Anatomy of a Revolution

Created by Crane Brinton, French Revolution historian


CONDITIONS WHICH SEEM TO BE PRESENT AS CAUSES OF MAJOR REVOLUTIONS:
  1. People from all social classes are discontented.
  2. People feel restless and held down by unacceptable restrictions in society, religion, the economy or the government.
  3. People are hopeful about the future, but they are being forced to accept less than they had hoped for.
  4. People are beginning to think of themselves as belonging to a social class, and there is a growing bitterness between social classes.
  5. The social classes closest to one another are the most hostile.
  6. The scholars and thinkers give up on the way their society operates.
  7. The government does not respond to the needs of its society.
  8. The leaders of the government and the ruling class begin to doubt themselves. Some join with the opposition groups.
  9. The government is unable to get enough support from any group to save itself.
  10. The government cannot organize its finances correctly and is either going bankrupt or trying to tax heavily and unjustly.


THE COURSE THAT REVOLUTIONS SEEM TO TAKE:
  1. Impossible demands made of government which, if granted, would mean its end.
  2. Unsuccessful government attempts to suppress revolutionaries.
  3. Revolutionaries gain power and seem united.
  4. Once in power, revolutionaries begin to quarrel among themselves, and unity begins to dissolve.
  5. The moderates gain the leadership but fail to satisfy those who insist on further changes.
  6. Power is gained by progressively more radical groups until finally a lunatic fringe gains almost complete control.
  7. A strong man emerges and assumes great power.
  8. The extremists try to create a "heaven on earth" by introducing their whole program and by punishing all their opponents.
  9. A period of terror occurs.
  10. Moderate groups regain power. The revolution is over.


RESULTS - Examine the results of the revolution with these questions in mind:
  1. Did the ideals of the revolution change as its leadership changed?
  2. Were the original goals of the revolution achieved? At what point? Were these achievements conserved?
  3. Which social classes gained most from the revolution? Which lost? Did the original ruling group or individuals from this group return to power?
  4. How was the old political, social, and economic order of society [Ancien Regime] changed as a result of the revolution?


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