The French Revolution
In the 18th Century, the rulers of Europe, above all the French kings, had attempted to curtail the special rights
of the estates and to rule uncontrolled as absolutist autocrats. Thus the citizens were increasingly reduced to
subjects without rights, obliged to obey and to serve and to bear the financial burdens of the sovereign's extravagance.
Under the influence of the Enlightenment, many educated citizens protested against this development. Their protest
in France marked the beginning of the French Revolution
In August 1789, the National assembly passed the “Declaration of the rights of man and the citizen
In July 1791, King Louis XVI was apprehended as he sought to flee the country and France was declared a constitutional monarchy
by the Constitution of 2 September, a year later, the constitution of 21 September declared France to be a democratic
republic and officially deposed the King.
On 21 January 1793, Louis XVI was executed for “conspiracy against the public liberty and the security of the state”.
There followed a tumultuous period with a reign of terror followed by four years of arbitrary government under the so-called
In 1799, General Napoleon Bonaparte seized power, first with the title of “First Consul” then as “Emperor”. Though the rights
of man generally were observed, the control of the state lay in Napoleon's hands, who plunged the country into war to bring
all continental Europe under French influence.