Humanities › History & Culture A Narrative History of the French Revolution - Contents Share Flipboard Email Print Louis XVI. Wikimedia Commons History & Culture Military History French Revolution Battles & Wars Key Figures Arms & Weapons Naval Battles & Warships Aerial Battles & Aircraft Civil War Vietnam War World War I World War II American History African American History African History Ancient History and Culture Asian History European History Genealogy Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History The 20th Century Women's History View More By Robert Wilde History Expert M.A., Medieval Studies, Sheffield University B.A., Medieval Studies, Sheffield University Robert Wilde is a historian who writes about European history. He is the author of the History in an Afternoon textbook series. our editorial process Robert Wilde Updated March 17, 2017 Interested in the French Revolution? Read our 101 but want more? Then try this, a narrative history of the French Revolution designed to give you a firm grounding in the subject: it's all the 'what's' and 'when's'. It's also a perfect platform for readers who want to go on and study the much debated 'whys'. The French Revolution is the threshold between an early, proto modern Europe and the modern age, ushering in a change so huge and all encompassing that the continent was remade by the forces (and often the armies) unleashed. It was truly a pleasure to write this narrative, as the complex characters (how did Robespierre go from wanting the death penalty banned to the architect of rule by terror and mass execution), and the tragic events (including a declaration designed to save a monarchy which actually crippled it) unfold into a fascinating whole. History of the French Revolution Pre-Revolutionary FranceFrance's history of piecemeal territorial expansion produced a jigsaw of different laws, rights and boundaries which some felt were ripe for reform. Society was also divided - by tradition - into three 'estates': the clergy, the nobility and everyone else. The Crisis of the 1780s and the Causes of the French RevolutionWhile historians still debate the precise long term causes of the revolution, all are in agreement that a financial crisis in the 1780s provided the short term trigger for revolution. The Estates General and the Revolution of 1789The French Revolution began when the 'third estate' deputies of the Estates General declared themselves a National Assembly and verbally seized sovereignty from the King while the citizens of Paris rebelled against royal control and stormed the Bastille in search of arms. Recreating France 1789 – 91Having seized control of France, the deputies of the National Assembly began reforming the nation, scrapping rights and privileges and drawing up a new constitution. The Republican Revolution 1792In 1792 a second revolution took place, as Jacobins and sansculottes forced the Assembly to replace itself with a National Convention which abolished the monarchy, declared France a republic and in 1793 executed the king. Purges and Revolt 1793In 1793 tensions in the revolution finally exploded, especially in rural areas where conscription and laws against priests caused open and armed rebellion against the domination of the revolution by Parisians. The Terror 1793 – 94Faced with crises on all fronts, the Committee of Public Safety embarked on a bloody policy of terror, executing their enemies – real and imagined – with no real trials in an attempt to save the revolution. Over 16,000 were executed and over 10,000 died in prison. Thermidor 1794 - 95In 1794 Robespierre and the other 'terrorists' were overthrown, leading to a backlash against his supporters and the laws they had en-acted. A new constitution was drawn up. The Directory, the Consulate and the End of Revolution 1795 - 1802From 1795 to 1802 coups and military power played an increasing role in the rule of France, until an ambitious and highly successful young General called Napoleon Bonaparte seized power and had himself elected Consul for Life in 1802. He would later declare himself Emperor, and a debate about whether he ended the French Revolution would outlast him (and continue to this day). He certainly mastered the forces the revolution unleashed and tied together opposed forces. But France would search for stability for several decades yet. Related Reading on the French Revolution History of the GuillotineThe Guillotine is the classic physical symbol of the French Revolution, a machine designed for its cold blooded equality. This article takes a look at the history of both the guillotine and the similar machines which came before.