Significance of French Revolution:
(1) The French Revolution is one of the most important events in the history of Europe. It was a great triumph for the idea of democracy when it enshrined the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity. Liberty implied that government should function according to the sovereign will of the governed and not according to the dictates of an autocratic king. The individual should be guaranteed possession of personal liberties which no state might curtail. Such were freedom of opinion, worship and press. The French Revolution proclaimed the liberty of owning private property as an inherent right of man.
(2) The greatest gift of the French Revolution was the idea of equality. The Declaration of 1789 asserts that all men have an equal right to well-being and the pursuit of happiness, an idea which the famous French scientist Lavoisier was probably the first to proclaim as a political doctrine. Kant went so far as to reject all hereditary privileges. Equality meant that all men were equal before the law. It also meant the abolition of privileges, the destruction of the feudal system, the end of serfdom. The fraternity was the watchword of the new French nationalism. It was the most potent force in reshaping the boundaries of Europe. The whole of Western Europe between the Pyrennes and the Baltic became infused with the ideals of the Revolution.
(3) French Revolution played an important role in the success of Greek Independence (1830) because the struggle for Greek Independence derived strength from the ideals of the French Revolution. Napoleon played a significant role in the unification of Italy. The principle of liberty of the French Revolution infused the spirit of unity among the Italians. Napoleon paved the way for the unification of Germany by making an end of the Holy Roman Empire. The vast effect of the French Revolution did not spare England also. The British opposed French Revolution because of the immense bloodshed that took place during it. In the words of Ramsay Muir, “It was the immediate and apparent effect of French Revolution that the movement which burst out in support of political reforms was crushed in England and the last precious and very famous thing of the commonwealth- freedom of speech and expression which had persisted there for generations was curtailed”.
(4) The French Revolution also resulted in the growth of nationalism in European countries. The Napoleonic wars aroused feelings of nationalism in the countries that were conquered by him. The people of many countries viewed Napoleon as instrumental in promoting the ideals of the Revolution and replacing absolute monarchy. Hence he was welcomed in various countries that he conquered. However, the despotic rule of Napoleon soon demystified the people and as a reaction against the despotic rule, they got united. This again helped in giving momentum to feelings of nationalism. Thus paradoxically the nationalism was aroused because of the result of the Napoleonic wars and the reaction against them.
|Impact/Significance of French Revolution in Brief:|
(1) In France, it brought an end to absolute monarchy.
(2) Feudalism ended with the Revolution and principles of republicanism took deep roots in France.
(3) Slavery was abolished though it took some more years for the total abolition of slavery.
(4) The malpractices of the Church and higher clergy were checked by the French Revolution.
(5) The principle of sovereignty enshrined in it became the basis of all modern governments.
(6) It popularized the principles of Freedom, Equality and Fraternity, which continue to inspire the functioning of the government in various parts of the world.
(7) The French Revolution also inspired the mass movements with nationalistic feelings of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century all over the world including India. Thinkers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy were great admirers of the principles of equality, liberty and fraternity.