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It is impossible to speak of Marie Antoinette without the French Revolution. It is very difficult to mention the French Revolution without comparing it to the American one.  People are quick to point out the similarities between the two, insisting they connote broader global patterns during the 18th Century.  David Grubin mentions the parallels in his PBS documentary about Marie.  The full article can be found here.

Grubin writes:

“As a second-tier trading nation, France was unable to pay off national debts using the scant amount of money it received on the taxes for traded goods. To make up for this deficit, the King imposed further taxes, especially on the peasants. Paradoxically, the wealthiest nobles were not obligated to pay taxes.  This allowed the King to successfully sell titles, pulling the two social classes further apart.” 

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Signing of the Declaration of Independence (Image Courtesy of University of Virginia)

“Before 1789, most people (excluding the Americans of the new United States) lived with the general form of government their ancestors had known for centuries, usually hereditary monarchy. After the French Revolution began in 1789, no form of government could be accepted as legitimate without justification. The revolutionaries established a republic in 1792, and henceforth republicans around the world would challenge monarchists.”

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The Oath of the Tennis Court (Image Courtesy of George Mason University)

“Overall, the French Revolution offered the world something totally novel: an ideology that allowed and encouraged the questioning of historic power structures.”

(Copyright David Grubin Productions, Inc. Sep. 13, 2006)

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