The Old Regime

To be ignorant of history is to remain always a child - Cicero
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The Three Estates

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Culture of Power and the Power of Culture: Old Regime Europe 1660-1789


by T. C. Blanning

The Old Regime and the French Revoltion
by John W. Boyer


a collection of primary source readings about the Old Regime

The Old Regime and the Revolution: Notes on the French Revolution and Napoleon
by Alexis
de Tocqueville


the classic first published in 1856, still the single most important source on the beginnings of the French Revoltion

Before the revolution the French people were divided into 3 groups: the 1st estate consisted of the clergy, the second estate of the nobility and the third estate of the bourgeoisie, urban workers, and peasants. Legally the first two estates enjoyed many privileges, particularly exemption from most taxation.

The first estate, the clergy, consisted of rich and poor.  There were very wealthy abbots, members of the aristocracy who lived in luxury off of wealthy church lands,  and poor parish priests, who lived much like the peasants.

The second estate, the nobility, inherited their titles and their wealth came from the land. Some members of the nobility had little money, but had all the privileges of noble rank. However, most enjoyed both privileges and wealth.

The third estate, the common people, was by far the largest group of people in France. Everyone who was not a member of the first or second estates was a member of the third. It included the wealthy merchants whose wealth rivaled that of the nobility, the doctors and lawyers, the shopkeepers, the urban poor, and the peasants who worked the land. Obviously, a very diverse group.

What is the Third Estate? Abbe Sieyes

Part of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité: The French Revolution a HistoryWiz Exhibit

The French Revolution

The French Revolution Primary Sources

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