Causes and Events of the French Revolution

During the late 18th century, France was one of the most populated European countries and on the verge of bankruptcy. Many of France’s citizens were starving. People from all social classes were beginning to question King Louis XVI’s spending habits and lavish lifestyle. The revolution in France lasted from 1789 to 1799 and resulted in the end of the monarchy and the execution of King Louis XVI. Inspired by the Enlightenment and fed up with political alienation, unfair taxation, and no social mobility, members of the Third Estate fought for political representation and a restructuring of social order. The start of the revolution began when members of the Third Estate took over the Bastille. They later formed the National Assembly which held meetings without the King’s approval and took control of the country. The French Revolution was complicated and very violent. Opinions varied on the revolution for a multitude of reasons. Factions developed within revolutionary political groups, and France experienced a dark and disturbing period called the Terror.

Standards & Objectives

Learning objectives: 
  • Students will identify the causes of the French Revolution. 
  • Students will explain the aims of the French Revolution and The Declaration of the Rights of Man.
  • Students will investigate and breakdown sources covering the French Revolution.
  • Students will compare and contrast the aims of the Revolution with the Terror. 
Essential and guiding questions: 

What were the major factors/grievances that led to the start of the French Revolution? How does the outcome of the Revolution compare to the initial aims set forth by the National Assembly and Third Estate?

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 
Extension suggestions: 

This lesson provides a great opportunity for creative extension ideas. For example, teachers could...

  • Have students read the following blog that traces France’s history through analyzing political cartoons. Students can create their own cartoons of an event or historical figure from the French Revolution.
  • Have students watch a video and read an article about Bastille Day in France and the events that took place during the Storming of the Bastille. How does this compare and contrast to our celebration of Independence Day?
  • Have students dive further into the idea of revolutions and the way they shape our politics, cultures, and future. How did the American Revolution change our future? Discuss how America or France would look today had a revolution not of taken place?
  • Students can read about another important event of the French Revolution; the Women’s October March on Versailles.

Helpful Hints


  • Projector and screen for Power Point
  • Power Point: French Revolution
  • Worksheet: Start of the French Revolution: p.6 –7
  • Worksheet: Storming of the Bastille p. 8-9
  • Worksheet: The Terror p. 10-11
  • Political cartoon Analysis Tool