France's tax system, the cost of foreign wars and the personal court expenditures of Louis XVI were all important contributing factors to the French Revolution. France's economic instability gave rise to a system in which the wealthy elite evaded taxes and lived in luxury while the highly-taxed poor starved.Continue Reading
In the decades leading up to the French Revolution, France acquired extensive foreign territory by fighting wars abroad. Military expenses and the cost of maintaining an empire left France wracked with a huge debt by the ascent of Louis XVI.
Despite the national debt, Versailles, where the king held court, was a symbol of excess and luxury. While the common people struggled to afford bread, the royal family spent millions of francs maintaining an extravagant lifestyle for the members of the French court.
In the century preceding the French Revolution, France's population had grown by eight to 10 million, the majority living in the countryside as peasants. Farmers rented their land from wealthy lords and paid high taxes in order for the right to grow crops. The upper class, however, paid only a small portion of the taxes they owed the king. The cost of flour and other basic necessities rose, and most peasants lived below the subsistence level. The rural poor began to starve, which gave rise to the political conflict at the heart of the French Revolution.Learn more about French Revolution