The French Revolution played an important role in European History. It brought great changes in the society and government of France, and it also had lasting effects on many other European countries. It introduced democratic rule to France but did not make the country a democracy. The middle class was strengthened as a result and supreme rule by French kings was ended. After the revolution no other European king or noble could take their powers fro granted or ignore the ideals of liberty and equality.
1788 France was almost bankrupt due to the huge debt incurred during the Seven Years' War (1756-1763) and the Revolutionary War in America (1775-1783). Louis XVI unwillingly called a meeting of the Estates-General, a group made up of members of all social classes, so they could determine if he could raise taxes.
5 May 1789 The States-General opened at Versailles. The first two estates, which consisted of the nobility and clergy and the middle class, wanted the three estates to vote on matters separately by estate. The third estate, which consisted of the peasants and working class, had as many representatives as the other two combined. The third estate wanted all the estates to be merged and to form a national assembly. In the assembly they wanted each member to have one vote and they wanted a constitution to be written.
June 1789 The first two estates refused to form a national assembly, so the third estate declared that they were the national assembly. They gathered at a tennis court and pledged not to disband until they had formed a constitution. Louis XVI allowed all three groups to form the Assembly, but he began to gather troops to break it up.
14 July 1789 Masses of Parisians stormed the Bastille hoping to find ammunition and arms to use in defending themselves against the army. The people captured the Bastille and began to tear it down. In Paris leader formed a revolutionary city government. Throughout the countryside massive peasant uprisings occurred against the nobility.
August 1789 The National Assembly adopted the Decrees of August 4 and the Declaration of Rights of Man and of Citizen. These new laws abolished feudal taxes that peasants were required to pay their landlords, the tax advantage of the clergy and nobles, and regional privileges. Some basic human rights were also guaranteed.
26 February 1790 France was organized into 83 departments.
June 1790 The nobility in France was abolished.
September 1791 The National Assembly disbanded thinking the revolution was over and to make way fro the new Legislative Assembly.
1 October 1791 The Legislative Assembly opened. Louis XVI soon started plotting with aristocrats to overthrow the new government.
April 1792 France went to war with Austria and Prussia who wanted to restore the king to his former power.
August 1792 Louis XVI and his family were taken into custody. His removal ended the constitutional monarchy. The assembly called for a new national convention to make a new constitution.
September 1792 A small number of Parisians took the law into their own hands. They feared that the invading armies would soon reach Paris and put an end to the revolution. They executed more than 1000 prisoners. It was called the September Massacre.
20 September 1792 The Prussians were defeated in the Battle of Valmy causing the crisis in Paris to end.
21 September 1792 France was declared a republic by the National Convention.
21 January 1793 Louis XVI was executed for betraying the country and treason.
Early 1793 A group of radical leaders came into power in the convention. They were known as the Mountain because they sat on the high benches at the rear of the hall. They were Maximilien Robespierre, Georges-Jacques Danton, and Jean-Paul Marat. The Mountain dominated a powerful political club called the Jacobin Club. The Gironde were the bitter opponents of the Mountain. The majority of the deputies at the convention were called the Plain. They did not belong to either group.
February 1793 France declared war on Belgium and Great Britain.
25-27 February 1793 Parisians held food riots throughout the city.
June 1793 The Mountain won control of the power and expelled and arrested the leading leaders of the Gironde.
July 1793 Jean-Paul Marat was assassinated by Charlotte Corday, a Girondist sympathizer.
1793 The Jacobin leaders created a new citizen's army to fight rebellion in France and war with other European nations.
September 1793 The Reign of Terror began under the leadership of Robespierre.
16 October 1793 Marie Antoinette was executed.
27 July 1794 Robespierre was named a tyrant.
28 July 1794 Robespierre was executed.
November 1794 The Jacobin Club was restored.
December 1794 The remaining Girondes were reinstated.
8 June 1795 Louis XVII died.
1795 The convention adopted a new constitution. The new government was called the Directory.
October 1795 The Directory began meeting.
April 1796 France invaded Italy.
10 May 1796 The Battle of Lodi occurred.
5 August 1796 The Battle of Castiglione was fought.
August 1796 France formed an alliance with Spain
15-18 November 1796 The Battle of Arcole was fought.
January 1797 The Battle of Rivoloi was fought.
July 1797 Political clubs were closed.
July 1798 Napoleon Bonaparte landed in Egypt.
August 1798 Napoleon fought in the Battle of the Nile.
October 1799 Many political leaders plotted to overthrow the Directory.
9 November 1799 Napoleon Bonaparte seized control of the government ending the revolution.