Notes of Lessons: History, Class IV

Notes of Lessons: History, Class IV

[We have thought that it might be of use to our readers (in their own families) to publish from month to month during the current year, Notes of Lessons prepared by students of the House of Education for the pupils of the Practising School. We should like to say, however, that such a Lesson is never given as a tour de force, but is always an illustration or an expansion of some part of the children’s regular studies (in the Parents’ Review School), some passage in one or other of their school books.—Ed.]

Subject: History Group: History Class IV Age: 16 Time: 30 minutes

By H. E. Wix
The Parents’ Review, 1903, pp. 790-792

The State of France in 1789


I. To establish relations with the past.

II. To show how closely literature and history are linked together and how the one influences the other.

III. To try to give G_____ and S_____ a clearer idea of the social and political state of France before the Revolution than they have now, and to draw from them the causes which brought about the Revolution in France and at this time (1789).


Step I.—Begin by taking the state of France generally. Feudalism was still in existence without its usefulness and with most of its abuses, and it led to the great division of Classes—the Privileged and the Unprivileged. In both Army and Church it was impossible for the unprivileged to rise by merit; all offices were filled by the privileged classes. These were exempt from many taxes. Draw from G_____ and S_____ the chief taxes—Taille levied on property and the Gabelle which forced everyone to buy a certain amount of salt from the Government at an enormous rate.

Step II.—Take the state of France in the country, showing what was the position of the peasant to his lord. The land he lived on generally belonged to him; in return for which he had to grind his corn at his lord’s mill, etc., had to give his work free on certain days in the year, and help to make the roads in his lord’s land (corvée). Tell them something of the Game Laws and the “Intendants.”

Step III.—Take the state of France in the towns, showing how impossible it was for a poor man to set up in a trade, owing to the guilds and monopolies. Together with men who held some office under Government, the merchants made a separate class, far removed from both the peasants and the nobles.

Step IV.—The state of the Church. For the most part the higher ecclesiastics were hated and despised. This was not the case with the “curés,” for they were of the peasantry, and shared their troubles. But the higher ecclesiastics were generally younger sons of nobles, who drew the salaries of their offices and lived a gay life at Court. The Church also imposed heavy dues.

Step V.—Show that these evils might have been remedied gradually (as in England) had there been a representative assembly regularly called, or any true justice. But as justice could be bought and sold, the poor man always lost his cause, and the pleadings of the peasants could in no way make themselves heard. They had risen just before this time, but unsuccessfully.

Step VI.—Draw from G_____ and S_____ the reason why the Revolution broke out in France rather than in any other Continental country. Because, though the evils in France were no worse than those borne by the German peasants, the French people had been awakened to the knowledge of their evils and of their right to liberty by many great writers. Such were Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, d’Alembert and Montesqieu. Draw from G_____ and S_____ all I can about these men and their influence on history.

Step VII.—Draw from G_____ and S_____ why the Revolution broke out just in 1789. Rousseau had written his works since about 1730, and Voltaire since 1718.

The French had borne their evils under Louis XIV.’s strong government. Louis XV. was very different. The evils of a despotic government were clearly shown by him. He it was who said, “Après nous le déluge!” Then came Louis XVI., conscientious and full of good intentions. Draw from G_____ and S_____ something of Louis’ character. But the great opportunity of the people came in the calling of the States General, in order to get money.

Step VIII.—A short recapitulation of the principal points.