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La Victoire de Samothrace, Unknown, 190 BC

The French Revolution



By 1789, trouble was brewing.

King Louis XVI ruled with absolute power from Versailles and over a very unequal society.

Philosophers of the Enlightenment were developing rational challenges to status quo which were getting increasing traction.

Bad harvests that year led to the prices of bread and other basic necessities skyrocketing.

France had a parliament of sorts, the Estates General, which was only really called upon when the king wanted to raise taxes.

It was also very unequal - while the nobility and clergy were only 10% of the population, they had 66% of the vote. .

Louis XVI felt forced to call the Estates General in May 1789 to tame the restlessness and try and raise taxes.

Instead of focusing on taxes, the third-estate proclaimed itself a National Assembly, drafted a Constitution, ratified a Declaration of Human Rights and forced the nobility to renounce its privileges.

8,000 women marched to Versailles and brought Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette to Paris.

4 years later they were decapitated by guillotine.

While the French Revolution was an incredible moment of emancipation and progress, it also saw a terrifying wave of repression perpetrated by Revolutionaries determined to preserve the wins of the Revolution and quash any form of dissent. Thousands of people were decapitated by guillotine in Paris alone.

Some traces of that history are still visible today.

The area of Odeon was the intellectual hub of the Revolution.

It became a huge center for the printing press.

Danton, Marat and Camille Desmoulins - 3 giants of the French Revolution - lived there within a few streets of each other and the statue of Danton is placed on the exact place where his home was.

The Café Procope, still open today, was a favourite meeting place for the philosophers Voltaire, Diderot and d'Alembert and revolutionary leaders Danton, Marat, Desmoulins and Fabre d'Eglantine.

A little further, the Couvent des Cordeliers was home to the revolution club led by Danton.

The Couvent des Carmes saw 114 priests and nuns murdered in its gardens.