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French Revolution (1789 and 1799)

Can you provide me with a timeline of the events of the French Revolution (1789 and 1799)?

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The period of the French Revolution in the history of France covers the years between 1789 and 1799, in which republicans overthrew the monarchy and the Roman Catholic Church perforce underwent radical restructuring. While France would oscillate among republic, empire, and monarchy for 75 years after the First Republic fell to a coup by Napoleon Bonaparte, the revolution nonetheless spelled a definitive end to the ancien régime, and eclipses all subsequent revolutions in France in the popular imagination.


1774 Louis XVI, great-great-grandson of Louis XIV (the "Sun King" who built Versailles), becomes king of France; in 1770 he was married to Marie Antoinette

1774-6 Turgot, Louis XVI's physiocrat Controller-General attempts to introduce free trade in grain and abolish the guilds; widespread popular protest, the so-called Flour War, leads to his dismissal.

July 1778 Allied with the American colonies, France declares war on Britain.

May 1781 `Ségur ordinance' (War Ministry decree) requires that only those with four noble grandparents can be promoted to highest military rank.

July 1782 Royal decree levies a third vingtième (tax equal to 1/20 of income) for period 1783-1786.

Sept. 1783 Peace of Versailles between France, American colonies, Britain.

Aug. 1785 "Diamond Necklace Affair" leads to widespread discrediting of Marie Antoinette.


August 1786 Controller-General Calonne, faced with impending state bankruptcy, suggests reforms to Louis XVI (tax reductions, free grain trade, unitary land tax). Normally, any such reform would have to be "enregistered" (accepted) by the Parlement of Paris (sovereign law court), but the Parlement has often rejected reform attempts in the name of protecting historic liberties. Rather than presenting Calonne's reforms to the Parlement, then, the monarchy convokes an Assembly of Notables.

February 1787 Assembly of Notables meets; monarchy makes concessions(replacing Calonne with Brienne) to no avail, and in May the Assembly rejects all the proposed reforms. Brienne then carries through a series of reforms (free grain trade, stamp tax), which the Parl. of Paris refuses to accept, resulting in the Parl. being sent into exile in Troyes (14 August).

Protests in favor of the Parlement lead to Brienne modifying reforms, and the Parl. being recalled. Parl. demands that the king call the Estates-General (the national representative body, which has not met since 1614).

November 1787 Louis XVI agrees to convoking of Estates-General, and continues to struggle with the Paris Parlement over whether his actions constitute "despotism."

May 1788 Brienne's "May Edicts" reorganize judicial system; parlements protest, and popular riots, clergy, nobles all support them.

August 1788 De facto state bankruptcy.

January 1789 Sieyes publishes What is the Third Estate?; electioneering raises questions about how voting will proceed in Estates-General (by head or by estate).

Spring 1789 Cahiers de doléances (notebooks of grievances) drawn up by local assemblies; many show signs of being influenced by model cahiers circulated by the Society of Thirty (group of liberal aristos, including Lafayette, plus Sieyes, Condorcet).

Bad grain harvests, over production of wine, difficulties in textile industry (in part provoked by 1787 treaty with Britain)--all lead to a series of peasant protests, urban bread riots.

Estates-General and Constituent Assembly(May 1789-September 1791)

5 May 1789 Opening of Estates-General, voting to be by order (i.e., one vote for the First Estate, one for the Second, and one for the Third) rather than by person. The latter is favoured by the Third Estate, as it is twice as big as either the First or Second. In voting by orders, each order meets separately to decide its vote.

6 May 1789 Delegates from the Third Estate refuse to meet as a separate group, call themselves "the Commons."

13 June 1789 ...

Solution Summary

This solution provides a timeline of the events of the French Revolution (1789 and 1799).