FRANCE ON THE EVE OF THE REVOLUTION
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FRANCE ON THE EVE OF THE REVOLUTION book
F R A N C E since the Revolution has been a divided country. At no subsequent period has there been general agreement on the form of constitution, the economic policy to be pursued by the Government or the position of the Church within the State. While other western European countries have experienced similar divisions, France has been unique in the permanence and intensity of these conflicts, which arise mainly from the Revolution. In the eighteenth century France shared the apparent stability of her European neighbours and the period from 1715 to 1787 was one of relative calm in French history when compared either with the religious wars of the sixteenth century and the Frondes of the seventeenth or with the recurrent revolutions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The understandable attempt by some Frenchmen to present the ancien regime in the eighteenth century as a period of idyllic calm is nevertheless seriously misleading. The nominally autocratic monarchy, the increasingly anachronistic 'feudal' society and the temporal power of an established but discredited Church all gave rise to problems and conflicts that tended to increase
in intensity towards the end of the century. An analysis of this society and of the tensions that were to destroy it is therefore the necessary prelude to an understanding of the Revolution and its disruptive influence.