French Revolution Timeline: Background Pre-1789


• 1762: Rousseau publishes Du contrat social, discussing the relations of man and government.
• 1763: The Seven Years War finishes with embarrassing defeat for France.
• 1770: The dauphin (the heir to the French throne, the future Louis XVI) marries Marie Antoinette of Austria, France's long term rivals.
• 1770: Terray oversees a partial bankruptcy of France.
• 1771: Maupeou exiles the parlements and remodels the system after they refuse to co-operate with him, smashing confidence in their check on royal power.

• 1774, May 10: Louis XVI succeeds to the throne.
• 1774, August 24: Maupeou and Terray are dismissed; the old parlementary system is restored.
• 1775, June 11: Louis XVI is crowned.
• 1776, July 4: The British colonies in America declare their independence.
• 1776, October 22: Necker joins the government.
• 1778: France allies with the independent colonies of America in their war against Britain; the French war effort is funded almost entirely by loans.
• 1781, February 19: Necker publishes his Compte rendu making the French finances appear healthy.
• 1781, May 19: Necker resigns from the government.
• 1783: The Peace of Paris ends the American War of Independence; France has spent nearly a billion livres.
• 1783, November 3: Calonne becomes Comptroller-General of Finances.
• 1785: Necker publishes his Administration of the Finances, while Marie Antoinette is discredited by the 'Diamond Necklace Affair'.

• 1786, August 20: Calonne proposes a series of fiscal reforms to Louis XVI.
• 1786: The Anglo-French commercial treaty is signed; it is later blamed for French economic difficulties.


• February 22: The Assembly of Notables meets; they are intended to 'rubber stamp' Calonne's reforms but refuse.
• April 8: Calonne is dismissed.

• April 30: Brienne is appointed to the government.
• May 25: The Assembly of Notables is dismissed after refusing to agree to Brienne's modified proposals.
• July 26: The Paris parlement, which opposes Brienne's reform, petitions the king to call an Estates General to approve new taxes.
• August: The parlements of Paris and Bordeaux are exiled after refusing to pass Brienne's proposals.
• September 28: The Paris parlement is allowed to return.
• November 19: A Royal Session in the parlement of Paris begins; laws are forced through by lit de justice; the King agrees to a meeting of the Estates General before 1792.


• May 3: Parlement issues the 'Declaration of the Fundamental laws of the Kingdoms' which includes a statement that the Estates General's consent is essential for any new laws.
• May 8: The May Edicts remodel the parlements, giving much of their power to new courts.
• June - July: The 'Noble Revolt' against the May Edicts.
• June 7: 'Day of Tiles' in Grenoble: riots in favour of the local parlement against royal troops.
• July 21: The Assembly of the Three Orders of Dauphine meets at Vizelle; the third estate numbers are doubled and votes are cast by head.
• August 8: Giving in to the Noble Revolt, Brienne orders the Estates General to meet on May 1st 1789.
• August 16: Treasury payments are suspended; France is bankrupt.
• August 24: Brienne resigns.
• August 26: Necker is recalled; he restores the Parlements and says the Estates General can meet in January.
• September 25: The Paris parlement decrees that the Estates General must meet in the 'forms of 1614', the last time it met.
• September - December: Discussions about what form the Estates General should take occurs across all orders, especially as the third estate push for doubled numbers and voting by head.
• November 6 - December 15: Second Assembly of Notables meets, to advise on the Estates General.
• December 27: The 'Resultat de Conseil' states that Third Estate numbers in the Estates General are to be doubled.

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