The French Revolution in 1789 was an influential event that marked the age of revolutions in Europe. The major outcome of the revolution was the formation of a constitutional monarchy and a sizeable reduction in the royal and feudal privileges.
It paved the way for the achievement of bigger goals of national identity and national pride, which can be aptly called nationalism.
The revolutionaries referred to France as la patrie or the fatherland, where all citizens, known as le citoyen, enjoyed equal rights under the constitution. The revolutionaries tried to establish a collective French identity for the people by adopting French flag, composing nationalistic songs and hymns, discouraging the use of regional dialects and adopting French as the common language of France.
The French Revolution had its impact on the administration as well.
- A body of active citizens, elected the Estates General and renamed it the National Assembly.
- A centralised administrative system was created formulating uniform laws for all French citizens.
- All internal custom duties and dues were abolished.
- A uniform system of weights and measures was adopted.
The metric system was founded by France in 1791. The French revolutionaries also took it upon themselves to help other European countries to overcome autocracy and form nations. The French armies were welcomed by European countries like Holland, Belgium, Switzerland and Italy in the 1790s.
After the French Revolution emerged a famous historic personality and warrior, Napoleon Bonaparte. He introduced several effective administrative changes like the civil code of 1804 introduced by Napoleon also known as the Napoleonic code.
As per this code:
- The privileges enjoyed by the noblemen and clergy on the basis of birth were abolished.
- Equality before law and the right to property was secured.
- The feudal system was abolished and the peasants were freed from serfdom and the payment of dues to the manor owner.
- The businessmen and small producers of goods felt that uniform laws, standardised weights and a common national currency could facilitate free trade across Europe.
- Guild restrictions were removed and transport and communication systems were improved.
The countries under the French rule soon realised that their political freedom that had been lost.
Higher taxes, forced enrolment of people into the French army and censorship overshadowed the positive administrative changes brought about by Napoleon, and led to his downfall.