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Updated: Oct 5, 2020


  • France was for years ruled by tyrants like Louis XIV.

  • The kings ruled the country as they liked, without caring for the good of the common people.

  • There was famine and suffering all over the country because of this autocratic monarch.

  • The popular upsurge against the tyranny of Kings culminated in the abolition of monarchy.

  • People wanted to establish the French Republic.

  • This great political event of consequences is called the French Revolution.

  • The leaders of the French Revolution drew inspiration for their course action from the American Revolution.


  • The French Revolution started with the breaking open of the State prison “Bastille” on 14th July 1789.

  • The reign of terror that followed the beheading of King Louis XVI and his Queen ended only when Napoleon became Emperor in May 1804.

  • In 1793 England was forced to declare war against French Revolution.

  • This is because French Revolutionary rulers offered to help all nations who wished to follow the example of the French and overthrow their Kings.

  • The war continued up to the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 (when Lord Wellington inflicted a crushing defeat on Napoleon).


  • The prolonged war of twenty years had lasting effects on England.

  • The most important and immediate effect was the huge National Debt.

  • It has been estimated that the cost of the war from beginning to the end was nearly 1,000,000,000 Euro.

  • The nation of nineteen million people, had to pay annually a large amount by way of interest.

  • In 1815 the country had to raise 74,000,000 Euro by taxation alone.


  • The peace that followed the war was the cause of a fall in the prices of coal and iron.

  • Many men employed in the industry were thrown out of their jobs.

  • After the signing of the peace treaty nearly half a million soldiers, sailors and others (who had been engaged directly in the war) were dismissed from active service.

  • They added to the already swelling army of the unemployed.

  • Thus the problem of unemployment became more acute.


  • During the twenty years of war there was no import of European corn into England.

  • This caused the price of corn to go high.

  • But the agricultural lords benefited by this.

  • After the restoration of peace, the free flow of European corn was resumed which brought down the price of English corn.

  • This was resented (disliked) by the English agriculturalists.

  • To protect their interest the Corn Law was passed in 1816.

  • This had disastrous effects on the poor (especially in the time of famine).

  • Their sufferings led to the formation of the Anti-Corn Law League.

  • This association was responsible for the repeal of the Corn Law in 1846 by Robert Peel (then Prime Minister).


  • There was widespread discontent among poor people.

  • They suffered of various factors like low wages, high price of corn, and unemployment.

  • There were fierce riots in many places.

  • The Government authorities tried to put down these riots with an iron hand.

  • In 1819 the magistrates of Manchester attempted to arrest a radical leader known as Orator Hunt (at a large gathering) in St Peter’s Field.

  • By the resistance from the crowd the Government officer ordered a cavalry charge upon the unarmed mob.

  • Eleven persons were killed and six hundred wounded.

  • This event was popularly called as the Battle of Peterloo.

  • Also known the Manchester massacre was used by agitators to embarrass the Government.

  • To get their grievances redressed (set right) the poor agitated for parliamentary reform.

  • After much opposition from the lords the first Reform Bill was passed in 1832.


  • Navy and Army were recognized as National institutions.

  • The Battle of Trafalgar was won by Lord Nelson during the Revolutionary war in 1805.

  • This battle highlighted the greatness of the English Navy.

  • The victory was commemorated by renaming a part of London as Trafalgar Square.

  • The statue of Nelson stands on a lofty column in Trafalgar Square.

  • Its 51.5 metre column topped by the statue of Admiral Horatio Nelson looking to the River Thames, is one of the Favourite tourist spots in London.

  • It is the traditional end of most protest marches and rallies in the capital.

  • The army became popular with the victories of Lord Wellington at Waterloo in 1815.

  • Barracks were built, to house the troop and the haphazard.

  • Billeting of soldiers in public houses came to an end.

  • This was done to the great relief of both the civilian population and soldiers themselves.


  • The French revolution is the source of inspiration to many English writers for writing some of their best known works.

  • Edmund Burke was inspired to write his famous book Reflections on the French Revolution.

  • Burke questions the propriety of the action of the revolutionaries in doing away with monarchy and making the National Assembly all powerful.

  • He expresses the opinion that defective institutions of the old regime should have been reformed and not destroyed.

  • In reply to this was written ‘Rights of Man’ in two volumes by Thomas Paine.

  • In first volume of the book he upholds the ideas that the Constitution of a country is an act of the people constituting the government.

  • In absence of such a written Constitution government is tyranny.

  • Paine takes pains to justify the French Revolution and traces the circumstances leading to the Declaration of the Rights of Man by the National Assembly.

  • The second volume of the book consists of proposals to improve the condition of Europe and England.

  • These proposals, though considered to be too revolutionary but were taken seriously and implemented by the democratic governments in the various countries.

  • Noble among these proposals are

  • A large reduction of administrative expenditure and

  • Taxation, Provision – for the aged poor, family allowances, allowances for the education of the poor, maternity grants, funeral grants, a graduated income-tax and limitation of armaments by treaty.

  • Another work of literary importance inspired is the French Revolution by Thomas Carlyle.

  • It is the poetic unrolling of a great historical melodrama illustrating the Nemesis that comes upon the oppression of the poor.

  • The book also contains a gallery of magnificent pen portraits of historical figures like Mirabeau Lafayette, Danton, and Robespierre.

  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens is a book which gives a true picture of Paris and London during the time of the French Revolution.

  • English Romanticism should be considered as a by- product of the great political event.

  • Romantic Movement started when Wordsworth and Coleridge together published the Lyrical Ballads in 1798.

  • This movement was completed by younger poets like Byron, Shelley and Keats.


Social History of England by Louise Creighton

An Introduction to the Social History of England by A.G.Xavier

A Short History of Social Life in England by M B Synge

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