French Revolution Calendar Dbq Essays

The French Revolution is perhaps the most complex historical development that students will encounter in the AP European History course.  In this unit, we will examine the problems causing the fall of the Old Regime and follow the French Revolution through its liberal, radical, and Napoleonic phases.
In order to understand how the French Revolution changed France, one must first understand the way France was under the Old Regime. Although Louis XIV had done a great deal to build a French nation, France still remained in many ways a patchwork of regions dominated by clerics and aristocrats who made up the First and Second Estates. Due in part to tax exemptions enjoyed by the privileged classes, France found itself in a major financial crisis in the late 1780s, forcing the monarchy to call a meeting of the Estates General. When the Estates General was convened in 1789, it was convened under antiquated rules that Third Estate delegates found to be offensive. The failure of the Estates General was a watershed event in the French Revolution, opening the door for changes that were far more radical than any that had been proposed by the Third Estate delegates in 1789.
After the failure of the Estates General, the National Assembly convened and began swiftly enacting liberal reforms. Following the Great Fear and the storming of the Bastille in the summer of 1789, the National Assembly passed the August 4 Decrees and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen. While the Declaration of the Rights of Man was heavily influenced by the classical liberal philosophy found in the writings of Thomas Jefferson and John Locke, it was also heavily influenced by the writings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose idea of the social contract subordinated individualism to the "general will" of the nation.  When seen as a dialogue between Jefferson and Rousseau, the Declaration of the Rights of Man both articulates the goals of the liberal revolution of 1789 while also foreshadowing the radical revolution of 1792-1794.

Unit Guide and Primary Sources

“Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever.” 
                                                                              -- Napoleon

The Old Regime and the Estates General

Due 1/6/17

Primary Source Document(s)

Students should read Voltaire's writings on the English Constitution and Abbe Sieyes' What is the Third Estate​before class meets.
TEXTBOOK READINGS:  Kagan, 445-455, 547-550   OR   Wood, 227-239, 285-287  

Video Lectures Available on YouTube

After you've watched the videos, CLICK HERE to take a quiz!

The Old Regime

The Estates General

The National Assembly and the Declaration of the Rights of Man

Due 1/12/17

Primary Source Document(s)

TEXTBOOK READINGS:  Kagan, 550-564   OR   Wood, 287-290 

Video Lectures Available on YouTube

The National Assembly

The Rights ​of Man

Women and the French Revolution Lecture Series

While the French Revolution was not a feminist revolution, the upheaval it created had a hand in bringing about the modern feminist movement. In the 18th century, women were still barred from the public sphere and the Enlightenment did little to change this; in fact, Rousseau defended traditional views of women in his educational treatise, Emile​. 

Women and the French Revolution

On the eve of the French Revolution, most French people viewed women as easily corrupted and unfit for politics, public life, or the esteemed professions. In my introduction to this lecture series, I explain the origins of these ideas of women and how Rousseau's work perpetuated traditional views of women.

Marie Antoinette
Tragic Queen of France

Marie Antoinette was in the wrong place at the wrong time and is best known for saying something she never said. This beautiful young Austrian princess did little more than marry the French king. She became a symbol of the monarchy's excesses and was humiliated and executed during the Reign of Terror.

Olympe de Gouges
and the Rights of Woman

Olympe de Gougeswrote the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen in response to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen. During the Reign of Terror, de Gouges was executed along with others of the Gerondist political faction.

Mary Wollstonecraft
vs. Edmund Burke

In Britain, the French Revolution sparked a debate in Britain, with the most prominent voice being Edmund Burke's criticism. In her Vindication of the Rights of Man, Mary Wollstonecraft defended the French Revolution against Burke's attacks. She followed this work with the seminal text of liberal feminism, Vindication of the Rights of Woman.

Charlotte Corday
and the Death of Marat

Jean-Paul Marat found prominence and notoriety during the Reign of Terror for his radical newspaper, Friend of the People, in which he denounced those he saw as enemies of the Revolution. No one had the courage to act against Marat until a young woman, Charlotte Corday, took it upon herself to assassinate him. "I killed one man to save a thousand," she said of her heroic deed.

Concluding Remarks
Women and the French Revolution

No lecture series would be complete without some concluding remarks!

The Radicalization of the French Revolution

Starting in 1791, the French Revolution began a period of radicalization, as the initial idea of a constitutional monarchy on the British model was abandoned in favor of a French Republic. The increasing influence of the Jacobin clubs led to the execution of Louis XVI and the election of the National Convention that would authorize the Reign of Terror.

The Reign of Terror

The French Directory

After the Thermidorian Reaction and the fall of Robespierre, the bourgeoisie reasserted control and limited the participation of the radical Parisian mobs that had been so influential during the Reign of Terror. Executive authority was wielded by five directors, from which this period from 1794-1799 got its name.


Jacques-Louis David: French Neoclassical Painter

E-Lecture Available on YouTube

PowerPoint Presentation

The Reign of Terror (1793-1794) was the most radical phase of the French Revolution and the most memorable in spite of its brevity. The National Convention and Robespierre presided over this short period when the blade of the guillotine severed heads on a regular basis.

PowerPoint Presentation

In 1799, Napoleon overthrew the Directory and dominated French politics until his final overthrow and exile in 1815. Napoleon's rule can be divided into the Consulate (1799-1804) and the French Empire (1804-1815). Some of his key political accomplishments were the Napoleonic Code, which gave France a uniform code of laws based on Roman Law, and the Condordat of 1801, which established Catholicism as the "majority religion" after a period of de-Christianization in the 1790s.

UNFINISHED PowerPoint Presentation

This unfinished PowerPoint is here for the benefit
​of my students. At some point, I intend to give Napoleon the PowerPoint he deserves.
Jacques-Louis David's neoclassical paintings provide a full overview of the French Revolution, as David was an active participant in the French Revolution throughout all of its phases. Best known for his paintings of Napoleon, he spent his last years in exile in Brussels painting classical pieces and portraits of Bonapartist exiles.

PowerPoint Presentation

Explain the reasons for the adoption of a new calendar in revolutionary France and analyze reactions to it in the period 1789 to 1806. The adoption of the revolutionary calendar to replace the Gregorian calendar took place on November 24, 1793 by the National Convention. This new calendar lasted until Napoleon I abolished it in 1806. The new calendar was a adopted in revolutionary France for many reasons including secular ideas and political reasons. There were also many reactions to the change of calendar between 1789 and 1806 such a criticism.

There were many secular-slanted ideas that were adopted into the new calendar during revolutionary france. In 1789, the Cahier de doleances (report of grievances), from the Third Estate of Chateau-Thierry, said that they asked for the number of religious holidays be reduced because each of them enchains the activity of a great people, being of considerable detriment to the state and the numerous disadvantages of idleness. This shows that the new calendar was more secular because of the decrease in the amount of religious holidays (Document 1).

The illustrations of newly named months also show that the new calendar shows more secular-slanted ideas. The new months are named for prosperity and things they are known for. For example, the month of Fructidor which is the month of harvest is between August 18 and September 16, which harvest time. This shows a more secular calendar because the months are associate France with French stuff, instead of the old months being named after religious people (Document 4).

In a letter to the National Convention from a peasant from Etampes, it says that with nine long, hard days of labor, the simple citizens want small distractions on their day of rest. During the use of the new calendar in France, people went to church a lot less because with the new calendar they would only go every tenth day, instead of going on Sundays during the Gregorian calendar (Document 7). Government officials in the French town of Steenwerck, Picardy, said that people spend less time in the temple celebrating the tenth day and revolutionary festivals as an affront to republicans.

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This shows that the new calendar was more secular because with the new calendar people began to go to church less (Document 10). The new calendar in revolutionary France, showed how France started to move towards a more secular world. A lot of people agreed with the adoption of the new calendar by revolutionary France for many reasons. Gilbert Romme, head of the calendar reform committee, believed that the church calendar was born among ignorant people. He said “Time opens a new book for history, and it must use a new pen to record the annals of a regenerated France. What Romme means by this is that since France is going through new times, they need to change the calendar to fit it (Document 2). In “Instruction Concerning the Era of the Republic and the Division of the Year” which was a decree of the National Convention, it said that the new calendar will eliminate incoherence and inexactitude. This means that with the new calendar people will be more exact and orderly because of more work days. It also states that the new calendar will show the character of our revolution (Document 5). In the letter to the National Convention from the village of St.

Quirin, it says how the people spend their day of rest. In the letter it says that they honor the memory of the generals who have become martyrs and they read aloud the republican accomplishments. The people of the village of Quirin supported the new calendar because they got the tenth day off (Document 6). Many people agreed with the change to the new calendar in revolutionary France because, they thought it was needed since france was going through new times, they also thought the more work days will make people work better, and because some people thought that the tenth day was great.

Until the new calendar was abolished by Napoleon I in 1806, it received a lot of criticism. Pierre-Joseph Denis, a former Girondin imprisoned during the Terror and then recalled to the National Convention, wrote in Opinion on the Decades that the new calendar was an act of despotism forced on the people, and the festivals based on it were detestable. Denis is criticizing the new calendar because he thinks that it was unfair that the new calendar was forced upon them (Document 8).

Francois-Sebastien Letourneux, Minister of Interior, criticized the new calendar because he thinks that the interval between days of rest is too long. Letourneux said that the artisan and farmer can not work nine days in a row (Document 9). In an article in Gazette de France, it talks about the return to the Gregorian calendar. It says that the new calendar was so weak that when it fell, it didn’t even offer us an opportunity to exclaim about the fragility of human things.

The article also says that it was sad that the names of the festivals were not not devoted to the benefactors of humanity, but were devoted to the cabbages, the turnips, and the artichoke (Document 11). Abbe Sieyes wrote in response to the Committee of Public Instruction’s proposal for a new calendar, that it is not needed. Sieyes believed that there was no reason to differentiate ourselves from everyone else (Document 3). Many people didn’t agree with the idea of the new calendar, which was the reason it only lasted until 1806.

The new calendar was adopted in France for many reasons including to have more work days and to get rid of some of the holidays. Some people agreed with the new calendar because they thought that it was needed since France was changing and others agreed with it because they thought that with more work days, people will be more exact and will get more work done. Some people criticized it because they thought that nine straight days of work a week was bad for the farmers and artisans and because the new calendar wasn’t needed.

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