The French Revolution was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France that had a major impact on France and throughout the rest of Europe. The absolute monarchythat had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years. French society underwent an epic transformation, as feudal, aristocratic and religious privileges evaporated under a sustained assaultfrom radical left wing political groups, masses on the streets, and peasants in the countryside. Old ideas about tradition and hierarchy of monarchy, aristocracy, and religious authority were abruptlyoverthrown by new Enlightenment principles of equality, citizenship and inalienable rights.
The French Revolution began in 1789 with the convocation of the Estates-General in May. The first year ofthe Revolution saw members of the Third Estate proclaiming the Tennis Court Oath in June, the assault on the Bastille in July, the passage of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen inAugust, and an epic march on Versailles that forced the royal court back to Paris in October. The next few years were dominated by tensions between various liberal assemblies and a right-wing monarchyintent on thwarting major reforms.
A republic was proclaimed in September 1792 and King Louis XVI was executed the next year. External threats also played a dominant role in the development of theRevolution. The French Revolutionary Wars started in 1792 and ultimately featured spectacular French victories that facilitated the conquest of the Italian Peninsula, the Low Countries and mostterritories west of the Rhine achievements that had eluded previous French governments for centuries.
Internally, popular sentiments radicalized the Revolution significantly, culminating in the rise ofMaximilien Robespierre and the Jacobins and virtual dictatorship by the Committee of Public Safety during the Reign of Terror from 1793 until 1794 during which between 16,000 and 40,000 people were...