall of 1792, further violence
produced the abolition of the French monarchy and a call for every other kingdom to do the
same: “All governments are our enemies, all people our friends,” the Edict of Fraternity
read. Once the Convention had declared France a
republic, in January 1793, Louis XVI was executed after a narrow vote. A new instrument of execution called the guillotine
carried out what would soon become a bloodbath against many supposed enemies of the people. Because it killed so swiftly and allegedly
painlessly, the guillotine was considered an enlightened form of execution. And that brings us to Maximilien Robespierre. With the king dead and the church legally
abandoned, the Jacobins under Robespierre’s leadership, committed the nation to a so-called
reign of virtue and complete obedience to Rousseau’s idea of the general will of the
people—despite all those freedoms agreed upon in the Declaration of the Rights of Man. The Jacobins transformed culture: festivals
celebrated patriotic virtue; churches were turned into temples of reason; dishware carried
patriotic mottos; a new “rational” calendar was created; and clothing was in red, white,
and blue—the colors of the revolutionary flag. Meanwhile the Committee of Public Safety,
with its Orwellian name and Orwellian mission, presided over the “Terror” in which people
from all classes and walks of life—at least 40,000 of them—were executed in the name
of supporting the nation through purges of enemies of the general will. Among these in the autumn of 1793 were Queen
Marie-Antoinette, Olympe de Gouges, former mistresses of Louis XVI’s grandfather, and
other well-known women. Spies and traitors were said to be lurking
everywhere, especially in women’s political clubs and anywhere women congregated. Women seen in public were said to be threats
to the revolution. But as French soldiers began to win their
wars abroad, people tired of revolutionary bloodshed and mounted an effective opposition. Counterrevolutionary uprisings in the Vendée
region of France and activism by moderates led to the overthrow and execution of Robespierre
and several of his closest allies. And by 1795 new factions headed a conservative
government called the Directory. It inspired the French army to spread revolution
to other parts of Europe. That army was enthusiastic for good reason:
the revolution’s anti-aristocratic spirit allowed for ordinary soldiers to become officers—positions
that were formerly allotted exclusively to noblemen. One such commoner was named Napoleon Bonaparte. He was extraordinarily charismatics, not particularly
short, and with other ambitious newcomers, took revolution across the low countries,
German states, and even into Italy. But even without French armies advancing it,revolution
was erupting. During the French Revolution, Poles had revised
their constitution, for instance, in 1791 and granted rights to urban people. But a far different outcome from that in France
awaited: while the French pursued revolution, the other continental powers–Russia, Austria,
and Prussia–finished divvying up Poland among themselves so that it no longer existed. But Enlightenment ideas of freedom continued
to spread. They spread in Spanish colonies in South America,
and also in the rich French sugar colony of St. Domingue. The French Revolution, or maybe more properly,
the French Revolutions helped people in Saint Domingue understand that they, too, could
seek freedom. And the ensuing Haitian Revolution inspired
slave activism in other places, which you can learn much more about in an episode of
Crash Course World History on that topic. So when we think about why The French Revolution
is so important, one of the big reasons is that it consolidated the idea that the nation
is composed of citizens. Mostly citizen men at first—a fraternity
or brotherhood that replace a kingdom in which a monarch ruled his subjects. And this was a huge change for Europe, and
eventually the world, because it helped usher in the idea of nation-states, and the idea
that the most important people within those nation-states are the citizens. And so enthusiasts for freedom flocked to
France from all corners of Europe—if not in person then at least in their imaginations. “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,”
wrote poet William Wordsworth. In contrast, opponents like the British statesman
and thinker Edmund Burke deplored the rapid change and attacks on traditional institutions
and the abandonment of accumulated wisdom from past ages. Burke’s theories launched conservative political
ideology in the revolution’s aftermath. And we should be clear that the revolution
was extremely violent, and in many cases replaced poverty with poverty, and injustice with injustice. History, again, is as much about where you
sit as it is about what happened. But for the moment, however, revolutionary
ferment remained alive, exemplified in the writings of English journalist Mary Wollstonecraft,
who witnessed the revolution first-hand by going to Paris. She defended the quote “rights of man”
in a 1791 book and in 1792 she published A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. This enduring work compared the women of her
day to the aristocracy–little educated, simpering and ignorant. Lacking any rational, developed skills, women
in Wollstonecraft’s formulation were, like aristocrats, conniving and manipulative instead
of being forthright, skilled, and open like Emile in the eponymous Rousseau novel. To end this debased condition, women needed
education and legal protection of their person and their property. That is, legal equality. In the long run, the French Revolution had
many important outcomes; as we’ve discussed, a nation formed by consensus of legally equal
citizens came to replace a kingdom of subjects ruled by a king. The nation’s bedrock was a set of values
including the rule of law, the right of free speech, and the ownership of property. Rather than the nation’s bedrock being a
king, or a religion. This idea of individual rights, which would
later be called human rights, of course becomes extremely important in the 20th century and
beyond. Yet in the French Revolution and in many other
revolutions, as we’ll see, the nation in times of stress could jettison this consensus
about the rule of law and rights and become dictatorial, searching out enemies within
and relying on force instead of consensus building. After 1795, further big changes lay ahead
for France and Europe as Napoleon Bonaparte came to play an outsized role on the world
stage, and the new republic became a dictatorship once more. But we’ll get to that shortly. Thanks for watching. And yes, that was a Napoleon joke.

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100 thoughts on “The French Revolution: Crash Course European History #21

  1. Fun fact: the Jaden Smith Studio is actually named after that Jaden Smith, who is apparently a fan of Crash Course.

  2. Wait I didn’t think Marie Antanet said “let the mom eat cat or sweet bread” that was from a satirical work by Rousseau.

  3. I really hope crash course talks about the backlash to the French Revolution and the creation of conservatism

  4. Napoleon was not a commoner, but from an aristocratic Corsican family. He went to military school where spots were reserved for the nobility. He was a poor nobleman, but a still not a commoner.

  5. It's sad to see what happened to the ideology of nationalism. The idea that a nation was defined by its people instead of its monarch, and an earnest desire for brotherhood with one's neighbors and fellow man, instead of dominion of certain groups over others.

    Somehow racists go a hold of the concept and twisted it into grotesque facsimile, using it as a bludgeon to establish racial supremacy and segregation, "othering" those not perceived as being fellow citizens, or even fellow humans.

  6. Next up: can you make a video about Algeria's history starting from early Roman and bezentine colonisation till the independence

  7. hoo boy where do we start with your french, john. maybe with cahier? ier is more “ear” than ey. and why did you not even try with états général?

  8. Forgive my ignorance, but why did the Third Estate even exist? How did it form, how and why was it formalised? Was that power seized by the people in a previous time of unrest, or was it granted to the people by another power structure (and if so, why would they ever do that, what did they want to gain from it).

  9. I think the world would be a somewhat better place if France had won the wars and not Britain. Still far from ideal.

  10. “The right has a left, and the left has a right, and they both have a center that no one listens to”

    Preach it man, preach it

  11. I stopped the video when John talked about the brioche. That is a lie. That is a big effing lie. Get better sources.

  12. I don't often downvote videos people have gone through a huge effort to make, but for perpetuating the 'let them eat cake' myth which has been solidly debunked this video gets a downvote on account of deliberately spreading misinformation.

  13. The desire to impose 'equality' seems to become diverted to imposing terror and control via reducing the numbers of heads. Who says history can not teach us anything about today!

  14. Considering the speed in which you needed to talk to fit all of this into 15 minutes, I guess you realized when you said "or rather revolutionS" that this should have been more than one video, didn't you?

  15. The Guilotine was humane compared to its predecessors – breaking at the wheel, drawing and quartering. These punishments are what is meant by 'cruel and unusual' – not painless injections!

  16. "Ah, politics, where the left has a right and the right has a left and they both have centers that no one listens to"

  17. It's possible she meant oat cakes when she said "can't they eat cake?" because apparently even when there was a bad wheat harvest there would usually be oats for the poor to eat. She may not have been as ignorantly heartless as her comment makes her seem at first glance.

  18. Napoléon wasn't a commoner, he was of low rank nobility. That would have limited his career prospects, but he was an officer before the Revolution iirc.

  19. I hate that you talk about the "french middle class of 1789"… The middle class is not a very useful concept even to analyse todays society, you can imagine how it is completely inexistant at the time. It's just not a thing.

  20. When the revolution tried to "rationalize" everything according to the decimal system (ten months, ten-day weeks, metric measurements), they ended up hurting the poor even more. The Catholic calendar had one rest day for six workdays, Sunday, while the new calendar had one rest day for nine workdays. A reminder that people in charge of the revolutionary government were never the poorest of the poor, but rather disgruntled middle-class idealists.

  21. One of the big players in the anti-royalist movement in France and one of Napoleons main men was Jean Baptiste Bernadotte. He wrote open letters to the major newspapers of Europe declaring "Being a republican both by principle and by conviction, I want to fight all royalists to my death.".
    He is later known as Charles XIV John (Karl XIV Johan) King of Sweden. Founder of the current royal family of Sweden, the Bernadottes.

  22. Jayden Smith bought you guys a studio, or paid for upgrades on one, so you can keep giving out knowledge for free? That’s pretty awesome.

  23. I am very disappointed in this episode. There's so many things that are just plain… Wrong. And so many that portray too simplistic a view of the French Revolution. You're Complexly. This isn't a responsible way to cast the French Revolution.

  24. In a Nutshell, they had so much fun beheading those in Power, they didn't stopped, when they were in Power.

  25. What do you mean the Netherlands wanted to be more like the US? The country was already a Republic and all that. Aside from being conquered a few times.

  26. "Is it to be thought unreasonable that the people, in atonement for wrongs of a century, demand the vengeance of a single day?" – Maximilien Robespierre

  27. Wasn't the entire world in what was known as a "Little Ice Age"? And the colder, wetter climate was not condusive for growing crops like wheat, rye, and barley.

  28. I was always taught that “Left/Right” comes from radicals living on the left bank of the Seine. (River that flows through Paris.)

  29. I find it ironical that the French Revolution gave rise to the Declaration of the Rights of Man, which also gives freedom of speech, and was followed by the Reign of Terror which was like: "Freedom of speech is great as long as it doesn't criticize us, otherwise of with their heads"

  30. All they had to is say, "You know what, the commoners are rather justified in being upset at this unfair system. We should pay a bit more taxes to improve their conditions." and the whole thing might've been avoided. But they didn't, and for that they paid dearly.

    Will they listen to us this time?


  32. You better cover next the Greek revolution and the rest of the Balkan countries about their fight for freedom against the ottomans.

  33. Let's see what crash course get's wrong about the french revolution… I remember when I used to think you were a well informed channel.

  34. "Whatever you're interested in." I'm interested in folks learning about Earth Sciences – how about a Crash Course: Geology?

  35. 3:19 No the third estate is the Burguiose. Those aren't the regular people they are the wealthy city dwellers. the same ind of people who had a vote in Britain at this time.

  36. I hope you will cover the Greek War of Independence and its consequences. It's left out of european history books and courses too often because it's a revolution overshadowed by the French one and the Napoleonic Wars.

  37. 15:00 Again BS Napoleon wasn't a dictator, he wielded absolute power as a result of a state of emergency due to the war with Britain.

  38. Why does France or any country need a loan? Why not go make more currency. Go mine for gold or silver with slaves/criminals/ employees and then make coins…
    Why don't governments make their own money? What's up with this central banking sham?
    Hitler stood up to the central banks. Look what happened to him. He is vilified, and stories got worse and worse now people actually think he killed six million jews. Unreal.

  39. This video is obviously made for "Yank's" they are ignorant of world History, explain things and events in small words please. . .stick to cliches . . .and sound bites.

  40. I know that Crash Course has only 15 minutes to give a synopsis of broad events, the French Revolution being one of the most complicated historical events out there, but I feel that you have dropped the ball.

    Viewers already questioned 'let them eat cake', Napoleon being part of the minor nobility, making a scapegoat of Robespierre etc.

    You ignored how liberal nobles and clergy joined the third estate and supported them. You also ignored France's hatred of Austria, the Diamond Neckless affair, The September Massacres where thousands were killed as a radical journalist jean-Paul Marat incited panic and fear.

    Many people at the time had different opinions on was the Revolution was a success or not, some felt it went too far while others believed it didn't go far enough.

  41. I'm guessing you guys will cover this, or if not, it might be a little late to suggest, but it would be great if you had an episode on the Revolutions of 1848. A quick look at Wikipedia's introductory section indicates that it they seem to follow mostly from what you've introduced here. But oddly enough, I have seen very little talk of these in general.

  42. This is actually a really quite bad take on the French revolution, I sincerely recommend Schama's "Citizens" for anyone who wants to actually understand the period. This is not even passable as an overview

  43. I'm probably the only one who noticed but Joseph II of Austria (OK the Holy Roman Empire but whatever) died in 1796 not 1790. Great video otherwise! 🙂

  44. The French Revolution is kind of a John Green specialty after all these years, so I'm surprised that this seemed to fall so flat. Jam packed with textbook facts and poorly attributed rumour (Let them eat cake??? Really?????) but missing the heavy hitting ideas about why any of it mattered. Don't bother watching this episode, just go watch the same topic from the same channel from seven years ago- the World History version stands head and shoulders above this…

  45. There seem to be a LOT of "Oversimplified" history people over here. A lot of them are opinionated and loud. Be less loud, and be better listeners. When incongruities between two tellings of history appear, do your own research rather than regurgitate things you've heard on wikipedia or youtube. That's what being life learners is all about.

  46. Ok, Serious Question. Because I have had different History Teachers tell me different things. DID Maria ACTUALLY say that infamous "let them eat [cake/fancy bread]" line? Because I have had some teachers say she never actually said that, and others say that the quote is taken out of context……

  47. I’m disappointed in how they portrayed the women’s march. They made it sound like these women went to Versailles strictly to force the royal family to go to Paris. In actuality it started because of the scarcity of bread and these women were protesting mass starvation…

  48. I just wanted to congratulate Crash Course History for evolving in the right direction regarding tempo and speed. There was too much action for most people to truly learn anything in the first seasons of Crash Course history. From an educational perspective, this series on European history is way better.

  49. Sooo not mentioning Girondins, Directories, using fake Marie Antoinette quote, etc., but make plenty of time in episode for women who didn't do anything for the course of revolution?! Guess virtue-signaling is more important than history.

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