NCERT Notes for Class 9 Social Science History Chapter 1 The French Revolution

NCERT Notes Class 9 Social Science History Chapter 1 The French Revolution

Chapter 1 The French Revolution NCERT Notes

Chapter Name

The French Revolution Notes


CBSE Class 9

Textbook Name

India and the Contemporary World I Class 9

Related Readings

  • Notes for Class 9
  • Notes for Class 9 History
  • NCERT Solutions for The French Revolution  

The French Revolution

  • The French Revolution began in 1789. The chain of events initiated by the middle class shook the upper classes.
  • The people revolted against the brutal rule of the monarchy. This revolution put forward the ideas of liberty, fraternity and equality.
  • The revolution started on 14 July 1789 from the fortress-prison, the Bastille.
  • Everyone hated the fort of Bastille, because the fort of Bastille was a symbol of the autocratic powers of the emperor.
  • On 14th July 1789 the agitated crowd stormed the Fort of Bastille, a symbol of tyranny of old regime, and destroyed it.

Events of French Revolution

  • On 5th may 1789 Louis XVI called together the meeting of Estates General to impose new Tax.
  • Members of third Estate demanded person wise voting instead of Estate -wise voting.
  • King rejected the demand of Third Estate.
  • Members of third Estate Walked out of the assembly in protest.
  • On 20th June 1789, they gathered in the hall of an indoor tennis court in the ground of Versailles and called themselves as National Assembly. They demanded to curtail the power of King.
  • Meanwhile bad harvest in the countryside led to rioting for Bread at many places in Paris.
  • King ordered troops to move in Paris which angered the natives and they destroyed the fort of Bastille.

Causes of French Revolution

Social cause

  • Social division 
  • Birth privileges

Political cause

  • Weak Rulers 
  • Poor policies of Louis XVI

Economic cause

  • Empty Treasury 
  • War Debt 
  • Bad Harvest

Immediate cause

  • Proposal of increase in Taxes in 1789. 
  • Insistence of Louis XVI on Estate- wise Voting in Estate General.

Role of Philosophers 

  • Ignited people mind 
  • Talked against Birth right 
  • Presented a model of administration based on liberty, equality and fraternity

Social Causes of The French Revolution

French society during the eighteenth century was divided into three classes:-

1st Estate : Clergy (Group of persons involved in church matters) 

2nd Estate : Nobility (Persons who have high rank in state administration) 

3rd Estate : (Comprises of Big businessmen, merchants, court officials, lawyers, Peasants and artisans, landless labour, servants)

  • First two classes were exempted from paying taxes. They enjoyed privileges by birth. Nobility classes also enjoyed feudal privileges.
  • Only the members of the third estate had to pay taxes to the state.

TITHE : The tax to be collected by the Church from the peasants.

TAILLE : The tax to be collected by the government from the third estate.

Clergy and Nobility were 10% of the population but possessed 60% of lands. Third Estate was 90% of the population but possessed 40% of the lands.

Economic Causes of The French Revolution

Subsistence Crisis

  • The population of France rose from about 23 million in 1715 to 28 million in 1789.
  • This increased the demand for the food grains. However, production could not keep pace with the demand which ultimately increased the prices of the food grains.
  • Most workers work as labourers in the workshops and they didn’t see increase in their wages.
  • Situation became worse whenever drought or hail reduced the harvest.
  • This led to the scarcity of food grains or Subsistence Crisis which started occurring frequently during old regime.

Political Causes of The French Revolution

  • Louis XVI came into the power in 1774 and found empty treasury.
  • Long years of war had drained the financial resources of France.
  • Under Louis XVI, France helped the thirteen American colonies to gain their independence from the common enemy, Britain which added more than a billion livres to a debt that had already risen to more than 2 billion livres.
  • An extravagant court at the immense palace of Versailles also cost a lot.
  • To meet its regular expenses, such as the cost of maintaining an army, the court, running government offices or universities, the state was forced to increase taxes.

Middle Class

  • The 18th century saw the rise of a new social group called the middle class.
  • The rising middle class envisioned the end of privileges.
  • Who had acquired wealth on the basis of production of woolen and silk clothes.
  • All these were educated and they believed that no group of society should have the privilege of birth.

Louis XVI

  • Louis XVI ascended the throne of France in 1774.
  • He was the king of the Burvi dynasty of France. He was married to the Austrian princess Marie Antoinette. At the time of his accession, his treasury was empty due to the following reasons:-
  • Loss of financial resources due to prolonged wars.
  • Wasteful expenditure on the glory of the previous kings.
  • To assist America against Britain in the American freedom struggle.
  • Population growth and livelihood crisis.

Beginning of French Revolution

  • Louis XVI called an assembly of the Estates General to pass his proposals to increase taxes on 5th May 1789.
  • The first and second estates sent 300 representatives each, who were seated in rows facing each other on two sides, while the 600 members of the third estate had to stand at the back.
  • The third estate was represented by its more prosperous and educated members only while peasants, artisans and women were denied entry to the assembly.
  • Voting in the Estates General in the past had been conducted according to the principle that each estate had one vote and same practice to be continued this time. But members of the third estate demanded individual voting right, where each member would have one vote.
  • After rejection of this proposal by the king, members of the third estate walked out of the assembly in protest.
  • On 20th June, the representatives of the third estate assembled in the hall of an indoor tennis court in the grounds of Versailles where they declared themselves a National Assembly and vowed to draft a constitution for France that would limit the powers of the monarch.
  • While the National Assembly was busy at Versailles drafting a constitution, the rest of France was in trouble.
  • Severe winter destroyed the food crops which resulted in increase in the prices. The bakers also hoarded supplies of breads for making greater profit.
  • After spending hours in long queues at the bakery, crowds of angry women stormed into the shops.
  • At the same time, the king ordered troops to move into Paris. On 14 July, the agitated crowd stormed and destroyed the Bastille.
  • In the countryside rumours spread from village to village that the lords of the manor were on their way to destroy the ripe crops through their hired gangs.
  • Due to fear, peasants in several districts attacked the castle of nobles, looted hoarded grain and burnt down documents containing records of manorial dues.
  • Large numbers of noble fled from their homes and many migrated to neighbouring countries.
  • Louis XVI finally recognised the National Assembly and accepted the constitution. 
  • On 4th August, 1789, France passed the law for abolishing the feudal system of obligations and taxes.
  • The member of clergy were also forced to give up their privileges.
  • Tithes were abolished and lands owned by the Church were confiscated.

French constitutional monarchy

  • On 20 June 1789 they gathered at a tennis court in Versailles and declared themselves the National Assembly.
  • Anticipating the powers of his rebellious People, Louis XVI recognized the National Assembly.
  • On the night of 4 August 1789, the Assembly passed an order abolishing the feudal system consisting of taxes, duties and bonds.
  • In 1791, the foundation of constitutional monarchy was laid in France.

Objectives of the National Assembly

  • Its main purpose was to limit the powers of the emperor.
  • Instead of being centralized in the hands of one individual, these powers will now be divided into different institutions.
  • For example, legislature, executive and judiciary
  • The Constitution of 1791 handed over the right to make laws to the National Assembly.

According to the new constitution

  • The right to vote was given only to active citizens who
  • Men
  • Who were more than 25 years old,
  • Who paid taxes equal to at least three days’ wages,
  • Women and other men were called passive citizens.
  • The powers of the king were divided and transferred to the legislature, executive and judiciary.

France Constitution at that time

  • The Constitution began with a Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. 
  • Rights such as the right to life, freedom of speech, freedom of opinion, equality before law, were given to each human being by birth and could not be taken away.
  • It was the duty of the state to protect each citizen’s natural rights.

Various Political Symbols

The broken chain

  • stands for the act of becoming free.

The bundle of rods or fasces

  • Show strength lies in unity.

The eye within a triangle radiating light

  • The all-seeing eye stands for knowledge.


  • Symbol of royal power.

Snake biting its tail to form a ring

  • Symbol of Eternity.

Red Phrygian cap

  • Cap worn by a slave upon becoming free.


  • The national colours of France.

The winged woman

  • Personification of the law.

The Law Tablet

  • The law is the same for all, and all are equal before it.

The Reign of Terror

  • The period from 1793 to 1794 is referred to as the Reign of Terror as Robespierre followed a policy of severe control and punishment.
  • All his enemies, Ex-nobles, clergy, members of other political parties, even members of his own party who did not agree with his methods were arrested, imprisoned and guillotined.
  • Robespierre’s government issued laws placing a maximum ceiling on wages and prices. 
  • Meat and bread were rationed. 
  • Peasants were forced to transport their grain to the cities and sell it at prices fixed by the government.
  • The use of more expensive white flour was forbidden and all citizens were required to eat the equality bread, a loaf made of whole wheat.
  • Instead of the traditional Monsieur (Sir) and Madame (Madam) all French men and women were addressed as Citoyen and Citoyenne (Citizen).
  • Churches were shut down and their buildings converted into barracks or offices.
  • Robespierre pursued his policies so harshly that even his supporters began to demand moderation. 
  • Finally, he was convicted by a court in July 1794, arrested and on the next day sent to the guillotine.


  • The guillotine is a device consisting of two poles and a blade with which a person is beheaded. It was named after Dr. Guillotin who invented it.

A Directory Rules France

  • After the fall of Robespierre, the rule of France came to the rich people of the middle class.
  • He appointed a five-member executive directory that looked after the governance of France but often conflicted with the Legislative Council. Napoleon Bonaparte took advantage of this political instability and abolished the directory in 1799 and became Emperor of France in 1804.


  • In 1804, Napoleon crowned himself emperor of France.
  • He set out to conquer neighboring European countries, dispossessing dynasties and creating kingdoms where he placed members of his family.
  • He saw his role as a modernizer of Europe.
  • He was finally, defeated at Waterloo in 1815.

Women Revolution

  • From the very beginning women were active participants in revolution.
  • They hoped that their involvement would pressurise the revolutionary government to introduce measures to improve their lives.
  • Most women of the third estate had to work for a living as laundresses, sellers, domestic servants in the houses of prosperous people.
  • Most women did not have access to education or job training.
  • To discuss and voice their interests women started their own political clubs and newspapers.
  • The Society of Revolutionary and Republican Women was the most famous of them.
  • Women were disappointed that the Constitution of 1791 reduced them to passive citizens.
  • They demanded the right to vote, to be elected to the Assembly and to hold political office.

Steps taken to improve the lives of women

  • The revolutionary government did introduce laws that helped improve the lives of women.
  • By creation of state schools, schooling was made compulsory for all girls.
  • Their fathers could no longer force them into marriage against their will.
  • Marriage was made into a contract entered into freely and registered under civil law.
  • Divorce was made legal, and could be applied for by both women and men.
  • Women could now train for jobs, could become artists or run small businesses.
  • It was finally in 1946 that women in France won the right to vote.

The Abolition of Slavery

  • The unwillingness of Europeans to go and work in the colonies in the Caribbean which were important suppliers of commodities such as tobacco, indigo, sugar and coffee created a shortage of labour on the plantations. Thus, the slave trade began in the seventeenth century.
  • French merchants sailed from their ports to the African coast, where they bought slaves from local chieftains.
  • Branded and shackled, the slaves were packed tightly into ships for the three-month long voyage across the Atlantic to the Caribbean.
  • There they were sold to plantation owners. The exploitation of slave labour made it possible to meet the growing demand in European markets for sugar, coffee, and indigo.
  • Port cities like Bordeaux and Nantes owed their economic prosperity to the flourishing slave trade.
  • The National Assembly held long debates for about whether the rights of man should be extended to all French subjects including those in the colonies.
  • But it did not pass any laws, fearing opposition from businessmen whose incomes depended on the slave trade.
  • Jacobin regime in 1794, abolished slavery in the French colonies.
  • However, ten years later, Napoleon reintroduced slavery.
  • Slavery was finally abolished in French colonies in 1848.

The Revolution and Everyday Life

  • After the storming of the Bastille in the summer of 1789 was the abolition of censorship.
  • The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen proclaimed freedom of speech and expression to be a natural right.
  • Newspapers, pamphlets, books and printed pictures flooded the towns of France from where they travelled rapidly into the countryside and described and discussed the events and changes taking place in France.
  • Plays, songs and festive processions attracted large numbers of people which was one way they could grasp and identify with ideas such as liberty or justice.
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