The French Revolution was an event in the Kingdom of France lasting between 1789 and 1799 that saw radical changes to French government and ideals. The Revolution saw the monarchy of France overthrown, which caused a period of political instability and authoritarianism that ended with the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte to dictatorship. The conquests of Bonaparte would spread Revolutionary ideals to the rest of Europe, forever shifting global politics away from absolute monarchies to secular democratic republics. The French Revolution is widely regarded as one of the most important events in history.
The exact causes of the Revolution are still unknown and are debated by historians to this day. The Seven Years' war had placed France in immense debt, which was compounded by the decision to assist the United States in the American Revolutionary War. A series of crop failures had further increased hatred of the upper class, consisting of the clergy and nobility, due to the many benefits they received. This would lead to the summoning of the Estates General, an advisory body to the king heavily skewed in favor of the upper class. The Revolution is recognized as beginning when the Bastille, a large state prison in Paris, was stormed by members of the peasantry. Following this, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen was adopted by Revolutionaries and the Women's March on Versailles forced the monarchy back into Paris. Initially, the king was allowed to remain as a constitutional monarch, with nearly all of his powers being removed along with the abolition of feudalism.
The new assemblies put in place by the Revolutionaries proved unstable, with supporters of the monarchy blocking reforms promoted by the Jacobins, a radical anti-monarchist party primarily led primarily by Maximilien Robespierre. The Jacobins would head the insurrection of 1792, arresting King Louis XVI and declaring the establishment of a republic. The execution of Louis XVI in 1793 would cause turmoil within the assembly.
The Revolution would lead to a large wave of global conflict. Internal struggles would lead to the further radicalization of the Revolution's ideals. Maximilien Robespierre would take the position of de facto dictator as a member of the Public Safety Committee, which created new price controls on necessary items, implement a new calendar, and abolished all privileges of the church in French government. The rule of the Public Safety Committee would also see the Reign of Terror, a brutal period where any suspected enemies of the Revolution would be executed or banished with minimal trial.
Robespierre's regime would eventually collapse, leading to the creation of a committee entitled the Directory. The Directory would suspend elections, repudiate debts and further persecute the clergy. Eventually, after facing widespread allegations of corruption, Napoleon Bonaparte would overthrow the Directory and begin establishing a centralized dictatorship with himself as sole leader. This is mostly recognized as the end of the Revolution.
The legacy of the Revolution lives on in the symbolism of nearly every following revolution, with phrases and images being used even a century later during the Russian Revolution. Revolutionary ideals still serve as the foundation of French politics today, with focus being placed on the individual and broad equality among citizens. The Revolution also differed from contemporary revolutions because it intended to start a wave of reform among all of humanity. Its primary legacy, however, is the effect it had on the rise of republicanism, liberalism, secularism, and other movements that dominate modern politics. The French Revolutionary Wars also saw the first example of total war, with all national resources and population being used in military defense. The Rights of Man and of the has Citizen also served as the inspiration for numerous revolutionary movements and founding documents for centuries.