Dec 14
2014

Le Fin

Vive L’education.  Vive Le Révoultion.

Thesis:

Educated members of the French middle class used their brewing political dissatisfaction to create the basis of an ideological revolution.  This ideological revolution reflects Enlightenment ideas and thus played in a critical role in the roots of the French Revolution.  Education that should have led to better jobs instead leads to job disparity and thus was a vehicle for the ideological revolution.

Intro 1:

Education of the middle class in French society played off of the already brewing political dissatisfaction because of new Enlightenment ideas that increased awareness of job disparity and thus played a critical role in the roots of the French Revolution.   Looking at what the condition of education was during pre-revolutionary times provides a picture of the tendencies and learning of the French middle class.  As the Enlightenment brought the world’s focus on the sciences and politics new ideas were spread and education was held in higher esteem.  Universities were the breeding ground of new ideas that fired up students and the general population.  These ideas were made popular in the universities by such thinkers as Rousseau and Voltaire.  However, these universities were at the same time a symbol of the old regime.  As the idea that education should better your life and be the stepping stone to a better career cemented with the general populace, at the same time they felt chaffed as the ancien régieme tried to retain their positions at the top of the fields.  Educated members of the French middle class used their brewing political dissatisfaction to create the basis of an ideological revolution.  This ideological revolution reflects Enlightenment ideas and thus played a critical role in the roots of the French Revolution.  Education that should have led to better jobs instead led to job disparity and thus was a vehicle for the ideological revolution.

Intro 2:

Vive le France!  Vive le revolution! Vive l’education?  The French Revolution is well known for being a bloody violent and turbulent time in French history.  Thousands died at the guillotines and hundreds more were torn from the life they had always known.  Yet to generate such emotion the pre-revolutionary period must have seemed an equally intolerable time.  While the general picture of the pre-revolutionary peasant is one of an over-taxed starving farmer, there were as many who were just above starving and living in cities.  As the Enlightenment ideas of the previous century took hold intellectuals and studentsbegan to rethink the way their world worked.  From these middle class city dwellers education should have been the key to escaping a life of hardship and drudgery, instead they a system ready to keep them from the high positions they aspired to; creating a vehicle for the ideology that was at the roots of the bloody time to come.

 

Historiography:

From its inception the French Revolution was primarily viewed as struggle of the éstates or orders.  P.A. Kropotkin is an example of a historian from the early twentieth century who viewed the French Revolution from a distinctly political form of history.  In his book The Great French Revolution 1789-1793 Kropotkin talks about the crushing poverty suffered by the peasants, the famine, and the exploitation of feudal rights by the nobles[1].  However, Kropotkin also attributes the beginnings of the French Revolution with the emerging middle class.  As he writes in his book, “The village middle classes, the well-to-do peasants, came into being, and as the Revolution drew near these furnished the first speakers against feudal rights, and demanded their abolition”[2].  This is a classic interpretation of the French Revolution.  The burgeoning middle class was instrumental in first speaking out against the corrupt and outdated feudal system.  This line of thinking very much portrays the roots of the French Revolution as a struggle to overcome the upper class so that the lower classes may better themselves. Aspects of Marxism can be seen in this view.  While Kropotkin does not state that socialism was what the peasants were seeking in their movement to abolish feudal rights it is a naturally progression of thought from the ideas that he puts forth. A struggle of the orders seeking to abolish laws and privileges that it sees as outdated and corrupt has over time evolved to take into consideration the philosophes of the Enlightenment and their impact on the ideas of the time. 

The French Revolution is now also being considered an ideological revolution as opposed to the political one described by the above Kropotkin.  Tommy Tackett is an example of a historian who views the French Revolution as an ideological revolution.  As Tackett explains a political revolution could not have taken place without their first occurring an ideological revolution[3].  There was many different facets to the Enlightenment and Tackett attempts to show that there were deputies who had some form of connection to all varieties of the Enlightenment.  However, few members of the constituent Assembly were “men of letters” and were related directly to even one of the Enlightenment varieties, mostly it was an indirect connection[4].  Tackett describes how in 1789 only four percent of the sixty delegates are known to have been members of at least one learned academy[5].  While this might not seem like an argument for an ideological revolution, Tackett continues on to explain that while not all of the members had such a direct connection to the Enlightenment there were more delegates who had ties that could not be considered direct and therefore were not in that percentage.  A further twenty percent of the delegates were members of Masonic or Freemason lodges and had ties to the “occult Enlightenment”[6].  Additionally Tackett claims that “all but the final two clerical academicians would undoubtedly have identified themselves with various strands of the Enlightenment”[7].  With so many delegates having a direct or indirect connection to the Enlightenment it would hard not to believe that influential ideas from the era would not have permeated into the Assembly.  Writers and thinkers with direct or indirect connections to different branches of thought filled the ranks of the delegates of the Assembly and it would have been their ideas and thoughts that shaped the progress of the French Revolution.

However, not all historians agree that it is one or the other of these two interpretations.  Roger Chartier is an example of a combination of the two schools of thought.  In his combination theory he looks at how in the job market non-nobility was discriminated against and thus lead to class struggles.  However it is precisely this discrimination that gave lawyers and writers the time to develop their ideas about what should be changed about their society.  Chartier states his position most clearly in that when lawyers and writers were “frustrated in their hopes for social promotion, deprived of a clientele, [and] held at bay by the officials of the sovereign law courts….it is hardly surprising that they argued the rights of talent against inherited privilege or…that they boldly joined the patriots’ party”[8].  This blending of the two theories explains the motivation for intellectuals to get involved in the Revolution and why they had the time to sit around thinking about what should be changed in their society.  It also provides an explanation for why the perceived class struggle did not just end up in a massacre of the nobles, the intellectuals directed the struggles toward a more intellectual route.

There is disagreement between historians on whether the French Revolution was a purely political revolution, an ideological revolution, or a combination of the two.  While the political revolution explains why the French masses rose up against their oppressors the viewpoint of a political revolution has its roots in a Marxist struggle of the orders.  This fails to explain precisely how the struggle went into politics rather than a massacre of the oppressive orders.  Though by definition the struggle would have to be channeled into politics and the theory leaves no doubt that the politics of the time were behind the struggle of the orders. Yet simply because the politics of the time created a class struggle does not mean that a political route would be the first route taken.  The intellectual theory explains why this route would be taken over a massacre, yet it fails to explain precisely why the intellectuals would want to get involved. While their ideology would be one explanation and a further explanation would be that they would get their ideology from the new ideas of the Enlightenment.  This is a fairly acceptable explanation if it were just about the nobility, however it does not explain how the lower orders of thinkers had the time to sit around and come up with ideology contrary to the order that was presumably paying their bills.  A combination of the two theories is the only explanation that makes sense.  A struggle of the orders that reaches even into the intellectual sphere explains why the intellectuals would not only want to get involved but also explains why they were willing to attack a system that otherwise would have been funding their livelihoods.  The involvement of the intellectuals explains why the struggle did not go straight to a massacre of nobility.  While eventually even the intellectuals were swept up in the revolutionary fervor, at first at least they were able to direct the revolution done a more ordered path.

Body Paragraph 1:

Due to the focus of the Enlightenment of the previous century on rationality and scientific discovery; education in France was in a state of change in the years leading up to the Revolution.  The Enlightenment held in high esteem such qualities as rational thinking, the scientific process, prolonged in-depth thinking, and the pursuit of knowledge.  For all of these qualities to be realized in a person, that person would need to have education. “In 1789 one boy in 52 out of the 8-18 age range was attending a college[9].”  This clearly shows the degree to which education was being valued.  While one in fifty-two does not seem like a very great amount of boys attending college the age range in this makes it more impressive because the starting age is eight years old.  The fifty-two boys would be spread out along this age range making it a smaller number of overall boys in the sixteen to eighteen age range.  Besides more children attending school more students were also graduating with degrees. “If we take as base 100 the number of bachelors’ degrees in law per decade for 1680-89 the index stood at only 126in the 1750’s…it rose to 141 during the 1760’s, 16 during the 1770’s and 176 during the 1780’s[10].”  It is important to note that the number of degrees were increasing as well as the number of students.  If just the number of students were increasing but not degrees it could be an indicator that education was not valued because the students would be dropping out with incomplete degrees.   This combined with other factors of the time period including new religious turmoil within the Catholic Church due to the disbandment of the Jesuits.  “Finally disbanded by the Pope in 1773, they [Jesuits] had been expelled from France in 1764, and their 113 colleges (out of a total nearing 400) had been sequestrated[11].” With the expulsion of the Jesuits and increase in education some governing body other than the church would have to be responsible for the common curriculum throughout France.  Due to the Enlightenment in the century before new ideas about science were being taught while there was turmoil over who was to take charge of the school system. Leaving behind the world of the church which taught obedience to authority and leaning toward rationality and scientific discovery challenged established norms, which could be seen as a precursor to challenging established societal norms as well.  For it must be stated that “Neither Ancient Rome nor the Christian religion had played much part in the triumph of a rational, experimental approach to natural phenomena, and it was impossible to disguise the fact.  Nevertheless the new principles continued to be taught[12].”  This shows that people were ready for a change.  Ancient Rome and Christianity were the two areas of the world that scholars had depended upon for answers since the Renaissance.  That they no longer held onto their traditional world views and were prepared to accept a view of the world that could even be contradictory to what had previously always been held as true was sensational.  They were in a sense prepared to prepare themselves for a revolution of ideas before the political revolution was even given a voice.  Despite these new ideas and increased attendance, though, some people still felt that education was being shortchanged by their government.

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Cahier de Doléances were one of several political treatises that called for the reform of the French Education system, claiming that the universities were too poor, and gave students too much leeway.  A Cahier de Doléance was a book of grievances and were written as a precursor to the Estates General.  It was a way for the general populace to air their feelings about what was wrong with their society and where they would like to see a change.   One area that got some mention was the reform of the universities.  This makes sense, with changing curriculum a general reform of the education system would be needed to reflect the new and progressive times.  The mistakes of the past and the measuring stick previously used to measure them by would have to be thrown out and a new one crafted.  The traditional student activities and past times would have to change as well.  As education became more and more valued the general populace surrounding the universities would want to see the students reflecting these values in their study habits and general lives.  It would seem, however, that this was not carried out in as timely a manner as the general public would have wanted if an anonymous Cahier is to be believed.  The writer of this particular Cahier claims that “The opportunities of debauchery, incontinence, and dissoluteness are multiple[13]”.  This kind of behavior would be seen as a link to the past.  A past in which education was not valued was it was in the present time.  This would not please parents who worked hard to give children a better future in an era when incredibly hard to climb any sort of social ladder.  Upon hearing that their children were given over to a university that had little air of studied intellectualism would not have pleased parents in the slightest.  Instead of receiving an education that would increase their place in the world, these students instead were spending money that they could ill-afford to waste.  However, there seems to be reasons for more of the general population to worry about the state of education in their country besides the parents of the students.  The Cahier sent to the Estates General also states that, “the various branches of instruction are too much restricted” and that, “Universities are too poor”[14].  This is indicative that the education system was not changing swiftly enough for people.  The general public was aware that new ideas were permeating their universities but seemed to view them as “too poor” and “too restricted” to put them into practice.  This would be a cause for worry because it would mean that while other countries were able to train professionals in the new ideas France would be stuck in the past and unable to move forward.  Perhaps worse for the patriots, France would be lagging behind other countries, such as their rival England, in the realm of new scientific discoveries.  This Cahier de Dolence is suggestive of the fact that education was held in high esteem by many people but perhaps the actual education being received was not held in equal regard by the students.   The call for reform was based mostly on the writers own desire for the improvement of the education system.  Additionally the writer was complaining of the conduct of the students thus showing that perhaps the education system was lax on its’ polices of conduct.  This would be a major sore spot with someone who valued education highly.  Since there were thousands of Cahier de Dolences the call for reform shows a major trend in placing a higher value on education. Perhaps as a realization the education could take their children to better jobs.  However, it was not just the education system that needed revising, after graduation it did not matter how well you had studied if there were not enough jobs for everyone.

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Despite an elite education many lawyers and writers were unable to find a preferred job after graduation due the wealth, influence, and rigid class system characteristic of the ancien régime.   Once a lawyer or writer graduated from an institute of higher learning they would naturally want to receive a post that reflected their new abilities.  However, for much of the middle class this was a problem.  The practice of simony was not just regulated to the church anymore.  Many of the top positions in the government required an official or two to be bought, or heavy bribes to be given to many different people to ensure that the post went a specific person’s son or relative.  This required a lot of money, money that many bourgeois families did not possess. This was because, “Very few bourgeois families remained in the business that had enriched them for more than a single generation…Profits not spent on buying property went into buying the next generation a superior education.  This pattern was very long established…[15]”. If very few families stayed in whatever business had enriched them, they could not continue to gain wealth and then use that wealth to gain influence.  At the French court wealth was everything and a man could become anything he wanted if he just had enough money and knew which people were the ones who needed to be bribed.  Yet the bourgeois families continued to invest in their children’s education, why?  One reason is because it did require an education to receive the top positions in the government. However, the noble families could buy out the offices that a more deserving, but poorer, man could not afford.  This established pattern of buying high offices did not allow for a poor but clever man to win a high position by his merit alone.  This skewed the system in favor of the rich and would have angered those who could not afford to buy their offices.  Additionally if more and more families sought the same jobs the price to obtain a job would be pushed higher and higher excluding more and more families from obtaining a profession equal to their education. This also is indicative of a rigid class system in which those with influence and power help only their friends and family to get ahead and preserve the best jobs for those they know or perceive to be in their class. To be denied the jobs they felt were rightfully theirs was hard enough for the intellectuals, now however; they also had to deal with the stigma of taking a lower job than they were qualified to work.

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Once outmaneuvered for the top jobs and forced to take perceived subservient work for living, disenfranchised intellectuals became scorned for their low work. Thus provoking these ostracized individuals into bringing Enlightenment ideas of equality and meritocracy to the general public. A person who has fought hard for a better life in the form of an education does not want to hear that they cannot now receive the position they worked so hard towards simply because they don’t possess enough money to bribe multiple people. “At Court, and in Paris, wealth opened every door, and dukes and peers happily married the well-endowed daughters of great financiers[16].” If the person who had just graduated had family, regardless of their rank, they could indeed buy their way into power.  However, for the solidly middle class or the poor but talented individual such pathways were closed.  An intellectual who worked hard at their education and outperforms someone with money would feel slighted when they are passed over for what they perceive is rightfully theirs.  If this happens when there are multiple other positions the overlooked person qualifies for, then there might be some railing against the authority that overlooked their genius, but upon gaining another job they are just as qualified for the railing may subside and quite down.  However, if there are not enough positions for all of the graduates in the first place than the slighted individual may nurse the grudge for many years to come.  “Increasing numbers of authors with no social situation or employment were forced to create institutions of their own that were not those of the literary world…and to accept whatever minor jobs the publishing world of the Enlightenment offered them in order to earn a living.[17]”  Forcing authors to create their own institutions meant that more of the public had access to literary institutions than before.  While these places would have been informal and not officially recognized they were still places where Enlightenment ideas could be debated and heard by the public.  These venues could range from a pamphlet to a salon in which many ostracized intellectuals were able to discuss ideas not only with one another but with intelligent members of the general public as well. This effectively took the messages of the Enlightenment out to the public.   Bringing the ideas of the Enlightenment out of the universities and out onto the streets of France meant that now the people in the public with grievances against the ancien regime could hear of the ideas that might fix their grudges.  Once taken to the public the ideas of the Enlightenment were brought into the people’s struggles for a new order.

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The Enlightenment philosopher Rousseau has a tremendous impact on French revolutionary politics and thus the people’s struggle for a new order.  Probably one of Rousseau’s most influential lines would be, “Man is free, but everywhere he is in chains. One man thinks himself the master of others, but remains more of a slave than they are.[18]”  Rousseau is here talking about the government still having an authority over a man even when the man himself is the master of others.  Additionally this quote could be taken in the context of social conventions dictating what a man does and says to the point where he doesn’t have a choice about how to act or live his life anymore.  This was very relatable for the French lower classes because of the rigid social structure of their society.  Additionally, Rousseau ideas were directly relatable to the general populace of France because as can be seen in his philosophy the Government robbed people of natural freedom.  Rousseau’s philosophy appeled to revolutionary thinkers because it clearly articulated their feelings of government oppression on both their social lives and intellectual ones. However, it was not just the general public that Rousseau resonated with.  He was also influential with one of foremost leaders of the French Revolution, Robespierre. “’I saw thee in thy last days, and this memory is a source of proud joy for me,’ [Robespierre] declares later in Mémoires, placed under the aegis of Rousseau and promised to ‘remain constantly faithful to the inspiration that I have drawn from thy writings’[19]” One of Robespierre’s best memoires was that of meeting Rousseau before he died.  This proves that Rousseau held a special place in his ideological thinking and his vowing to ‘remain constantly faithful to the inspiration that I have drawn from thy writings’ is further proof that Rousseau was fundamental in Robespierre’s new vision for France after the Revolution because he found a truth he could not deny in Rousseau. Yet it would take leaders like Robespierre and the people of the general populace working together to pull the complete change of social and political orders envisioned by the revolutionaries.  Here too Rousseau was especially influential. “His theories are especially pleasing to the disappointed and the weak, and therein lies their danger; for they tend, not to manly effort for the improvement of individual circumstances or of mankind, but to vain dreaming of impossible ideals[20].” Rousseau’s ideas were prevalent because they did not focus on the individual.  Instead he theorized and dreamed about what people could establish as a whole.  This dream did not need to be established by one or two great individuals who had been trained for years to seek this goal either.  Anyone could achieve it, even in smaller form, because they were ideals that one could strive a whole life for even if they were “disappointed” and “weak”.  They were ideas for the dreamers as much as for the do-ers. It would take both working together to pull off the Revolution completely however, and Rousseau was a way for the two different types of people to come together and bond over a shared ideal.  However, Rousseau could not have been as influential as he was, unless the people reading his ideas were first educated themselves.

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Without education the ideas of the Enlightenment would not have taken hold in French society and thus have been instrumental in the following revolution. Education therefore was a very necessary and integral part of the foundation that the French Revolution was built upon.  This is shown by the fact that attendance rates were up and more students were graduating with degrees from institutes of higher learning. More attendance meant there was more exposure to the pursuit of rationality and scientific discovery.   Even though, “Tradition ostensibly ruled…behind this façade the lessons of the scientific revolution of the previous century, and the methods and approaches that had brought them about, had been widely propagated in the colleges from the 1690s onwards.[21]” People of the previous generation were perhaps not quite willing yet to openly flout tradition but they were still willing to educate a new generation in the ideas that contradicted their tradition.  This shows cracks appearing the façade of the impermeability of French society.  People were getting ready for change, perhaps they were not quite ready to openly show that the old system no longer worked but behind the scenes the preparations were being carried out for revolution to come.  Conceivably one of the factors that tipped the scale in the direction of open defiance could have been the lack of jobs per qualified individual.  Jobs that had been desired were not available expect by purchase with large amounts of money but lower prestige jobs were available and were used to spread the ideas that had been learned in school. The prospect of working in a job that was perceived to be degrading was not what one expected after spending so much time and work fighting to get the qualifications to have a better job in the first place. Even getting the degree itself would have come with its own set of difficulties if the Cahier De Doléances are to be accepted and believed.  The continuing practices of some students from the previous centuries to go off to institutes of higher learning and focus on having a good time spending money would not have been conducive to studying.  The air of the universities was maybe not as up to date and progressive as some students would have preferred and this too would have made getting a degree hard.  If after all of these odds had been surmounted and an individual had graduated with honors and a degree, he then found out that all of his dreams had been for naught since he could not afford to purchase the office that he had worked so hard to earn.  Denial of what was expected drew the alienated intellectuals to movements that would support a rise based on meritocracy.  Additionally they didn’t like were ones that provided easy access to the masses providing an easy platform to launch their ideas from and allowing the masses and expression of their own frustrations. Education was essential to the roots of the ideological revolution that the new Enlightenment ideas began because without education the intellectuals would not have been prepared to bring the Enlightenment ideas to the masses and the masses would not have been ready to listen.

Conclusion

The Enlightenment a century before the French Revolution began to encourage people to value education as never before.  As education grew in value the middle class became more aware of class distinctions in the form of job disparity.  This job disparity took the form of took the form of those with wealth out buying jobs from those with talent. This despite the fact that many of the middle class graduates were more qualified than their more affluent counterparts to the jobs they had just bought.  That education was supposed to lead to a better life can be shown in the fact that bourgeouis families invested in property and an education for the next generation once them made their money in trade.  They wanted to be seen as equals with the nobility and education was supposed to be the playing field that was level and available to all.   Yet time and time again the lower classes where shown that money spoke louder than their academic or real-world achievements.  This lead to ostracized intellectuals joining the French Revolution because of their promise of a meritocracy, and with so many writers and lawyers out of work or talking jobs they were overqualified for, they had more time on their hands and less money they had envisioned.  This gave them the time and incentive to bring Enlightenment ideas to the public.  While perhaps this did not lead to the riches envisioned when first the former students had graduated it did provide an open forum for them to vent their anger.  Since the general public was also had a modicum of learning they were able to read the pamphlets the angered and frustrated thinkers put out.  Those members of populace who had more learning than most could discuss ideas with the thinkers themselves in the salons it was becoming highly fashionable to host.  At these salons thinkers and artists could mingle with slightly more affluent members of society who then in turn transmitted the ideas discussed at their salons to the people around them in their daily life.  In this way more and more of the public came into contact with ideas that in previous centuries would have been inaccessible to them.  This in turn started the brewing of an ideological revolution; in which education played a critical role.  The education of the men who brought the ideas to the public was crucial, as was the education of the Enlightenment thinkers.  Without this education ideas like those of Rousseau might not have taken hold.  Rousseau was the most influential of these thinkers and without his own education he could not have come up with the ideas the inspired a cult around him.  It was these people who thought and spoke and called the people to action that started the political revolution that became so bloody.   Yet if these people had not thought long-term and considered what they wanted to have happen after they were heard, or the king deposed, the revolution would perchance not have taken place.  The French Revolution was organized and while it did not advance calmly toward its goal of equality it did know what goal it was marching toward.  How well it achieved it is not the issue here, but the fact that people knew what they wanted.  They could only have known what they wanted if they had an idea of other ways of thinking, which had been brought to them via the Enlightenment. Only education could have brought about the ideological revolution. Meaning that in the end the ideological revolution that preceded the political revolution would not have been able to take place without the men who made it happen having first been educated themselves so that they were able to bring the ideas they themselves had been taught to the general populace.

 

 

Bibliography

 

Chartier, Roger. The Cultural Origins of the French Revolution / Roger Chartier ; Translated by Lydia G. Cochrane. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991.

Doyle, William. The Oxford History of the French Revolution / by William Doyle. Oxford England: Clarendon Press ; New York, 1989.

Kropotkin, Petr Alekseevich. The Great French Revolution, 1789-1793, P. A. Kropotkin … Tr. from the French by N. F. Dryhurst. London, WHeinemann; New York, GPPutnam’s sons, 1909.

Lowell, Edward J. (Edward Jackson). The Eve of the French Revolution, by Edward J. Lowell. Boston and New York, Houghton, Mifflin and co, 1892.

Peyre, Henri. “The Influence of Eighteenth Century Ideas on the French Revolution.” Journal of the History of Ideas 10, no. 1 (January 1, 1949): 63–87. doi:10.2307/2707200.

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. On the Social Contract, with Geneva Manuscript and Political Economy / Jean-Jacques Rousseau ; Edited by Roger D. Masters ; Translated by Judith R. Masters. New York: StMartin’s Press, 1978.

Tackett, Timothy. Becoming a Revolutionary : The Deputies of the French National Assembly and the Emergence of a Revolutionary Culture (1789-1790) / Timothy Tackett. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996.

Taylor, George V. “Revolutionary and Non-revolutionary Content in the Cahiers of 1789: An Interim Report.” French Historical Studies 7, no. 4 (October 1, 1972): 479–502. doi:10.2307/286194



[1] Petr Alekseevich Kropotkin, The Great French Revolution, 1789-1793, P. A. Kropotkin … Tr. from the French by N. F. Dryhurst. (London, WHeinemann; New York, GPPutnam’s sons, 1909). Pg16-17

[2] Ibid. Pg 18

[3] Timothy Tackett, Becoming a Revolutionary : The Deputies of the French National Assembly and the Emergence of a Revolutionary Culture (1789-1790) / Timothy Tackett. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996). Pg 48

[4] Ibid. pg 50

[5] Ibid. pg 52

[6] Ibid. pg 53

[7] Ibid. Pg 53

[8] Roger Chartier, The Cultural Origins of the French Revolution / Roger Chartier ; Translated by Lydia G. Cochrane. (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991). Pg 190

[9] William Doyle, The Oxford History of the French Revolution. Pg 48

[10] Chartier, The Cultural Origins of the French Revolution / Roger Chartier ; Translated by Lydia G. Cochrane. Pgs 188-189

[11] Doyle, The Oxford History of the French Revolution / by William Doyle.Pg. 48

[12] Ibid. pg 49

[13] Roberts, “French Revolutionary Documents Volume 1” pg. 63

[14] {Citation}

[15] Doyle, The Oxford History of the French Revolution.  Pg. 24

[16] Ibid. Pg. 29

[17] Chartier, The Cultural Origins of the French Revolution. Pg 191

[18] Jean-Jacques Rousseau, On the Social Contract, with Geneva Manuscript and Political Economy.

[19] Henri Peyre, “The Influence of Eighteenth Century Ideas on the French Revolution,”.  Pg.  82

[20] Edward J. (Edward Jackson) Lowell, The Eve of the French Revolution. Pg. 284

[21] Doyle, The Oxford History of the French Revolution. Pg. 49

Dec 6
2014

Vive L’education. Vive Le Révoultion.

 

Thesis:

Educated members of the French middle class used their brewing political dissatisfaction to create the basis of a ideological revolution.  This ideological revolution reflects Enlightenment ideas and thus played in a critical role in the roots of the French Revolution.  Education that should have led to better jobs instead leads to job disparity and thus was a vehicle for the ideological revolution.

Intro 1:

Education of the middle class in French society played off of the already brewing political dissatisfaction because of new Enlightenment ideas that increased awareness of job disparity and thus played a critical role in the roots of the French Revolution.   Looking at what the condition of education was during pre-revolutionary times provides a picture of the tendencies and learning of the French middle class.  As the Enlightenment brought the world’s focus on the sciences and politics new ideas were spread and education was held in higher esteem.  Universities were the breeding ground of new ideas that fired up students and the general population.  These ideas were made popular in the universities by such thinkers as Rousseau and Voltaire.  However, these universities were at the same time a symbol of the old regime.  As the idea that education should better your life and be the stepping stone to a better career cemented with the general populace, at the same time they felt chaffed as the ancien régieme tried to retain their positions at the top of the fields.  Educated members of the French middle class used their brewing political dissatisfaction to create the basis of a ideological revolution.  This ideological revolution reflects Enlightenment ideas and thus played a critical role in the roots of the French Revolution.  Education that should have led to better jobs instead led to job disparity and thus was a vehicle for the ideological revolution.

Intro 2:

Vive le France!  Vive le revolution! Vive l’education?  The French Revolution is well known for being a bloody violent and turbulent time in French history.  Thousands died at the guillotines and hundreds more were torn from the life they had always known.  Yet to generate such emotion the pre-revolutionary period must have seemed an equally intolerable time.  While the general picture of the pre-revolutionary peasant is one of an over-taxed starving farmer, there were as many who were just above starving and living in cities.  As the Enlightenment ideas of the previous century took hold intellectuals and studentsbegan to rethink the way their world worked.  From these middle class city dwellers education should have been the key to escaping a life of hardship and drudgery, instead they a system ready to keep them from the high positions they aspired to; creating a vehicle for the ideology that was at the roots of the bloody time to come.

Historiography:

From its inception the French Revolution was primarily viewed as struggle of the éstates or orders.  P.A. Kropotkin is an example of a historian from the early twentieth century who viewed the French Revolution from a distinctly political form of history.  In his book The Great French Revolution 1789-1793 Kropotkin talks about the crushing poverty suffered by the peasants, the famine, and the exploitation of feudal rights by the nobles[1].  However, Kropotkin also attributes the beginnings of the French Revolution with the emerging middle class.  As he writes in his book, “The village middle classes, the well-to-do peasants, came into being, and as the Revolution drew near these furnished the first speakers against feudal rights, and demanded their abolition”[2].  This is a classic interpretation of the French Revolution.  The burgeoning middle class was instrumental in first speaking out against the corrupt and outdated feudal system.  This line of thinking very much portrays the roots of the French Revolution as a struggle to overcome the upper class so that the lower classes may better themselves. Aspects of Marxism can be seen in this view.  While Kropotkin does not state that socialism was what the peasants were seeking in their movement to abolish feudal rights it is a naturally progression of thought from the ideas that he puts forth. A struggle of the orders seeking to abolish laws and privileges that it sees as outdated and corrupt has over time evolved to take into consideration the philosophes of the Enlightenment and their impact on the ideas of the time. 

The French Revolution is now also being considered an ideological revolution as opposed to the political one described by the above Kropotkin.  Tommy Tackett is an example of a historian who views the French Revolution as an ideological revolution.  As Tackett explains a political revolution could not have taken place without their first occurring an ideological revolution[3].  There was many different facets to the Enlightenment and Tackett attempts to show that there were deputies who had some form of connection to all varieties of the Enlightenment.  However, few members of the constituent Assembly were “men of letters” and were related directly to even one of the Enlightenment varieties, mostly it was an indirect connection[4].  Tackett describes how in 1789 only four percent of the sixty delegates are known to have been members of at least one learned academy[5].  While this might not seem like an argument for an ideological revolution, Tackett continues on to explain that while not all of the members had such a direct connection to the Enlightenment there were more delegates who had ties that could not be considered direct and therefore were not in that percentage.  A further twenty percent of the delegates were members of Masonic or Freemason lodges and had ties to the “occult Enlightenment”[6].  Additionally Tackett claims that “all but the final two clerical academicians would undoubtedly have identified themselves with various strands of the Enlightenment”[7].  With so many delegates having a direct or indirect connection to the Enlightenment it would hard not to believe that influential ideas from the era would not have permeated into the Assembly.  Writers and thinkers with direct or indirect connections to different branches of thought filled the ranks of the delegates of the Assembly and it would have been their ideas and thoughts that shaped the progress of the French Revolution.

However, not all historians agree that it is one or the other of these two interpretations.  Roger Chartier is an example of a combination of the two schools of thought.  In his combination theory he looks at how in the job market non-nobility was discriminated against and thus lead to class struggles.  However it is precisely this discrimination that gave lawyers and writers the time to develop their ideas about what should be changed about their society.  Chartier states his position most clearly in that when lawyers and writers were “frustrated in their hopes for social promotion, deprived of a clientele, [and] held at bay by the officials of the sovereign law courts….it is hardly surprising that they argued the rights of talent against inherited privilege or…that they boldly joined the patriots’ party”[8].  This blending of the two theories explains the motivation for intellectuals to get involved in the Revolution and why they had the time to sit around thinking about what should be changed in their society.  It also provides an explanation for why the perceived class struggle did not just end up in a massacre of the nobles, the intellectuals directed the struggles toward a more intellectual route.

There is disagreement between historians on whether the French Revolution was a purely political revolution, an ideological revolution, or a combination of the two.  While the political revolution explains why the French masses rose up against their oppressors the viewpoint of a political revolution has its roots in a Marxist struggle of the orders.  This fails to explain precisely how the struggle went into politics rather than a massacre of the oppressive orders.  Though by definition the struggle would have to be channeled into politics and the theory leaves no doubt that the politics of the time were behind the struggle of the orders. Yet simply because the politics of the time created a class struggle does not mean that a political route would be the first route taken.  The intellectual theory explains why this route would be taken over a massacre, yet it fails to explain precisely why the intellectuals would want to get involved. While their ideology would be one explanation and a further explanation would be that they would get their ideology from the new ideas of the Enlightenment.  This is a fairly acceptable explanation if it were just about the nobility, however it does not explain how the lower orders of thinkers had the time to sit around and come up with ideology contrary to the order that was presumably paying their bills.  A combination of the two theories is the only explanation that makes sense.  A struggle of the orders that reaches even into the intellectual sphere explains why the intellectuals would not only want to get involved but also explains why they were willing to attack a system that otherwise would have been funding their livelihoods.  The involvement of the intellectuals explains why the struggle did not go straight to a massacre of nobility.  While eventually even the intellectuals were swept up in the revolutionary fervor, at first at least they were able to direct the revolution done a more ordered path.

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Due to the focus of the Enlightenment of the previous century on rationality and scientific discovery; education in France was in a state of change in the years leading up to the Revolution.  The Enlightenment held in high esteem such qualities as rational thinking, the scientific process, prolonged in-depth thinking, and the pursuit of knowledge.  For all of these qualities to be realized in a person, that person would need to have education. “In 1789 one boy in 52 out of the 8-18 age range was attending a college[9].”  This clearly shows the degree to which education was being valued.  While one in fifty-two does not seem like a very great amount of boys attending college the age range in this makes it more impressive because the starting age is eight years old.  The fifty-two boys would be spread out along this age range making it a smaller number of overall boys in the sixteen to eighteen age range.  Besides more children attending school more students were also graduating with degrees. “If we take as base 100 the number of bachelors’ degrees in law per decade for 1680-89 the index stood at only 126in the 1750’s…it rose to 141 during the 1760’s, 16 during the 1770’s and 176 during the 1780’s[10].”  It is important to note that the number of degrees were increasing as well as the number of students.  If just the number of students were increasing but not degrees it could be an indicator that education was not valued because the students would be dropping out with incomplete degrees.   This combined with other factors of the time period including new religious turmoil within the Catholic Church due to the disbandment of the Jesuits.  “Finally disbanded by the Pope in 1773, they [Jesuits] had been expelled from France in 1764, and their 113 colleges (out of a total nearing 400) had been sequestrated[11].” With the expulsion of the Jesuits and increase in education some governing body other than the church would have to be responsible for the common curriculum throughout France.  Due to the Enlightenment in the century before new ideas about science were being taught while there was turmoil over who was to take charge of the school system. Leaving behind the world of the church which taught obedience to authority and leaning toward rationality and scientific discovery challenged established norms, which could be seen as a precursor to challenging established societal norms as well.  For it must be stated that “Neither Ancient Rome nor the Christian religion had played much part in the triumph of a rational, experimental approach to natural phenomena, and it was impossible to disguise the fact.  Nevertheless the new principles continued to be taught[12].”  This shows that people were ready for a change.  Ancient Rome and Christianity were the two areas of the world that scholars had depended upon for answers since the Renaissance.  That they no longer held onto their traditional world views and were prepared to accept a view of the world that could even be contradictory to what had previously always been held as true was sensational.  They were in a sense prepared to prepare themselves for a revolution of ideas before the political revolution was even given a voice.  Despite these new ideas and increased attendance, though, some people still felt that education was being shortchanged by their government.

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Cahier de Doléances were one of several political treatises that called for the reform of the French Education system, claiming that the universities were too poor, and gave students too much leeway.  A Cahier de Doléance was a book of grievances and were written as a precursor to the Estates General.  It was a way for the general populace to air their feelings about what was wrong with their society and where they would like to see a change.   One area that got some mention was the reform of the universities.  This makes sense, with changing curriculum a general reform of the education system would be needed to reflect the new and progressive times.  The mistakes of the past and the measuring stick previously used to measure them by would have to be thrown out and a new one crafted.  The traditional student activities and past times would have to change as well.  As education became more and more valued the general populace surrounding the universities would want to see the students reflecting these values in their study habits and general lives.  It would seem, however, that this was not carried out in as timely a manner as the general public would have wanted if an anonymous Cahier is to be believed.  The writer of this particular Cahier claims that “The opportunities of debauchery, incontinence, and dissoluteness are multiple[13]”.  This kind of behavior would be seen as a link to the past.  A past in which education was not valued was it was in the present time.  This would not please parents who worked hard to give children a better future in an era when incredibly hard to climb any sort of social ladder.  Upon hearing that their children were given over to a university that had little air of studied intellectualism would not have pleased parents in the slightest.  Instead of receiving an education that would increase their place in the world, these students instead were spending money that they could ill-afford to waste.  However, there seems to be reasons for more of the general population to worry about the state of education in their country besides the parents of the students.  The Cahier sent to the Estates General also states that, “the various branches of instruction are too much restricted” and that, “Universities are too poor”[14].  This is indicative that the education system was not changing swiftly enough for people.  The general public was aware that new ideas were permeating their universities but seemed to view them as “too poor” and “too restricted” to put them into practice.  This would be a cause for worry because it would mean that while other countries were able to train professionals in the new ideas France would be stuck in the past and unable to move forward.  Perhaps worse for the patriots, France would be lagging behind other countries, such as their rival England, in the realm of new scientific discoveries.  This Cahier de Dolence is suggestive of the fact that education was held in high esteem by many people but perhaps the actual education being received was not held in equal regard by the students.   The call for reform was based mostly on the writers own desire for the improvement of the education system.  Additionally the writer was complaining of the conduct of the students thus showing that perhaps the education system was lax on its’ polices of conduct.  This would be a major sore spot with someone who valued education highly.  Since there were thousands of Cahier de Dolences the call for reform shows a major trend in placing a higher value on education. Perhaps as a realization the education could take their children to better jobs.  However, it was not just the education system that needed revising, after graduation it did not matter how well you had studied if there were not enough jobs for everyone.

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Despite an elite education many lawyers and writers were unable to find a preferred job after graduation due the wealth, influence, and rigid class system characteristic of the ancien régime.   Once a lawyer or writer graduated from an institute of higher learning they would naturally want to receive a post that reflected their new abilities.  However, for much of the middle class this was a problem.  The practice of simony was not just regulated to the church anymore.  Many of the top positions in the government required an official or two to be bought, or heavy bribes to be given to many different people to ensure that the post went a specific person’s son or relative.  This required a lot of money, money that many bourgeois families did not possess. This was because, “Very few bourgeois families remained in the business that had enriched them for more than a single generation…Profits not spent on buying property went into buying the next generation a superior education.  This pattern was very long established…[15]”. If very few families stayed in whatever business had enriched them, they could not continue to gain wealth and then use that wealth to gain influence.  At the French court wealth was everything and a man could become anything he wanted if he just had enough money and knew which people were the ones who needed to be bribed.  Yet the bourgeois families continued to invest in their children’s education, why?  One reason is because it did require an education to receive the top positions in the government. However, the noble families could buy out the offices that a more deserving, but poorer, man could not afford.  This established pattern of buying high offices did not allow for a poor but clever man to win a high position by his merit alone.  This skewed the system in favor of the rich and would have angered those who could not afford to buy their offices.  Additionally if more and more families sought the same jobs the price to obtain a job would be pushed higher and higher excluding more and more families from obtaining a profession equal to their education. This also is indicative of a rigid class system in which those with influence and power help only their friends and family to get ahead and preserve the best jobs for those they know or perceive to be in their class. To be denied the jobs they felt were rightfully theirs was hard enough for the intellectuals, now however; they also had to deal with the stigma of taking a lower job than they were qualified to work.

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Once outmaneuvered for the top jobs and forced to take perceived subservient work for living, disenfranchised intellectuals became scorned for their low work. Thus provoking these ostracized individuals into bringing Enlightenment ideas of equality and meritocracy to the general public. A person who has fought hard for a better life in the form of an education does not want to hear that they cannot now receive the position they worked so hard towards simply because they don’t possess enough money to bribe multiple people.  An intellectual who worked hard at their education and outperforms someone with money would feel slighted when they are passed over for what they perceive is rightfully theirs.  If this happens when there are multiple other positions the overlooked person qualifies for, then there might be some railing against the authority that overlooked their genius, but upon gaining another job they are just as qualified for the railing may subside and quite down.  However, if there are not enough positions for all of the graduates in the first place than the slighted individual may nurse the grudge for many years to come.  “Increasing numbers of authors with no social situation or employment were forced to create institutions of their own that were not those of the literary world…and to accept whatever minor jobs the publishing world of the Enlightenment offered them in order to earn a living.[16]”  Forcing authors to create their own institutions meant that more of the public had access to literary institutions than before.  While these places would have been informal and not officially recognized they were still places where Enlightenment ideas could be debated and heard by the public.  These venues could range from a pamphlet to a salon in which many ostracized intellectuals were able to discuss ideas not only with one another but with intelligent members of the general public as well. This effectively took the messages of the Enlightenment out to the public.   Bringing the ideas of the Enlightenment out of the universities and out onto the streets of France meant that now the people in the public with grievances against the ancien regime could hear of the ideas that might fix their grudges.  Once taken to the public the ideas of the Enlightenment were brought into the people’s struggles for a new order.

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The Enlightenment philosopher Rousseau has a tremendous impact on French revolutionary politics and thus the people’s struggle for a new order.  Probably one of Rousseau’s most influential lines would be, “Man is free, but everywhere he is in chains. One man thinks himself the master of others, but remains more of a slave than they are.[17]”  Rousseau is here talking about the government still having an authority over a man even when the man himself is the master of others.  Additionally this quote could be taken in the context of social conventions dictating what a man does and says to the point where he doesn’t have a choice about how to act or live his life anymore.  This was very relatable for the French lower classes because of the rigid social structure of their society.  Additionally, Rousseau ideas were directly relatable to the general populace of France because as can be seen in his philosophy the Government robbed people of natural freedom.  Rousseau’s philosophy appeled to revolutionary thinkers because it clearly articulated their feelings of government oppression on both their social lives and intellectual ones. However, it was not just the general public that Rousseau resonated with.  He was also influential with one of foremost leaders of the French Revolution, Robespierre. “’I saw thee in thy last days, and this memory is a source of proud joy for me,’ [Robespierre] declares later in Mémoires, placed under the aegis of Rousseau and promised to ‘remain constantly faithful to the inspiration that I have drawn from thy writings’[18]” One of Robespierre’s best memoires was that of meeting Rousseau before he died.  This proves that Rousseau held a special place in his ideological thinking and his vowing to ‘remain constantly faithful to the inspiration that I have drawn from thy writings’ is further proof that Rousseau was fundamental in Robespierre’s new vision for France after the Revolution because he found a truth he could not deny in Rousseau. Yet it would take leaders like Robespierre and the people of the general populace working together to pull the complete change of social and political orders envisioned by the revolutionaries.  Here too Rousseau was especially influential. “His theories are especially pleasing to the disappointed and the weak, and therein lies their danger; for they tend, not to manly effort for the improvement of individual circumstances or of mankind, but to vain dreaming of impossible ideals[19].” Rousseau’s ideas were prevalent because they did not focus on the individual.  Instead he theorized and dreamed about what people could establish as a whole.  This dream did not need to be established by one or two great individuals who had been trained for years to seek this goal either.  Anyone could achieve it, even in smaller form, because they were ideals that one could strive a whole life for even if they were “disappointed” and “weak”.  They were ideas for the dreamers as much as for the do-ers. It would take both working together to pull off the Revolution completely however, and Rousseau was a way for the two different types of people to come together and bond over a shared ideal.  However, Rousseau could not have been as influential as he was, unless the people reading his ideas were first educated themselves.

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Without education the ideas of the Enlightenment would not have taken hold in French society and thus have been instrumental in the following revolution. Education therefore was a very necessary and integral part of the foundation that the French Revolution was built upon.  This is shown by the fact that attendance rates were up and more students were graduating with degrees from institutes of higher learning. More attendance meant there was more exposure to the pursuit of rationality and scientific discovery.   Even though, “Tradition ostensibly ruled…behind this façade the lessons of the scientific revolution of the previous century, and the methods and approaches that had brought them about, had been widely propagated in the colleges from the 1690s onwards.[20]” People of the previous generation were perhaps not quite willing yet to openly flout tradition but they were still willing to educate a new generation in the ideas that contradicted their tradition.  This shows cracks appearing the façade of the impermeability of French society.  People were getting ready for change, perhaps they were not quite ready to openly show that the old system no longer worked but behind the scenes the preparations were being carried out for revolution to come.  Conceivably one of the factors that tipped the scale in the direction of open defiance could have been the lack of jobs per qualified individual.  Jobs that had been desired were not available expect by purchase with large amounts of money but lower prestige jobs were available and were used to spread the ideas that had been learned in school. The prospect of working in a job that was perceived to be degrading was not what one expected after spending so much time and work fighting to get the qualifications to have a better job in the first place. Even getting the degree itself would have come with its own set of difficulties if the Cahier De Doléances are to be accepted and believed.  The continuing practices of some students from the previous centuries to go off to institutes of higher learning and focus on having a good time spending money would not have been conducive to studying.  The air of the universities was maybe not as up to date and progressive as some students would have preferred and this too would have made getting a degree hard.  If after all of these odds had been surmounted and an individual had graduated with honors and a degree, he then found out that all of his dreams had been for naught since he could not afford to purchase the office that he had worked so hard to earn.  Denial of what was expected drew the alienated intellectuals to movements that would support a rise based on meritocracy.  Additionally they didn’t like were ones that provided easy access to the masses providing an easy platform to launch their ideas from and allowing the masses and expression of their own frustrations. Education was essential to the roots of the ideological revolution that the new Enlightenment ideas began because without education the intellectuals would not have been prepared to bring the Enlightenment ideas to the masses and the masses would not have been ready to listen.

Conclusion

The Enlightenment a century before the French Revolution began to encourage people to value education as never before.  As education grew in value the middle class became more aware of class distinctions in the form of job disparity.  This job disparity took the form of took the form of those with wealth out buying jobs from those with talent. This despite the fact that many of the middle class graduates were more qualified than their more affluent counterparts to the jobs they had just bought.  That education was supposed to lead to a better life can be shown in the fact that bourgeouis families invested in property and an education for the next generation once them made their money in trade.  They wanted to be seen as equals with the nobility and education was supposed to be the playing field that was level and available to all.   Yet time and time again the lower classes where shown that money spoke louder than their academic or real-world achievements.  This lead to ostracized intellectuals joining the French Revolution because of their promise of a meritocracy, and with so many writers and lawyers out of work or talking jobs they were overqualified for, they had more time on their hands and less money they had envisioned.  This gave them the time and incentive to bring Enlightenment ideas to the public.  While perhaps this did not lead to the riches envisioned when first the former students had graduated it did provide an open forum for them to vent their anger.  Since the general public was also had a modicum of learning they were able to read the pamphlets the angered and frustrated thinkers put out.  Those members of populace who had more learning than most could discuss ideas with the thinkers themselves in the salons it was becoming highly fashionable to host.  At these salons thinkers and artists could mingle with slightly more affluent members of society who then in turn transmitted the ideas discussed at their salons to the people around them in their daily life.  In this way more and more of the public came into contact with ideas that in previous centuries would have been inaccessible to them.  This in turn started the brewing of an ideological revolution; in which education played a critical role.  The education of the men who brought the ideas to the public was crucial, as was the education of the Enlightenment thinkers.  Without this education ideas like those of Rousseau might not have taken hold.  Rousseau was the most influential of these thinkers and without his own education he could not have come up with the ideas the inspired a cult around him.  It was these people who thought and spoke and called the people to action that started the political revolution that became so bloody.   Yet if these people had not thought long-term and considered what they wanted to have happen after they were heard, or the king deposed, the revolution would perchance not have taken place.  The French Revolution was organized and while it did not advance calmly toward its goal of equality it did know what goal it was marching toward.  How well it achieved it is not the issue here, but the fact that people knew what they wanted.  They could only have known what they wanted if they had an idea of other ways of thinking, which had been brought to them via the Enlightenment. Only education could have brought about the ideological revolution. Meaning that in the end the ideological revolution that preceded the political revolution would not have been able to take place without the men who made it happen having first been educated themselves so that they were able to bring the ideas they themselves had been taught to the general populace.

 

 

Bibliography

 

Chartier, Roger. The Cultural Origins of the French Revolution / Roger Chartier ; Translated by Lydia G. Cochrane. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991.

Doyle, William. The Oxford History of the French Revolution / by William Doyle. Oxford England: Clarendon Press ; New York, 1989.

Kropotkin, Petr Alekseevich. The Great French Revolution, 1789-1793, P. A. Kropotkin … Tr. from the French by N. F. Dryhurst. London, WHeinemann; New York, GPPutnam’s sons, 1909.

Lowell, Edward J. (Edward Jackson). The Eve of the French Revolution, by Edward J. Lowell. Boston and New York, Houghton, Mifflin and co, 1892.

Peyre, Henri. “The Influence of Eighteenth Century Ideas on the French Revolution.” Journal of the History of Ideas 10, no. 1 (January 1, 1949): 63–87. doi:10.2307/2707200.

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. On the Social Contract, with Geneva Manuscript and Political Economy / Jean-Jacques Rousseau ; Edited by Roger D. Masters ; Translated by Judith R. Masters. New York: StMartin’s Press, 1978.

Tackett, Timothy. Becoming a Revolutionary : The Deputies of the French National Assembly and the Emergence of a Revolutionary Culture (1789-1790) / Timothy Tackett. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996.

Taylor, George V. “Revolutionary and Non-revolutionary Content in the Cahiers of 1789: An Interim Report.” French Historical Studies 7, no. 4 (October 1, 1972): 479–502. doi:10.2307/286194



[1] Petr Alekseevich Kropotkin, The Great French Revolution, 1789-1793, P. A. Kropotkin … Tr. from the French by N. F. Dryhurst. (London, WHeinemann; New York, GPPutnam’s sons, 1909). Pg16-17

[2] Ibid. Pg 18

[3] Timothy Tackett, Becoming a Revolutionary : The Deputies of the French National Assembly and the Emergence of a Revolutionary Culture (1789-1790) / Timothy Tackett. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996). Pg 48

[4] Ibid. pg 50

[5] Ibid. pg 52

[6] Ibid. pg 53

[7] Ibid. Pg 53

[8] Roger Chartier, The Cultural Origins of the French Revolution / Roger Chartier ; Translated by Lydia G. Cochrane. (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991). Pg 190

[9] William Doyle, The Oxford History of the French Revolution. Pg 48

[10] Chartier, The Cultural Origins of the French Revolution / Roger Chartier ; Translated by Lydia G. Cochrane. Pgs 188-189

[11] Doyle, The Oxford History of the French Revolution / by William Doyle.Pg. 48

[12] Ibid. pg 49

[13] Roberts, “French Revolutionary Documents Volume 1” pg. 63

[14] {Citation}

[15] Doyle, The Oxford History of the French Revolution.  Pg. 24

[16] Chartier, The Cultural Origins of the French Revolution. Pg 191

[17] Jean-Jacques Rousseau, On the Social Contract, with Geneva Manuscript and Political Economy.

[18] Henri Peyre, “The Influence of Eighteenth Century Ideas on the French Revolution,”.  Pg.  82

[19] Edward J. (Edward Jackson) Lowell, The Eve of the French Revolution. Pg. 284

[20] Doyle, The Oxford History of the French Revolution. Pg. 49

Nov 24
2014

Contour

Thesis: Educated members of the French middle class used their brewing political dissatisfaction to create the basis of a ideological revolution.  This ideological revolution reflects Enlightenment ideas and thus played in a critical role in the roots of the French Revolution.  Education that should have led to better jobs instead leads to job disparity and thus was a vehicle for the ideological revolution.

Intro 1: Education of the middle class in French society played off of the already brewing political dissatisfaction because of new Enlightenment ideas that increased awareness of job disparity and thus played a critical role in the roots of the French Revolution.   Looking at what the condition of education was during pre-revolutionary times provides a picture of the tendencies and learning of the French middle class.  As the Enlightenment brought the world’s focus on the sciences and politics new ideas were spread and education was held in higher esteem.  Universities were the breeding ground of new ideas that fired up students and the general population.  These ideas were made popular in the universities by such thinkers as Rousseau and Voltaire.  However, these universities were at the same time a symbol of the old regime.  As the idea that education should better your life and be the stepping stone to a better career cemented with the general populace, at the same time they felt chaffed as the ancien régieme tried to retain their positions at the top of the fields.  Educated members of the French middle class used their brewing political dissatisfaction to create the basis of a ideological revolution.  This ideological revolution reflects Enlightenment ideas and thus played a critical role in the roots of the French Revolution.  Education that should have led to better jobs instead led to job disparity and thus was a vehicle for the ideological revolution.

 

Intro 2:  Vive le France!  Vive le revolution! Vive l’education?  The French Revolution is well known for being a bloody violent and turbulent time in French history.  Thousands died at the guitene and hundreds more were torn from the life they had always known.  Yet to generate such emotion the pre-revolutionary period must have seemed an equally intolerable time.  While the general picture of the pre-revolutionary peasant is one of an over-taxed starving farmer, there were as many who were just above starving and living in cities.  As the Enlightenment ideas of the previous century took hold intellectuals and students began to rethink the way their world worked.  From these middle class city dwellers education should have been the key to escaping a life of hardship and drudgery, instead they a system ready to keep them from the high positions they aspired to; creating a vehicle for the ideology that was at the roots of the bloody time to come.

Historiography:  From its inception the French Revolution was primarily viewed as struggle of the éstates or orders.  P.A. Kropotkin is an example of a historian from the early twentieth century who viewed the French Revolution from a distinctly political form of history.  In his book The Great French Revolution 1789-1793 Kropotkin talks about the crushing poverty suffered by the peasants, the famine, and the exploitation of feudal rights by the nobles[1].  However, Kropotkin also attributes the beginnings of the French Revolution with the emerging middle class.  As he writes in his book, “The village middle classes, the well-to-do peasants, came into being, and as the Revolution drew near these furnished the first speakers against feudal rights, and demanded their abolition”[2].  This is a classic interpretation of the French Revolution.  The burgeoning middle class was instrumental in first speaking out against the corrupt and outdated feudal system.  This line of thinking very much portrays the roots of the French Revolution as a struggle to overcome the upper class so that the lower classes may better themselves. Aspects of Marxism can be seen in this view.  While Kropotkin does not state that socialism was what the peasants were seeking in their movement to abolish feudal rights it is a naturally progression of thought from the ideas that he puts forth. A struggle of the orders seeking to abolish laws and privileges that it sees as outdated and corrupt has over time evolved to take into consideration the philosophes of the Enlightenment and their impact on the ideas of the time.

The French Revolution is now also being considered an ideological revolution as opposed to the political one described by the above Kropotkin.  Tommy Tackett is an example of a historian who views the French Revolution as an ideological revolution.  As Tackett explains a political revolution could not have taken place without their first occurring an ideological revolution[3].  There was many different facets to the Enlightenment and Tackett attempts to show that there were deputies who had some form of connection to all varieties of the Enlightenment.  However, few members of the constituent Assembly were “men of letters” and were related directly to even one of the Enlightenment varieties, mostly it was an indirect connection[4].  Tackett describes how in 1789 only four percent of the sixty delegates are known to have been members of at least one learned academy[5].  While this might not seem like an argument for an ideological revolution, Tackett continues on to explain that while not all of the members had such a direct connection to the Enlightenment there were more delegates who had ties that could not be considered direct and therefore were not in that percentage.  A further twenty percent of the delegates were members of Masonic or Freemason lodges and had ties to the “occult Enlightenment”[6].  Additionally Tackett claims that “all but the final two clerical academicians would undoubtedly have identified themselves with various strands of the Enlightenment”[7].  With so many delegates having a direct or indirect connection to the Enlightenment it would hard not to believe that influential ideas from the era would not have permeated into the Assembly.  Writers and thinkers with direct or indirect connections to different branches of thought filled the ranks of the delegates of the Assembly and it would have been their ideas and thoughts that shaped the progress of the French Revolution.

However, not all historians agree that it is one or the other of these two interpretations.  Roger Chartier is an example of a combination of the two schools of thought.  In his combination theory he looks at how in the job market non-nobility was discriminated against and thus lead to class struggles.  However it is precisely this discrimination that gave lawyers and writers the time to develop their ideas about what should be changed about their society.  Chartier states his position most clearly in that when lawyers and writers were “frustrated in their hopes for social promotion, deprived of a clientele, [and] held at bay by the officials of the sovereign law courts….it is hardly surprising that they argued the rights of talent against inherited privilege or…that they boldly joined the patriots’ party”[8].  This blending of the two theories explains the motivation for intellectuals to get involved in the Revolution and why they had the time to sit around thinking about what should be changed in their society.  It also provides an explanation for why the perceived class struggle did not just end up in a massacre of the nobles, the intellectuals directed the struggles toward a more intellectual route.

There is disagreement between historians on whether the French Revolution was a purely political revolution, an ideological revolution, or a combination of the two.  While the political revolution explains why the French masses rose up against their oppressors the viewpoint of a political revolution has its roots in a Marxist struggle of the orders.  This fails to explain precisely how the struggle went into politics rather than a massacre of the oppressive orders.  Though by definition the struggle would have to be channeled into politics and the theory leaves no doubt that the politics of the time were behind the struggle of the orders. Yet simply because the politics of the time created a class struggle does not mean that a political route would be the first route taken.  The intellectual theory explains why this route would be taken over a massacre, yet it fails to explain precisely why the intellectuals would want to get involved. While their ideology would be one explanation and a further explanation would be that they would get their ideology from the new ideas of the Enlightenment.  This is a fairly acceptable explanation if it were just about the nobility, however it does not explain how the lower orders of thinkers had the time to sit around and come up with ideology contrary to the order that was presumably paying their bills.  A combination of the two theories is the only explanation that makes sense.  A struggle of the orders that reaches even into the intellectual sphere explains why the intellectuals would not only want to get involved but also explains why they were willing to attack a system that otherwise would have been funding their livelihoods.  The involvement of the intellectuals explains why the struggle did not go straight to a massacre of nobility.  While eventually even the intellectuals were swept up in the revolutionary fervor, at first at least they were able to direct the revolution done a more ordered path.

 

Body Paragraph 1:

  1. Due to the focus of the Enlightenment of the previous century on rationality and scientific discovery education in France was in a state of change in the years leading up to the Revolution.
  2. “Finally disbanded by the Pope in 1773, they [Jesuits] had been expelled from France in 1764, and their 113 colleges (out of a total nearing 400)  had been sequestrated.” Pg 48 (Oxford History of the French Revolution by Doyle”
    1. “In 1789 one boy in 52 out of the 8-18 age range was attending a college.” Pg 48 (Oxford)
    2. “If we take as base 100 the number of bachelors’ degrees in law per decade for 1680-89 the index stood at only 126in the 1750’s…it rose to 141 during the 1760’s, 16 during the 1770’s and 176 during the 1780’s.” Pg 188-189 (Cultural Origins of the French Revolution by Chartier)
    3.  “Neither Ancient Rome nor the Christian religion had played much part in the triumph of a rational, experimental approach to natural phenomena, and it was impossible to disguise the fact.  Nevertheless the new principles continued to be taught.” Pg 49 (Oxford)
    4. With the expulsion of the Jesuits and increase in education some governing body other than the church would have to be responsible for the common curriculum throughout France.  Due to the Enlightenment in the century before new ideas about science were being taught while there was turmoil over who was to take charge of the school system. Leaving behind the world of the church which taught obedience to authority and leaning toward rationality and scientific discovery which challenged established norms, which could be seen as a precursor to challenging established societal norms as well.
      1. Included in the above
      2. Included in the above
      3. This shows that people were ready for a change.  They no longer held onto their traditional world views and were prepared to accept a view of the world that could even be contradictory to what had previously always been held as true.  They were in a sense prepared to prepare themselves for a revolution of ideas before the political revolution was even given a voice.
      4. Despite these new ideas and increased attendance, though, some people still felt that education was being shortchanged by their government.

Body Paragraph 2:

  1. Cahier de Doléances were one of several political treatises that called for the reform of the French Education system, claiming that the universities were too poor, and gave students too much leeway.
  2. “The opportunities of debauchery, incontinence, and dissoluteness are multiple”
    1. “Universities are too poor”
    2. “the various branches of instruction are too much restricted”
    3. This Cahier de Dolence is suggestive of the fact that education was held in high esteem by many people but perhaps the actual education being received was not held in equal regard by the students.   The call for reform was based mostly on the writers own desire for the improvement of the education system.  Additionally the writer was complaining of the conduct of the students thus showing that perhaps the education system was lax on its’ polices of conduct.  This would be a major sore spot with someone who valued education highly.  Since there were thousands of Cahier de Dolences the call for reform shows a major trend in placing a higher value on education. Perhaps as a realization the education could take their children to better jobs.
    4. However, it was not just the education system that needed revising, after graduation it did not matter how well you had studied if there were not enough jobs.

Body Paragraph 3:

  1. Despite an elite education many lawyers and writers were unable to find a preferred job after graduation due the wealth, influence, and rigid class system characteristic of the ancien régime.
  2. “Very few bourgeois families remained in the business that had enriched them for more than a single generation…Profits not spent on buying property went into buying the next generation a superior education.  This pattern was very long established…” (Oxford History of the French Revolution.  Pg 24)
  3. An established pattern of buying high offices did not allow for a poor but clever man to win a high position by his merit alone.  This skewed the system in favor of the rich and would have angered those who could not afford to buy their offices.  Additionally if more and more families sought the same jobs the price to obtain a job would be pushed higher and higher excluding more and more families from obtaining a profession equal to their education. This also is indicative of a rigid class system in which those with influence and power help only their friends and family to get ahead and preserve the best jobs for those they know or perceive to be in their class.
  4. To be denied the jobs they felt were rightfully theirs was hard enough for the intellectuals, now however,  they also had to deal with the

Body Paragraph 4:

  1. Once outmaneuvered for the top jobs and forced to take perceived subservient work for living, disenfranchised intellectuals became scorned for their low work. Thus provoking them into bringing Enlightenment ideas of equality and meritocracy to the general public.
  2.  “Increasing numbers of authors with no social situation or employment were forced to create institutions of their own that were not those of the literary world…and to accept whatever minor jobs the publishing world of the Enlightenment offered them in order to earn a living.” Pg 191 (Cultural Origins Chartier)
  3. Forcing authors to create their own institutions meant that more of the public had access to literary institutions than before.  While these places would have been informal and not officially recognized they were still places where Enlightenment ideas could be debated and heard by the public.  This effectively took the messages of the Enlightenment out to the public.
  4. Once taken to the public the ideas of the Enlightenment were brought into the people’s struggles for a new order.

Body Paragraph 5:

  1. The Enlightenment philosopher Rousseau has a tremendous impact on French revolutionary politics.
  2. “Man is free but everywhere he is in chains.”
    1. “’I saw thee in thy last days, and this memory is a source of proud joy for me,’ [Robespierre] declares later in Mémoires, placed under the aegis of Rousseau and promised to ‘remain constantly faithful to the inspiration that I have drawn from thy writings’” (Henri Peyre 82)
    2. “His theories are especially pleasing to the disappointed and the weak, and therein lies their danger; for they tend, not to manly effort for the improvement of individual circumstances or of mankind, but to vain dreaming of impossible ideals.”  Pg 284 (The Eve of the French Revolution by Lowell)
    3. Rousseau ideas were directly relatable to the general populace of France as can be seen in his philosophy that the Government robbed people of natural freedom appeled to revolutionary thinkers clearly articulated the boundaries of government oppression.
      1. One of Robespierre’s best memoires was that of meeting Rousseau before he died.  This proves that Rousseau held a special place in his ideological thinking and his vowing to ‘remain constantly faithful to the inspiration that I have drawn from thy writings’ is further proof that Rousseau was fundamental in Robespierre’s new vision for France after the Revolution because he found a truth he could not deny in Rousseau.
      2. Rousseau’s ideas were prevalent because they did not focus on the individual.  Instead he theorized and dreamed about what people could establish as a whole.  This dream did not need to be established by one or two great individuals who had been trained for years to seek this goal either.  Anyone could achieve it, even in smaller form, because they were ideals that one could strive a whole life for even if they were “disappointed” and “weak”.  They were ideas for the dreamers as much as for the do-ers.
      3. However, Rousseau could not have been as influential as he was, unless the people reading his ideas were first educated themselves.

Body Paragraph 6:

  1. Without education the ideas of the Enlightenment would not have taken hold in French society and thus have been instrumental in the following revolution.
  2. Attendance rates were up and more students graduating from colleges.
    1. “Tradition ostensibly ruled…but behind this façade the lessons of the scientific revolution of the previous century, and the methods and approaches that had brought them about, had been widely propagated in the colleges from the 1690s onwards.” Pg 49 (Oxford).
    2. Jobs that had been desired were not available expect by purchase with large amounts of money now but lower prestige jobs were available and were used to spread the ideas that had been learned in school.
    3. More attendance meant there was more exposure to the pursuit of rationality and scientific discovery.
      1. People of the previous generation were perhaps not quite willing yet to openly flout tradition but they were still willing to educate a new generation in the ideas that contradicted their tradition.
      2. Denial of what was expected drew the alienated intellectuals to movements that would support a rise based on meritocracy.  Additionally they didn’t like were ones that provided easy access to the masses providing an easy platform to launch their ideas from and allowing the masses and expression of their own frustrations.
      3. Education was essential to the roots of the ideological revolution that the new Enlightenment ideas began because without education the intellectuals would not have been prepared to bring the Enlightenment ideas to the masses and the masses would not have been ready to listen.

Conclusion

  • The Enlightenment a century before the French Revolution began to encourage people to value education as never before.  As education grew in value the middle class became more aware of class distinctions in the form of job disparity.  This job disparity took the form of took the form of those with wealth out buying jobs from those with talent.  This lead to ostracized intellectuals joining the French Revolution because of their promise of a meritocracy with so many writers and lawyers out of work or talking jobs they were overqualified for, the had more time on their hands and less money they had envisioned.  This gave them the time and incentive to bring Enlightenment ideas to the public.  This in turn started the brewing of an ideological revolution.  In this education played a critical role.  The education of the men who brought the ideas to the public was crucial, as was the education of the Enlightenment thinkers.  Without this education ideas like those of Rousseau might not have taken hold.  Rousseau was the most influential of these thinkers and without his own education he could not have come up with the ideas the inspired a cult around him.  In the end the ideological revolution that preceded the political revolution would not have been able to take place without the men who made it happen having first been educated.
Nov 7
2014

Histoire Pendant Les Années

The perception of any event changes over time.  As time passes emotions fade or change and the view of the event changes.  An adult remembering an event that happened as a child will view it differently than the child that lived through the event. This is true not only for personal life stories but for history as well.  The French Revolution is an excellent example of this phenomenon.   At one point the dominant history was from a distinctly Marxist point of view; seeing the revolution as a class struggle.  Now however, there has been a shift to a more ideological school of thought; a more established middle class pushing for a change in ideas.  Historians disagree as to whether the French Revolution was a purely political revolution, an ideological revolution, or a combination of the two.

From its inception the French Revolution was primarily viewed as struggle of the éstates or orders.  P.A. Kropotkin is an example of a historian from the early twentieth century who viewed the French Revolution from a distinctly political form of history.  In his book The Great French Revolution 1789-1793 Kropotkin talks about the crushing poverty suffered by the peasants, the famine, and the exploitation of feudal rights by the nobles[1].  However, Kropotkin also attributes the beginnings of the French Revolution with the emerging middle class.  As he writes in his book, “The village middle classes, the well-to-do peasants, came into being, and as the Revolution drew near these furnished the first speakers against feudal rights, and demanded their abolition”[2].  This is a classic interpretation of the French Revolution.  The burgeoning middle class was instrumental in first speaking out against the corrupt and outdated feudal system.  This line of thinking very much portrays the roots of the French Revolution as a struggle to overcome the upper class so that the lower classes may better themselves. Aspects of Marxism can be seen in this view.  While Kropotkin does not state that socialism was what the peasants were seeking in their movement to abolish feudal rights it is a naturally progression of thought from the ideas that he puts forth. A struggle of the orders seeking to abolish laws and privileges that it sees as outdated and corrupt has over time evolved to take into consideration the philosophes of the Enlightenment and their impact on the ideas of the time.

The French Revolution is now also being considered an ideological revolution as opposed to the political one described by the above Kropotkin.  Tommy Tackett is an example of a historian who views the French Revolution as an ideological revolution.  As Tackett explains a political revolution could not have taken place without their first occurring an ideological revolution[3].  There was many different facets to the Enlightenment and Tackett attempts to show that there were deputies who had some form of connection to all varieties of the Enlightenment.  However, few members of the constituent Assembly were “men of letters” and were related directly to even one of the Enlightenment varieties, mostly it was an indirect connection[4].  Tackett describes how in 1789 only four percent of the sixty delegates are known to have been members of at least one learned academy[5].  While this might not seem like an argument for an ideological revolution, Tackett continues on to explain that while not all of the members had such a direct connection to the Enlightenment there were more delegates who had ties that could not be considered direct and therefore were not in that percentage.  A further twenty percent of the delegates were members of Masonic or Freemason lodges and had ties to the “occult Enlightenment”[6].  Additionally Tackett claims that “all but the final two clerical academicians would undoubtedly have identified themselves with various strands of the Enlightenment”[7].  With so many delegates having a direct or indirect connection to the Enlightenment it would hard not to believe that influential ideas from the era would not have permeated into the Assembly.  Writers and thinkers with direct or indirect connections to different branches of thought filled the ranks of the delegates of the Assembly and it would have been their ideas and thoughts that shaped the progress of the French Revolution.

However, not all historians agree that it is one or the other of these two interpretations.  Roger Chartier is an example of a combination of the two schools of thought.  In his combination theory he looks at how in the job market non-nobility was discriminated against and thus lead to class struggles.  However it is precisely this discrimination that gave lawyers and writers the time to develop their ideas about what should be changed about their society.  Chartier states his position most clearly in that when lawyers and writers were “frustrated in their hopes for social promotion, deprived of a clientele, [and] held at bay by the officials of the sovereign law courts….it is hardly surprising that they argued the rights of talent against inherited privilege or…that they boldly joined the patriots’ party”[8].  This blending of the two theories explains the motivation for intellectuals to get involved in the Revolution and why they had the time to sit around thinking about what should be changed in their society.  It also provides an explanation for why the perceived class struggle did not just end up in a massacre of the nobles, the intellectuals directed the struggles toward a more intellectual route.

There is disagreement between historians on whether the French Revolution was a purely political revolution, an ideological revolution, or a combination of the two.  While the political revolution explains why the French masses rose up against their oppressors the viewpoint of a political revolution has its roots in a Marxist struggle of the orders.  This fails to explain precisely how the struggle went into politics rather than a massacre of the oppressive orders.  Though by definition the struggle would have to be channeled into politics and the theory leaves no doubt that the politics of the time were behind the struggle of the orders. Yet simply because the politics of the time created a class struggle does not mean that a political route would be the first route taken.  The intellectual theory explains why this route would be taken over a massacre, yet it fails to explain precisely why the intellectuals would want to get involved. While their ideology would be one explanation and a further explanation would be that they would get their ideology from the new ideas of the Enlightenment.  This is a fairly acceptable explanation if it were just about the nobility, however it does not explain how the lower orders of thinkers had the time to sit around and come up with ideology contrary to the order that was presumably paying their bills.  A combination of the two theories is the only explaination that makes sense.  A struggle of the orders that reaches even into the intellectual sphere explains why the intellectuals would not only want to get involved but also explains why they were willing to attack a system that otherwise would have been funding their livelihoods.  The involvement of the intellectuals explains why the struggle did not go straight to a massacre of nobility.  While eventually even the intellectuals were swept up in the revolutionary fervor, at first at least they were able to direct the revolution done a more ordered path.

 

Bibliography

Chartier, Roger. The Cultural Origins of the French Revolution / Roger Chartier ; Translated by Lydia G. Cochrane. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991.

Kropotkin, Petr Alekseevich. The Great French Revolution, 1789-1793, P. A. Kropotkin … Tr. from the French by N. F. Dryhurst. London, WHeinemann; New York, GPPutnam’s sons, 1909.

Tackett, Timothy. Becoming a Revolutionary : The Deputies of the French National Assembly and the Emergence of a Revolutionary Culture (1789-1790) / Timothy Tackett. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996.

 



[1] Petr Alekseevich Kropotkin, The Great French Revolution, 1789-1793, P. A. Kropotkin … Tr. from the French by N. F. Dryhurst. (London, WHeinemann; New York, GPPutnam’s sons, 1909). Pg16-17

[2] Ibid. Pg 18

[3] Timothy Tackett, Becoming a Revolutionary : The Deputies of the French National Assembly and the Emergence of a Revolutionary Culture (1789-1790) / Timothy Tackett. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996). Pg 48

[4] Ibid. pg 50

[5] Ibid. pg 52

[6] Ibid. pg 53

[7] Ibid. Pg 53

[8] Roger Chartier, The Cultural Origins of the French Revolution / Roger Chartier ; Translated by Lydia G. Cochrane. (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991).Pg 190

Oct 21
2014

Révision de Cahier de Doleance.

Révision de Cahier de Doleance.

Vive la France!  Vive la revolution!  The French Revolution changed the course of history for France.  A political revolution that took the country from a monarchical form of government to a republic, with a brief stint as an empire, was a bloody dangerous time.  Yet for the Revolution to have occurred, life before the Revolution must have been deemed even more trying and terrible. Education was only one of a few escapes from poverty and starvation that the multitudes had, and it was not proving to be much of an escape in the decades leading up to the French Revolution.  One Cahier de Doleances, or book of grievances, attempts to show, education was increasingly not living up to standards needed; yet it must be considered how biased such a Cahier de Doleance is.

If one is to judge how much the multitudes of France thought themselves ill-done by, one only needs to look at the number of Cahier de Doleances presented to the États Généraux.  One estimate is that sixty thousand Cahiers de Doleances were written at the convocation of the États Généraux[1].  Each of the three Estates, or classes,  could write Cahiers and there survive today Cahiers from both the clergy and the nobility as while as the peasantry of France.  Everyone no matter their station had something to complain about, what they were complaining about, however, differed greatly from estate to estate.  The majority of the cahiers from the peasantry were about performed on them by the other two Estates.  Almost none of the Cahiers demanded that the government be significantly changed in either is process or structure.  Indeed the most radical and revolutionary zeal displayed per individual Cahier was giving more voting power to the Third Estate[2].  The main goal of the peasantry was calling for equality with the other estates.  One equalizer would be education, yet higher education was expensive and only for the upper classes in France.  As one would then conclude some, though by no means the majority, of the Cahiers dealt with the reform of education so that the playing field might be equalized among the three Estates.

The complaint against education found in this particular Cahier is one of several complaints lodged with the representatives of the third estate.  There is no significant display of revolutionary zeal as would later come with the advent of the bloody revolution found in its call for the reformation of the higher education system.  Indeed the writer seems to be more outraged than anything else at the universities, and students in particular, lack of commitment to their studies.  Part of this outrage could be related to the fact that while higher education was supposed to be the gateway to better jobs, the aristocracy was barring the advancement of non-elite scholars[3].  It is hard at times to gage the tone of the document since it was written in the formal style of a government document.  The Cahier opens with a brief description of why universities were needed and what good they could do for the country.  It then goes on to what one supposes must be the reason for the Cahier in the first place, the reform of the universities.  Specifically the writer of the Cahier is trying to point to the government that, “the various branches of instruction are too much restricted” and that, “Universities are too poor”[4]. Finally the Cahier ends with a more personal opinion of the writer of the universities learning environment and a plea to the government to move the universities out of the cities.

With no signature on this particular Cahier it is left up to the historian to glean clues from the writing as to what type of person might have been the writer.  The scathing tone reflected in the writer’s anger and contempt of the university’s atmosphere and location is seen in the passage, “The opportunities of debauchery, incontinence, and dissoluteness are multiple[5]”, can lead the historian to conclude that the writer must live in an area near a university.  Since the writer also talks about taking the universities out of the cities to avoid such opportunities, it is easy to conclude that the writer must be from an urban setting.  Urban settings tended to be more revolutionary than their rural counterparts, with Pairs being the most revolutionary in spirit during the lead up to the revolution[6].  The writer must also have been familiar with the education system to be able to complain about the structure of how the universities were set up.  All of this leads one to assume that the writer would be from the middle class, perhaps even the upper middle class.

One Cahier de Doleance tries to show that higher education was increasingly being neglected by the French monarchy, yet the purpose and bias of the document must be considered. Cahier de Doleances were not limited to the Third Estate with no signature clues from the writing must be used to identify the bias of the writer.  With a rather deep view of the education standards and workings of the higher education system the writer it must be assumed came into contact often with the education system.  This leads one to believe that the writer was middle class.  A middle urban writer would have more bias against a poor university atmosphere and standards than would a lower class writer who simply wanted his children to get more education.  In the end more quantitative information from universities about their attendance rates, tuition, registered complaints, and prestige is needed to back up this biased writers qualitative evidence.

 

 

Works Cited

“Cahiers de Doléances (Doleances) – History Dictionary.” Accessed October 9, 2014. http://www.emersonkent.com/history_dictionary/cahiers_de_doleances.htm.

Chartier, Roger. The Cultural Origins of the French Revolution / Roger Chartier ; Translated by Lydia G. Cochrane. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991.

Taylor, George V. “Revolutionary and Nonrevolutionary Content in the Cahiers of 1789: An Interim Report.” French Historical Studies 7, no. 4 (October 1, 1972): 479–502. doi:10.2307/286194.

Roberts, J.M. “French Revolutionary Documents Volume 1” Great Britain.  New York, Barnes & Noble, 62-63



[1] “Cahiers de Doléances (Doleances) – History Dictionary.”

[2] Taylor, “Revolutionary and Nonrevolutionary Content in the Cahiers of 1789.” Pg. 489-490

[3] Chartier, The Cultural Origins of the French Revolution / Roger Chartier ; Translated by Lydia G. Cochrane. Pg 12

[4] Roberts,“French Revolutionary documents Volume 1” 62

[5] Roberts, “French Revolutionary Documents Volume 1” 63

[6] Taylor, “Revolutionary and Nonrevolutionary Content in the Cahiers of 1789.” 497

Oct 11
2014

Cahier De Doleance

Cahier De Doleance

Vive la France!  Vive la revolution!  The French Revolution changed the course of history for France.  A political revolution that took the country from a monarchical form of government to a republic, with a brief stint as an empire, was a bloody dangerous time.  Yet for the Revolution to have occurred, life before the Revolution must have been deemed even more trying and terrible. Education was only one of a few escapes from poverty and starvation that the multitudes had, and it was not proving to be much of an escape in the decades leading up to the French Revolution.  One Cahier de Doleances attempts to show, education was increasingly not living up to standards needed; yet it must be asked if such a Cahier de Doleance is not in fact a biased document.

If one is to judge how much the multitudes of France thought themselves ill-done by, one only needs to look at the number of Cahier de Doleances, or books of grievances, presented to the États Généraux.  One estimate is that sixty thousand Cahiers de Doleances were written at the convocation of the États Généraux[1].  Each of the three Estates could write Cahiers and there survive today Cahiers from both the clergy and the nobility as while as the peasantry of France.  Everyone no matter their station had something to complain about, what they were complaining about, however, differed greatly from estate to estate.  The majority of the cahiers from the peasantry were about performed on them by the other two Estates.  Almost none of the Cahiers demanded that the government be significantly changed in either is process or structure.  Indeed the most radical and revolutionary zeal displayed per individual Cahier was giving more voting power to the Third Estate[2].  The main goal of the peasantry was calling for equality with the other estates.  One equalizer would be education, yet higher education was expensive and only for the upper classes in France.  As one would then conclude some, though by no means the majority, of the Cahiers dealt with the reform of education so that the playing field might be equalized among the three Estates.

The complaint against education found in this particular Cahier is one of several complaints lodged with the representatives of the third estate.  There is no significant display of revolutionary zeal as would later come with the advent of the bloody revolution found in its call for the reformation of the higher education system.  Indeed the writer seems to be more outraged than anything else at the universities, and students in particular, lack of commitment to their studies.  Part of this outrage could be related to the fact that while higher education was supposed to be the gateway to better jobs, the aristocracy was barring the advancement of non-elite scholars[3].  It is hard at times to gage the tone of the document since it was written in the formal style of a government document.  The Cahier opens with a brief description of why universities were needed and what good they could do for the country.  It then goes on to what one supposes must be the reason for the Cahier in the first place, the reform of the universities.  Specifically the writer of the Cahier is trying to point to the government that, “the various branches of instruction are too much restricted” and that, “Universities are too poor”[4]. Finally the Cahier ends with a more personal opinion of the writer of the universities learning environment and a plea to the government to move the universities out of the cities.

With no signature on this particular Cahier it is left up to the historian to glean clues from the writing as to what type of person might have been the writer.  The scathing tone reflected in the writer’s anger and contempt of the university’s atmosphere and location is seen in the passage, “The opportunities of debauchery, incontinence, and dissoluteness are multiple[5]”, can lead the historian to conclude that the writer must live in an area near a university.  Since the writer also talks about taking the universities out of the cities to avoid such opportunities; it is easy to conclude that the writer must be from an urban setting.  Urban settings tended to be more revolutionary than their rural counterparts, with Pairs being the most revolutionary in spirit during the lead up to the revolution[6].  The writer must also have been familiar with the education system to be able to complain about the structure of how the universities were set up.  All of this leads one to assume that the writer would be from the middle class, perhaps even the upper middle class.

One Cahier de Doleance tries to show that higher education was increasingly being neglected by the French monarchy, yet the purpose and bias of the document must be considered. Cahier de Doleances were not limited to the Third Estate with no signature clues from the writing must be used to identify the bias of the writer.  With a rather deep view of the education standards and workings of the higher education system the writer it must be assumed came into contact often with the education system.  This leads one to believe that the writer was middle class.  A middle urban writer would have more bias against a poor university atmosphere and standards than would a lower class writer who simply wanted his children to get more education.  In the end more quantitative information from universities about their attendance rates, tuition, registered complaints, and prestige is needed to back up this biased writers qualitative evidence.

 

 

Works Cited

“Cahiers de Doléances (Doleances) – History Dictionary.” Accessed October 9, 2014. http://www.emersonkent.com/history_dictionary/cahiers_de_doleances.htm.

Chartier, Roger. The Cultural Origins of the French Revolution / Roger Chartier ; Translated by Lydia G. Cochrane. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991.

Taylor, George V. “Revolutionary and Nonrevolutionary Content in the Cahiers of 1789: An Interim Report.” French Historical Studies 7, no. 4 (October 1, 1972): 479–502. doi:10.2307/286194.

Roberts, J.M. “French Revolutionary Documents Volume 1” Great Britain.  New York, Barnes & Noble, 62-63



[1] “Cahiers de Doléances (Doleances) – History Dictionary.”

[2] Taylor, “Revolutionary and Nonrevolutionary Content in the Cahiers of 1789.” Pg. 489-490

[3] Chartier, The Cultural Origins of the French Revolution / Roger Chartier ; Translated by Lydia G. Cochrane. Pg 12

[4] Roberts,“French Revolutionary documents Volume 1” 62

[5] Roberts, “French Revolutionary Documents Volume 1” 63

[6] Taylor, “Revolutionary and Nonrevolutionary Content in the Cahiers of 1789.” 497

Sep 26
2014

Début

Thesis Question: What was the role of education leading up to the French Revolution?

Thesis Statement: Education in the middle class of French society directly contributed to the French Revolution because it increased class distinctions between the middle class and the aristocracy, increased availability to new ideas, and the idea that education should be used to better a person’s life.

Annotated Bibliography:

Barnard, H. C. (Howard Clive). Education and the French Revolution, by H. C. Barnard. London, Cambridge UP, 1969.

  • Education before the revolution.  conditions of the classroom, statistics, and qualitative data on the students.  Politicization of education during the Revolution and its subsequent Nationalization.

Chartier, Roger. The Cultural Origins of the French Revolution / Roger Chartier ; Translated by Lydia G. Cochrane. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991.

  • More rounded picture of revolutionary citizens including their education.  How education reform helped create an atmosphere for revolution.  Education made more available but not jobs.  Quantitative data.  Annals tradition.

Clark, Linda L., 1942-. “Approaching the History of Modern French  Education: Recent Surveys and Research Guides.” Review Article 15 (Spring 1987): 157–65. doi:10.2307/286508.

  • Some quantitative, some qualitative data.  Long term description of evolution of schools from Revolutionary France to modern times.  Goes through several different authors and several different themes.

Le Roy Ladurie, Emmanuel. The Ancien Régime : A History of France, 1610-1774 / Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie ; Translated by Mark Greengrass.Oxford, OX, UK ; Cambridge, Mass, USA: Blackwell Publishers, 1996.

  • Quantitative data.  School founding and graduation and enrollment data.  Discusses differences in class enrollment and graduation.  Effect of education on France.  Use of education in betterment and one or two references to exams.

Lowell, Edward J. (Edward Jackson). The Eve of the French Revolution, by Edward J. Lowell. Boston and New York, Houghton, Mifflin and co, 1892.

  • Education of the middle class before the revolution.  How schools were operated and an account of daily life.  How schoolmaster was paid and what his station was.

Palmer, R. R. (Robert Roswell). The Improvement of Humanity : Education and the French Revolution / R.R. Palmer. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985.

  • Outline of what the author thinks is important about education during the Revolution.  funding of schools before the Revolution and their condition.  HWat types of schools developed during the Revolution and before.  Pre-Revolution plans for a national education system.  Chronological appendix.

Roberts, J.M. “French Revolution Documents Volume 1″ New York Barnes & Noble 1966

  • All career paths should be equally open for the average student.  The frivolity and luxury of the colleges must be changed to an air of study and commitment.  Schools must be available to all and must have an air of dedication.  Need money for schools.  Qualitative data.

Rogers, Rebecca. “Competing Visions of Girls’ Secondary Education in Post-Revolutionary France.” History of Education Quarterly 34, no. 2 (July 1, 1994): 147–70. doi:10.2307/369119.

  • Girl’s education comparison between official male doctrine and women’s actual teachings.  Influential women in the education sphere.  Addresses society’s views on women’s education.  Includes secondary and primary.

Rose M.A., John Holland. The Life of Napoleon I. Vol. 1. New York: Macmillan Company, 1910.

  • Educational reforms under Napoleon.  Where education started to head after the revolution.  What happened to education during the revolution.

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, and Barbara Foxley. Emile, Or, On Education. [Waiheke Island]: The Floating Press, 2009.

  • What Rousseau thinks of current French education.  his own theories on teaching and education.  Rousseau declared it a philosophical work not an educational one.  Half novel, half treatise.  Evidence of what a leading philosopher at eh time thought of the current education practices.

Wiborg, Susanne. “Political and Cultural Nationalism in Education. The Ideas of Rousseau and Herder Concerning National Education.”Comparative Education 36, no. 2 (May 1, 2000): 235–43.http://www.jstor.org/stable/3099871.

  • What Roseau thought national schools could be in France.  Nationalism and higher education.  Not just France and looking at time period as a whole.

Williams, L. Pearce. “Science, Education and the French Revolution.” Isis44, no. 4 (December 1, 1953): 311–30.http://www.jstor.org/stable/226996.

  • Educational reforms of the French Revolution and Directory.  Reforms relating especially to sciences.  Curriculum development.

 

 

 

 

Sep 10
2014

Ce Qui Est L’Histoire?

What is History?

                What is history?  Is it the scientific study of the past?  The stories and legends passed down from generation to generation?  Does it reveal universal truths about humanity or simply require the use of imagination to reconstruct the past?  Historians differ about what history exactly is, most likely because it is a hard concept to pin down.  There are deep philosophical answers that sing the praises of the history’s humanity side; while other answers become technical in trying to quantify history’s scientific value to the world.  The division of professional opinion on the definition of what history is necessities the choosing of a personal definition of history.  History is one long story and it is up to historians to find the truth and the fiction in this story.

History as one long story can be seen in the collection of poems, stories, legends, and popular memory of a people.  Many people think that history is dry and boring; a collection of dates and events that need to be memorized.  That most people think that history is dead and that it is flat with few twists and turns is just sad.   They have not been exposed the fascinating aspects of history.  History is a story that is told by long dead voices in a variety of languages by a variety people. This is echoed in Galgno’s quote from the president of the AHA’s address “History is ‘an imaginative creation’ derived from individual experience” (Galgno 8).  History has been created by individual experiences that make up one whole “imaginative creation”.  As each story, poem, or legend is added to the previous one the collective story of humankind grows longer and longer.  The job of historians is to interpret these stories to make one long succinct and illustrative story.  Every event in history, every person who has changed the course of some country or peoples, they all tell a story and finding the story is what makes history exciting and new every day.

While it is easy to look at history as one long story it must not be forgotten that the historian’s job is to find the truth and the fiction.  Finding the truth is the harder of the two.  As Galgno says “truth [is] merely what appeared to be true relative to one’s point of observation based on available evidence.” (Glagno 10).  This means the truth of every decade and every era is constantly changing as more and new evidence comes to light.  The world’s story is the progression of what really happened alongside the progression of popular history.  To discover what really happened in the course of history, historians use primary sources to create a timeline of events.  These events than need to be interpreted by the historians, using their imagination to create a feeling of what the time period and culture was like during that point in history.  The use of songs, stories, poems, and legends that are particular to a certain culture gives insights as to how that culture works and what its values are.  These can then be taken to construct a well-rounded picture of the culture in which to frame the historical event or era.  This is a key aspect to both what history is and what the historian’s job is.  History is not just a single point or story in time; it is the collective knowledge of humankind and all their stories interwoven.  History never has just one side, the same as a story never has just one viewpoint.  It is up to historians to be able to recognize the truth in the many different versions or sides of history.

Since history never has just one side a historian must also discern what is pure legend or exists only in the popular memory.  Popular memory is what the public generally believes about the past.  Often this is a version of history that a collective group of people wish had happen or wants to claim is what really happened.  This version of history could also have been twisted by a political or leading public figure to suit their own ends.  It is the historian’s job to discern fact from fiction in the never ending story that is history.  Fiction is just as revealing as fact when looking at the history of a culture or peoples.  Often what people believe is true or are willing to believe is true says something important about that culture or people’s belief system or state of mind.  Separating fact from fiction is perhaps the most important aspect of the historian’s job.  In it is only once the chaff has been separated from the wheat that historians can find, as Galgano puts it: “a useable past that can help us make sense of the world in which we live.” (Galgano 13) The historian must be able to find the fiction just as they must be able to find the facts so that they can construct a useable framework of reference for us to understand the story that is history.  Without a framework of fact and fiction the story of history makes no sense.  It becomes muddled and unusable when trying to fit a new story into its framework and it is only once all the pieces of the story fit in the framework that the usefulness of history can be capitalized on.

A long never ending story that is clear in discerning truth from legend is what history is all about.   Fact and fiction must both be identified and put in a framework that the historian can refer to as the setting and template for the story of a historical event.  Each person and each event in history has multiple stories that it can tell and must be looked at from all angles, the same as if analyzing a complex piece of literature.  Only when history is put in its proper context can the historian use the story to inform on past events, understand the present, or speculate about the future. There is value to the scientific approach of history, especially in helping to reduce the bias of the writer; yet there is something in the humanities search for meaning in history that draws forth a wellspring of feeling when historical stories of the past are brought to life.  In the end, though, each individual person must decide what history means to them and act upon it.

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Galgano, Michael J., J. Chris Arndt, and Raymond M. Hyser. “What Is History?” In Doing History: Research and Writing in the Digital Age, 1-18. 2nd ed. Boston, MA: Thomson Wadsworth, 2013.

Sep 5
2014

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