French Revolution webquest

The French Revolution



The French Revolution was one of the defining events of modern European history. It was a social process, at times unspeakably violent, that radically transformed France, effectively ending the era of feudalism and laying the foundations of Modern France. Despite the Romantic idea of a popular uprising inspired by the ideas of liberty and equality, the French Revolution, while ending a political system based on hereditary rights and privileges, by no means instituted a democratic form of government. The social structure of the ruling elite changed, but the country was still ruled by an elite, which means that the political system remained based on inequality.

Division of Society

French society was divided into three estates. The First Estate was composed of the clergy, who wielded significant power. The Second Estate was the nobility, or titled landowners. Everybody else was in the Third Estate. Put together, the First and Second Estates comprised less than three percent of the population but owned most of the land and held all of the political and legal power. For the most part, they paid no taxes. The nobility held all of the high-ranking positions in the military. Its sons also became the clergy, creating blood ties between the two ranking estates that guaranteed their loyalty to each other, often at the expense of the Third Estate.

Tradespeople, merchants, bankers, industrialists, philosophers, teachers, farmers, shopkeepers, and peasants belonged to the Third Estate. This group, that represented about ninety-seven percent of the population, paid all the taxes, created most of the wealth, and did all the work. Wealthy industrialist or illiterate peasant, members of the Third Estate had exactly the same legal status.

The Excesses of the Nobility

By the late eighteenth century the nobility had become incredibly corrupt. Louis XVI, for example, had more than 20,000 courtiers at his palace. (A modern-day example would be the American White House, which has about 200 staffers). The king had complete authority, with no parliament or legislature to help keep him in balance. The questionable expense of maintaining his lifestyle cost taxpayers the same as maintaining a standing army.

The rank-and-file nobility had become little kings. Because they owned the land, they were the landlords of the masses. They charged what they wished, and ordinary tenants were forced to pay simply because there wasn't anywhere else for them to go. They were virtually unbound by law, and could treat their tenants any way they chose. Furthermore, they were absolutely convinced of their inherent, genetic superiority.

The clergy, far from being virtuous, had degenerated into an arm of the state. Untrained laymen from the nobility were often ordained as priests, bishops, and even cardinals to secure political loyalty and extend power over new parishes. The clergy collected its dues from the Third Estate, too, in the form of "required contributions".

The First and Second Estates had become overbearing, unwieldy institutions that held all the legal authority and took what they wished from the Third Estate while providing very little in return. The "little people" paid all the taxes and a small, insulated elite derived the benefit. Furthermore, many non-nobles of the merchant class had gained significant economic power, but were still as beholden to the nobility and clergy as ever before. The stratified system no longer resembled the actual society of France. (Gale Student Resource Center)


Your Task


1. Read about the French Revolution to gain a background. (see links below)

2. Using Microsoft Publisher, create a Newspaper Special Supplement describing this historic era. Your newspaper is to be a special edition, similar to what is published in newspapers or magazines at the end of a year looking back at what has transpired during the year. In this case, you are looking back at the entire French Revolution era from 1789 to 1815.

3. Divide your newspaper into the following segments:

Causes of the Revolution
Economics of the French Revolution society
Major Events of the French Revolution
Role of the Church in the French Revolution
Key People of the French Revolution
Lasting Effects and Impact of the French Revolution

4. The newspaper must also contain an editorial in which a position is taken on an issue related to the French Revolution and supported. You are to consider the issue, take a clear stand, have reasons or arguments for your position, provide support from your research for your reasons and write an essay using the CAPT format.


The French Economy
The Old Regime
The Estates (First, Second, Third)
Louis XVI
Marie Antoinette
Estates General
National Assembly
Tennis Court Oath
Storminig the Bastille
Great Fear
Declaration of the Right of Man and the Citizen
Role of the Catholic Church
French Constitution
Legislative Assembly
Foreign Affairs from 1785-1795
Jacobin Club or Republic
Maul Marat
Georges Danton
Maximilien Robespierre
Committee of Public Safety
Reign of Terror
National Convention
Significance of the French Revolution



Read about the French Revolution in books and your school's academic databases from your library. Also see the links below.

French Revolution Web Links

Causes - History Guide

Church - Outline History of the Catholic Church

Economics - French Republican Calendar

Economics - Operational Studies Group

Key Figures - Historyteacher.Net

Key Figures - Mount Holyoke

Key Figures - Wikipedia

Lasting Effects - History of the Guillotine

Major Events - Mount Holyoke

Overview - Discover France

Overview - Thinkquest

Overview - WSU

Primary Sources - Pamphlets

Primary Sources - Political Cartoons



French Revolution Newspaper Scoring Rubric
Judging Criteria
Extremely well organized; logical format that was easy to follow; flowed smoothly from one idea to another and cleverly conveyed; the organization enhanced the effectiveness of the project.
Presented in a thoughtful manner; there were signs of organization and most transitions were easy to follow; but at times ideas were unclear.
Somewhat organized; ideas were not presented coherently and transitions were not always smooth, which at times distracted the audience.
Choppy and confusing; format was difficult to follow; transitions of ideas were abrupt and seriously distracted the audience.
Completely accurate; all facts were precise and explicit.
Mostly accurate; a few inconsistencies or errors in information.
Somwhat accurate; more than a few inconsistencies or errors in information.
Completely inaccurate; the facts in this project were misleading to the audience.
Went above and beyond to research information; solicited material in addition to what was provided; brought in personal ideas and information to enhance project; and utilized more than eight types of resources to make project effective.
Did a very good job of researching; utilized materials provided to their full potential; utilized more than six types of resources to enhance project; at times took the initiative to find information outside of school.
Used the material provided in an acceptable manner, but did not cnsult any additional resources.
Did not utilize resources effectively; did little or not fact gathering on the topic.
Was extremely clever and presented with originality; a unique aproach that truly enhanced the project.
Was clever at times; thoughtfully and uniquely presented.
Added a few original touches to enhance the project but did not incorporate it throughout.
Little creative energy used during this project; was bland, predictable and lacked "zip".
Was engaging, provacative, and captured the interest of the audience and maintained this throughout the entire presentation; great variety of visual aids and multimedia; visual aids were colorful and clear.
Was well done and interesting to the audience; was presented in a unique manner and was very well organized; some use of visual aids.
Was at times interesting and was presented clearly and precisely; was clever at times and was organized in a logical manner; limited variety of visual aids and visual aids were not colorful or clear.
Was not organized effectively; was not easy to follow and did not keep the audience interested; not use of visual aids.
Student does an outstanding job in stating the issue and supports it completely.
Student does a competent job in stating the position and supports it.
Student does a less than adequate job of stating a position and supporting it.
Student does an unsatisfactory job in stating the position and supporting it.
Individual put in exceptional effort and was very productive throughout.
Individual put in effort and was productive.
Individual made some effort and was somewhat productive.
Effort was minimal or lacking.
Group put in exceptional effort and was very productive throughout.
Group put in effort and was productive.
Group put in some effort and was somewhat productive.
Effort was minimal or lacking.
of Newspaper
Newspaper is outstanding.
Newspaper is very good.
Newspaper is adequate.
Newspaper needs improvement.
of Product
Newspaper and Group Product is exceptional.
Newspaper and Group Product is admirable.
Newspaper and Group Product is acceptable.
Newspaper and Group Product is less than adequate.


The French Revolution's legacy was not democratic society but the first modern European state: unified, centrally organized, and far more efficient in its use of violence than the ancien regime.


© 2008 Pat Sullivan & Alicia Cornelio contact us