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French Revolution Timeline

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This timeline is designed to accompany your reading on the French Revolution from pre-1789 to 1802. Readers searching for a timeline with greater detail are advised to look at Colin Jones' "The Longman Companion to the French Revolution" which contains one general timeline and several specialist ones. Where the reference books disagree over a particular date (mercifully few for this period), I have sided with the majority.

1. Pre-1789

A series of social and political tensions build within France, before being unleashed by a financial crisis in the 1780s.

2. 1789 – 91

The Estates General is called, but instead of bowing to the king it takes radical action, declaring itself a Legislative Assembly and seizing sovereignty. It starts tearing down the old regime and creating a new France.

3. 1792

A second revolution occurs, as Jacobins and sansculottes force the creation of a French Republic. The Legislative Assembly is replaced by the new National Convention.

4. 1793 – 4

With foreign enemies attacking from outside France and violent opposition occurring within, the ruling Committee of Public Safety put into practice government by terror. Their rule is short but bloody.

5. 1795 – 1799

The Directory is created and put in charge of France, as the nation’s fortunes wax and wane.

6. 1800 – 1802

A young General called Napoleon Bonaparte seizes power, ending the Revolution and consolidating some of its reforms.
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