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French Revolution

Glossary and Terms

History >> French Revolution

Ancien Regime - Name of the political system ruled by the king before the French Revolution.

Committee of Public Safety - A committee formed in 1793 that controlled the government throughout the Reign of Terror.

Consulate - The name of the government established by Napoleon at the end of the French Revolution.

Cordelier - A political club in Paris during the early part of the French Revolution. It was led by Gorges Danton and played a major role in the Storming of the Bastille.

Corvee - A tax where peasant men had to work three days out of the year for their local lord. They worked on public works such as improving roads and building bridges.

Dauphin - The Dauphin was the heir apparent or "crown prince" to the throne of France.

Directory - The name of the government that took over after the Reign of Terror. It ruled from 1795 to 1799.

Estates General - An assembly meeting that included representatives from the Three Estates of France. King Louis XVI called a meeting of the Estates General in 1789 to address France's financial problems.

First Estate - The First Estate was one of the social classes of France. It included the clergy from the church such as priests, bishops, and monks.

First Republic - The first republican government of France founded on September 22, 1792.

Five Directors - Five men who acted as the executive branch of the government under the Directory.

Flight to Varennes - An event where King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette tried to escape from Paris. They were captured in the town of Varennes.

Gabelle - A tax on salt.

Girondins - A political group during the French Revolution. Many of them were part of the Jacobin Club. They battled for power with the Mountain group. Many of them were executed at the start of the Reign of Terror.

Guillotine - An execution device used during the French Revolution.

Jacobins - Members of the most powerful political club during the French Revolution. Under their leader Robespierre, they instituted the Reign of Terror to preserve the revolution.

Mountain - The Mountain was a radical political faction within the Jacobins. They were called the Mountain because they sat on the top rows at the assembly meetings.

National Assembly - A group formed by representatives of the Third Estate to demand reforms and representation from the king.

Reign of Terror - A period of time during the French Revolution when anyone suspected of treason against the revolutionary government was arrested or executed.

Sans-culottes - A nickname for the commoners in France. The name "sans-culottes" meant "without culottes." Culottes were fancy silk knee-breeches worn by the rich.

Second Estate - The Second Estate was a social class in France. It included the nobles. They held the high positions in the government and didn't have to pay taxes.

Storming of the Bastille - An event that occurred on July 14, 1789 when the people of Paris stormed the Bastille prison. It is commonly referred to as the start of the French Revolution.

Third Estate - The Third Estate was a social class in France. It included all the commoners and anyone not included in the First or Second Estates. Around 98% of the population was included in the Third Estate.

More on the French Revolution:

Timeline and Events
Timeline of the French Revolution
Causes of the French Revolution
Estates General
National Assembly
Storming of the Bastille
Women's March on Versailles
Reign of Terror
The Directory
Famous People of the French Revolution
Marie Antoinette
Napoleon Bonaparte
Marquis de Lafayette
Maximilien Robespierre

Symbols of the French Revolution
Glossary and Terms

Works Cited

History >> French Revolution

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