Although the French revolution was successful it was limited. Examine
The French Revolution was a product of the dysfunctional society characterized by Feudalism.
- The French revolution had an important impact not just on France, but rest of the world. The wars with France weakened the European colonial powers like Spain and Portugal and their colonies in South and Central America declared themselves as independent republics.
- The abolition of Slavery after French revolution was the first move against this repressive system and Britain followed suit in 1833 while USA banned it in 1865.
- It led to destruction of feudalism in France as all laws of old feudal regime were repealed and lands of the nobles and church were confiscated and redistributed.
- The French Revolution inspired movements against colonialism in colonies around the world, while movements for democracy and self-rule rose in whole of Europe. In French Revolution, the working class had played an important role. They had formed secret societies to bring about the revolution. The rise in workers solidarity was later seen all across Europe especially in the industrialized Britain (as reflected in Chartist Movement in 1830s and 1840s). This helped in workers getting the right to vote and other welfare measures. The French revolution’s ideas of equality and liberty helped make Britain much more democratic in the 19th century.
Though we see the positive corner of French revolution there are negative aspects as well which limited its success
- In reality, post revolution regime failed to resolve the grievances of the workers, who were the main force during the uprising of 1789, and only the peasants benefited (as they became owners of land confiscated from the privileged classes).
- The revolution failed to bring in democratic rule and the Reign of Terror under the Jacobians was a mass slaughter characterized by nothing but brute force and breach of rule of law. Napoleon, due to his continuous warfare resulted in rise of nationalism in the invaded territories and he came to be perceived, not as a liberator, but a conqueror.
- This Nationalism was to prove advantageous to the unification of Germany and Italy in 1870s.
- Limited suffrage, especially women were excluded, Slavery was reintroduced by Napoleon.
Thus, the importance of the French Revolution laid in laying the foundation of Modern States based on Liberal Democratic ideals. Also, indirectly it laid the groundwork for the growth of Socialism and Communism by providing an intellectual and social environment in which these ideologies could flourish.