The French revolution of 1789 marked a turning point in the political history of France. It destroyed a well established monarchy and replaced it with a republican government. A revolution occurs not because people are just interested in changes but their certain factors on the ground that forces them to stage a revolution. The following are the major Causes of the French Revolution;-
1. Financial crisis; The financial crisis was the most immediate and paramount cause of the French revolution. In 1789, the French national treasury ran bankrupt to the extent of failing to pay workers. The bankrupt was due to the frequent wars which France fought example the seven years war with Britain (1756 1763) over colonies in India and Canada, and American war of independence. The bankrupt was also caused by the luxury life at the kings palace. This crisis worsened the problems of the French thus contributing to the revolution.
2. Despotic aristocracy; The French aristocracy was despotic; all French kings right from Louis XIV, XV and XVI were despotic kings, whose powers could not be questioned. They possessed all political powers like making all important political decisions and policies. There was no written constitution to check the powers of the king. There was also no written laws to control the actions of the king, this meant that, the kings word was the law, example; king Louis the XVI ones remarked that something is legal because i wish it this kind of despotism made the revolution inevitable by 1789.
3. Character of King Louis XVI; There was a weak administration in France especially that of Louis XVI. He was corrupt, inefficient and inconsistent in his policies, that is he could at times show signs of helping the peasants but shortly thereafter he withdraws his good intention. Besides the above the king was under the strong influence of his wife Marie Antoinette, she was an Austrian princess who was hated by the French people because she was not ready to help peasants.
4. French class structure; The maintenance of discriminative classes contributed to the outbreak of the French revolution. The French population was divided into three discriminative classes namely the first estate, second estate and third estate. The first estate consisted of the nobility who enjoyed the highest salaries and key positions in the government and the military. The second estate comprised of the clergy (Bishops and Priests). This grouped lived in urban areas and owned large estates of land and were exempt from paying taxation. The last class consisted of the peasants who paid all taxes both direct and indirect. The problems of the third estate forced them to stage a revolution in 1789.
5. Intellectual movements; These intellectual movements especially those of philosophers played a significant role in enlightening the French people about the political and economic crisis in France. They exposed the abuse of power by the government philosophers such as Voltaire advocated for fair taxation policies. Montesquieu advocated for separation of power in the government. The enlightenment of the French people about their political forced them to stage a revolution in 1789.
6.American war of independence; The American war of independence led to both economic and political effects which were exploited by the rich middle class and the peasants to stage a revolution. Politically this war failed them with a strong desire for establishment of a democratic and constitutional government. Economically, the war partially worsened the financial crisis because it was expensive to maintain soldiers abroad.
7. Economic crisis; During the 18 th Century, France experienced a rapid growth in her population and yet the agricultural and industrial production remained low thus leading to food shortage. There was also another problem of unemployment which affected the living standards of the people. Amidst this growing population and unemployment, there was also persistent inflation. These severe conditions forced the French to stage a revolution in 1789.
8. Dismissal of financial controllers; The dismissal of financial controllers had a role to play in the outbreak of the French revolution. Turgot and Necker had been appointed by the king to oversee the economic condition of France, but these were later dismissed following the advice of the queen. The financial controllers revealed the heavy cost incurred by the king and his members.
9. The march of the women; The marching of the women at Versailles demanding bread, land and equality sparked off the French revolution. Marie Antoinette provoked the demonstrators by saying that If you cannot afford bread, go and buy cakes this statement made both the king and the queen more unpopular in France.
In conclusion by 1789 there was enough material for combustion, what was lacking was a spark to see the materials ablaze. People had enough grievances; all they needed was a leader, thus the mobilization and organization of the middle class made the revolution.