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Influence of the French Revolution information


The French Revolution had a major impact on Europe and the New World. Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in European history.[1][2][3] In the short-term, France lost thousands of its countrymen in the form of émigrés, or emigrants who wished to escape political tensions and save their lives. A number of individuals settled in the neighboring countries (chiefly Great Britain, Germany and Austria), while some settled in Russia, and many also went to Canada and the United States. The displacement of these Frenchmen led to a spread of French culture, policies regulating immigration, and a safe haven for Royalists and other counterrevolutionaries to outlast the violence of the French Revolution. The long-term impact on France was profound, shaping politics, society, religion and ideas, and politics for more than a century. The closer other countries were, the greater and deeper was the French impact, bringing liberalism, but also practices such as direct democracy and revolutionary terror along with the end of many feudal or traditional laws and practices.[4][5] However, there was also a conservative counter-reaction that defeated Napoleon, reinstalled the Bourbon kings, and in some ways reversed the new reforms.[6]

Most of the new nations created by France were abolished and returned to prewar owners in 1814. However, Frederick Artz emphasizes the benefits the Italians gained from the French Revolution:

For nearly two decades the Italians had the excellent codes of law, a fair system of taxation, a better economic situation, and more religious and intellectual toleration than they had known for centuries.... Everywhere old physical, economic, and intellectual barriers had been thrown down and the Italians had begun to be aware of a common nationality.[6]

Likewise in Switzerland the long-term impact of the French Revolution has been assessed by Martin:

It proclaimed the equality of citizens before the law, equality of languages, freedom of thought and faith; it created a Swiss citizenship, basis of our modern nationality, and the separation of powers, of which the old regime had no conception; it suppressed internal tariffs and other economic restraints; it unified weights and measures, reformed civil and penal law, authorized mixed marriages (between Catholics and Protestants), suppressed torture and improved justice; it developed education and public works.[7]

The greatest impact came in France itself. In addition to effects similar to those in Italy and Switzerland, France saw the introduction of the principle of legal equality, and the downgrading of the once powerful and rich Catholic Church to just a bureau controlled by the government. Power became centralized in Paris, with its strong bureaucracy and an army supplied by conscripting all young men. French politics were permanently polarized—'left' and 'right' were the new terms for the supporters and opponents of the principles of the Revolution.

  1. ^ Linda S. Frey and Marsha L. Frey, The French Revolution (2004), Foreword.
  2. ^ R.R. Palmer and Joel Colton, A History of the Modern World (5th ed. 1978), p. 341
  3. ^ Ferenc Fehér, The French Revolution and the Birth of Modernity, (1990) pp. 117-30
  4. ^ Mike Rapport and Peter McPhee. "The International Repercussions of the French Revolution", in A Companion to the French Revolution (2013), pp 379–96.
  5. ^ Klaits, Joseph; Haltzel, Michael H.; Haltzel, Michael (2002). Global Ramifications of the American Revolution. Cambridge UP. ISBN 9780521524476.
  6. ^ a b Frederick B. Artz, Reaction & Revolution: 1814–1832 (Rise of Modern Europe) (1934), pp. 142–43
  7. ^ William Martin, Histoire de la Suisse (Paris, 1926), pp 187–88, quoted in Crane Brinson, A Decade of Revolution: 1789–1799 (1934), p. 235.

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