To discover why the French revolution took place in 1789 we first have to look at how France was governed and the events which preceded 1789. The Bourbon dynasty had been ruling France since the 16th century in a very traditional way. They believed in the idea of divine right. This doctrine resulted in a system of absolute rule in which the 3rd estate had practically no input at all into the governance of their country. The French nobility and clergy also became increasingly egregious in their abuses of power in the 1700s, binding French peasantry into feudal obligations and refusing to pay tax to the French government. This did little to endear the aristocracy to the 3rd Estate. What is more laws varied from region to region being enforced by local parlements, thus the legal systems and judgements would vary and since there were no universal laws punishments could be over the top.
France had also run into terrible financial problems. France’s involvement in the Seven Years War (1756-1763) emptied the treasury as did it’s participation in the American War of Independence (1775-1783). This also meant France was maintaining a sizeable army and navy, which, though important drained the treasury further. Moreover the indulgent image that the monarchy showed, especially through Marie-Antoinette’s frivolous spending, irked the ‘common’ people. These years of fiscal irresponsibility were a primary factor for the French Revolution. If it were not for the wars perhaps France would have remained prosperous, as it had once been. In 1783 France realised it had to address the financial situation and fast. Louis decided to appoint Charles de Calonne as Controller-General of Finances. He came to office with national debt at 112 million livres. At first Calonne tried to borrow money of other European banks without success and in 1786 Calonne convinced Louis XVI to call the Assembly of Notables together to present a package he had come up with. The 5 major points of his package were to cut government spending, create a revival of free trade method, authorize the sale of Church property and establish a universal land tax. Unsurprisingly the notables refused his plans and also turned against him meaning he was dismissed shortly thereafter leaving France’s economic prospects even grimmer