In this final week of lectures, I've offered you a series of perspectives on the significance of the French Revolution. And what I want to do in the final lecture is to outline an alternative to that minimalist argument that I put at the start of the series and instead talk about the maximalist approach to the significance of the French Revolution, the idea that it is a great turning point in the history of the modern world. Remember that the key elements of the minimalist argument, expressed so well by Donald Sutherland, that in 1790, the French Revolution had achieved its goal. It had defeated despotism and it had defeated privilege. This rupture was also definitive. A return to the old regime was simply out of the question. But then says Sutherland, the revolutionaries drove very large numbers of women and men, to a profound revulsion against them, and all their works when they stripped away the markers that gave their lives meaning. In other words, the French Revolution was politically, ideologically very important, with all sorts of durable outcomes for government, but it also created a revulsion, particularly of devout Catholics to what the revolution had done to the church, but in any case had a minimal impact on daily life, in terms of the way people worked, the position of women, social relations, social hierarchy, and so on. A very different argument, a polarised argument is put by Albert Soboul, one of the great French historians of the French Revolution, a man who was professor of the history of the French Revolution at the Sorbonne University in Paris for many years. He says instead, the Revolution marks the advent of bourgeois, capitalist society in French history. These essential characteristics probably explain the vain efforts that have been made to deny the true historical nature of the French Revolution by people like Sutherland. It is a fertile and dangerous precedent he said, hence also the shudder that the French Revolution sent through the world and the continued reverberation that arouses in people's minds even today. The very memory of it is revolutionary and stirs us still. Soboul's saying, this is a revolution that goes way beyond changes to the way France is governed, it goes way beyond the idea of constitutional government, popular sovereignty, a society based on merit and talent. It actually has to do with the creation of a whole new social system, one that he defines in class terms, as dominated by the bourgeoisie, the well to do middle class, and it's a capitalist type of society, which they bring into being. Let me explore the grounds on which this maximalist argument can be put. To begin with, I want to say something about the whole concept of national unity, and link that in with significant economic and social change that occurs. And I want to take you back to some of those maps that I began with, weeks ago, maps that showed that pre-revoutionary France was marked by the weight of historical accretion, of putting together a kingdom over many centuries, that in terms of the size and powers of provincial governments, there was a huge deal of variation. This was reflected also in the way that France was ruled in terms of taxation regulation. There were internal customs barriers, the heavy lines. There were huge discrepancies in the rates of direct and indirect taxation that were levied on people across the country and of course, the privileged orders were largely free of taxation altogether. Similarly in terms of the legal system, that there was a major variation between the customary law of the north, the written law of the south, there was something like 60 different provincial law codes. The privileged orders had their own law codes, and in various parts of the country, particularly on the extremities of the Kingdom, people spoke quite different languages, from the French of the regions around Paris itself. In terms of ecclesiastic organization, the catholic church, which is the only permitted public religion, in the kingdom is characterized by huge differences in the size and authority of the bishoprics and the archbishoprics of the catholic church. In other words, before 1789, the kingdom of France is characterized above all by the diversity, the exception, the exemption, the privileges that particular regions of France have, and that privileged orders, the clergy and nobility have as well, and the uneasy relationship between that and the centralizing force of the royal court based in Versailles. One of the really significant things about the French Revolution is the way that it brings all forms of public administration, the institutional government, of France together in a much, simpler way. It seems more complex on the surface, the creation of 83 departments, but what is critically important is that everyone of those departments is to be administered in exactly the same way and it is to administer the same taxes, the same laws, the same regulations in every part of France, that no longer are there to be exceptions and exemptions. No longer are nobles and clergy to have their own ways of doing things. Each of those departments will have a departmental capital and in almost every case that will also be the city, where the cathedral is also based. This is a key meaning of the concept of fraternity. That from a situation where the people of France had been the King's subjects in the kingdom, now people are citizens of a united French nation, their nation. One of the really striking things that historians like me find when we look at the local experience of the French Revolution is the extent to which people even in small villages started to identify themselves as French citizens, with much in common with people across the whole nation, and then the whole republic. Historians of nationalism and national identity often look back to the French Revolution as the time when nationalism in the sense that we understand it starts to emerge. In a famous book called Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson argued that it's at this time, that we see the emergence of a particular type of identity, that the people of France, whatever their social background, whatever language they speak, wherever they live start to imagine that they are part of a political community of citizens across the whole country. Unity, the building of national unity, the building of the concept of the citizens of this new nation is a profound development. It has an economic consequence as well, because one of the things that the revolutionary governments do, is to push all of those customs barriers back to the borders. Inside France now there will be internal free trade. Trade, manufacture, commercial activity, will also benefit enormously by one of the other key reforms of the revolutionary decade, and that is the introduction of a uniform way of measuring weight, distance, size, scale, currency. They introduced the decimal system of grams and kilograms, of meters and kilometers, of centimes and francs - that, from now on, there will be one single national system of weighting, measuring, counting. It's a boon, to the business sector. It's one reason why historians like Albert Soboul say this French Revolution facilitates the emergence of a capitalist market-oriented, profit- oriented economy in France, of which, the major beneficiaries are going to be those middle class people who were most involved in manufacturing and commerce. Another boon to them is the introduction of the Le Chapelier Law in June 1791, which effectively outlaws workers' associations. It's not to be until the 1880s that workers in France are legally allowed to form trade unions. Under the Le Chapelier Law, all workplace relationships are deemed to be individual between employer and employee, there is effectively an outlawing of workers associations. In 1789 the Third Estate of Elbeuf, which was dominated by textile manufacturers, owners of small factories, complain in these terms about the inefficient administration of finances, in the kingdom. These constraints, these impediments to commerce, barriers reaching to the very heart of the kingdom; endless obstacles to the circulation of commodities. They complained that representatives of manufacturing industries and chambers of commerce are totally ignored and despised, that there's an indifference towards manufacturers on the part of government. How different life becomes for manufacturers like them as a result of the French Revolution. That now those impediments to commerce, the internal custom barriers, the different weights and measures and currencies are gone. There is one legal and economic system from now on. Under Napoleon Bonaparte, chambers of commerce, are part of the decision making process, when economic regulations and trade negotiations, are involved. The French Revolution, in very important ways is a recognition of the importance of the value, of the validity, of the acceptability, of enterprise, of production, of productivity, of making a profit, of making the most of one's means, and opportunity. This is something that affects the countryside as well. This village in Languedoc that I've spoken about before, so, typical in all sorts of ways of the 40,000 small communities of 18th Century France, has its very existence changed in very significant ways by the Revolution. In terms of national unity, this is in a region remember in Languedoc, where people didn't speak French in daily life. Nevertheless the experience of the French Revolution, the experience of being part of a movement to establish the citizenship of all people who live in this new nation, has a profound affect on these people, in terms of them identifying as French citizens as well as people who live in Languedoc. There is a significant shift in identity, the emergence of an imagined community of all French citizens, particularly those who, like the people of this community, are predominantly republicans. But the conditions of their daily lives have changed as well. Like other rural communities across the country, there are opportunities for the poorer sections of the population here to buy land. Land that had belonged to the church or to people who fled the revolution, émigrés, is put up for sale and bought by commoners. They have a little bit more land now with which to feed their families. The abolition of Feudal dues has a profound effect on every rural community across the country, in some regions much more than others where feudal dues had weighed more heavily. But what the abolition of feudal dues means is that people, for a start are not paying part of what they produce to the church and to the seigneur, they're now only paying state taxes. They have more to consume. And in communities like this, if they're close to towns they're able to start taking risks of specializing in one particular form of production, in market-oriented, even capitalist forms of production. This is a community where the great wine growing revolution begins around this time, where, more and more people decide, we're going to make more money and be better off, if we concentrate on specialized, wine growing, viticulture, for the local towns rather than trying to grow a bit of everything we need; our land is much more suited to growing grape vines, than to growing wheat and other cereal crops. To give you another example, even further south in a community that's become familiar to you during this course. Down in the southern part of France called Corbières, an area where people spoke Occitan in daily life, a region which was desperately poor in the centuries before the French Revolution, and the village in which as I pointed out, someone had put a stone engraving, a stone carving above the doorway to their house, one that's become very familiar to you. And the reason they've done it is that because the changes that came in 1789, particularly the notion of popular sovereignty and the dignity of citizens, and the promised abolition of feudalism, was seen to represent major shifts, immutable shifts in the condition of life. In that community there is an insistence that after 1789, they will no longer pay feudal dues even though they are supposed to continue to until the local seigneur produces the evidence of the titles. And the first elected mayor who is the blacksmith declares this: Our ancestors, too simple and ignorant would have given everything, and would have submitted to anything that these gentlemen, the seigneur required of them, but in the present century, this simpleness, and this ignorance no longer exist, wickedness has been destroyed, justice punishes it. Before the French Revolution people in villages were too vulnerable and intimidated to say things like that. And it horrifies the local nobility, one of whom says this, in a nearby village: I've cherished and I still cherish the people of Fraisse as I have cherished my own children. They were so sweet and so honest in their way, but what a sudden change has taken place among them. All I hear now is words like corvée, lanternes, démocrates, aristocrates, words, which for me, are barbaric and which I can't use. The former vassals, the peasants, believe themselves to be more powerful than kings. One of the really significant shifts, introduced by the French Revolution, is a shift in social relationships, based on the collapse of deference towards nobility, based on an acceptance, by working people in the countryside, as much as in the towns, that they have an inherent personal human dignity. An English traveller, who makes his way to France in 1814, once Napoleon is overthrown for the first time and it's possible for English people to travel freely in in France notices this: Since I entered the country, writes the agronomist Morris Birkbeck, I have been looking at all, in all directions for the ruin of France, for the horrible effects of the revolution of which so much is said on our side of the water. But instead of ruined country, I see fields highly cultivated. Everyone assures me that agriculture has been improving rapidly for the last 25 years and that vast improvements have taken place, in the conditions, and character of the common people. I asked for the wretched peasantry, of whom I've heard and read so much; but I'm always referred to the revolution; it seems they vanished then. Some of the basic conditions of life, of rural people have changed forever, even if, as minimalists argue, they continue to work the soil with much the same techniques as before the Revolution. And it's why coming back to this this drawing of rural social relations that I've commented on earlier, I want to make a rather different point. It seems to me that rather than this simply being a representation of the continuity of social hierarchy and deference, between noble landlord, and peasant farmer, what has emerged in France is instead social relationships, which are based, fundamentally on economic differences. I would argue that gone is the automatic social deference, towards one's betters, that had existed for centuries, before the French Revolution and now, the relationship between a poor, tenant farmer and the noble landlord was one that no longer was based on, recognition of one's betters, on deference, but simply on a straight economic relationship of renter of land, and owner of land, on the other hand, that social relationships in a fundamental way, have changed forever. It's a revolution which in other words, has an impact on relationships in every way, and they include some of the most personal relationships that people have in the way that they choose to worship. Before the Revolution huge numbers of people who'd lived in this great crescent from eastern France down through the central highlands would've chosen to worship in public as Protestants, but they had been unable to, that only the Catholic Church was allowed public worship. The French Revolution introduces the principle of religious freedom which is grabbed by millions of people, who would have longed to be able to worship in public as Protestants before the French Revolution and who are now able to. People in communities like this, the isolated community of Pont-de-Montvert, up in the central highlands, where after 1800, the most prominent building in the village, in fact the building from which this photograph is taken, is the Protestant church, but where finally, the people of this community are able to worship as they wish. It's also by the way a village where the improvement in diet, as the result of the French Revolution, of no longer having to pay the tithe to the Catholic Church and seigneurial dues results in a quite dramatic improvement in the health of people who live here. At the time of the French Revolution, when one needed to be five foot, three inches tall to be conscripted into the French army, only one young man in every seven in this village was that tall. By 1830, 5'3" is the average height of men in this community, that the average height of men has gone up by one or two inches, three or four centimeters in just a couple of generations. But religious belief matters to people like this, religious freedom, as it matters to the Jews of France, who similarly, as a result of the French Revolution are henceforth able to worship, in public, to have their own synagogues as places of worship. For all of those reasons, for reasons of, the development of national unity, of economic change, of changes in social relationship, of religious freedom, it seems to me that the French Revolution internally as much as externally has profoundly transforming effects. When one realizes the effect that the French Revolution has on women like this in terms of the right to inherit, in terms of the abolition of feudalism, when one thinks of the impact the Revolution has on women like this the inhabitants of the French colonies in terms of emancipation from slavery, then one may well say that this is a Revolution that has fundamentally transforming consequences that touches the lives of all people in France. It touches the lives of some people, in a horrible way, people whose lives are destroyed, whose lives are ended prematurely, who become counter-revolutionaries. But fundamentally this is a French revolution which succeeds, because it manages to achieve some of the deepest aspirations that people had, had in 1789, in terms not only of constitutional government and popular sovereignty, but in terms of the creation of a society which would be based on shared notions of dignity, of respect for the rights of others, of the right to worship as one chooses, of the right to be free, of artificial constraints that came with feudalism and with plantation society. The reason why the French Revolution remains so controversial however, is that all of those gains were won at a huge cost of life, not only through the Revolutionary wars but through civil war in the west of France, through huge loss of life and strife and division, that came with changes to the place of the Catholic church. And those unintended consequences in terms of division and violent conflict, are among the reasons why the French Revolution remains controversial and why we're all drawn still today to try and understand where it came from, why it developed in the way it did, and what sort of consequences it had for its people and for the people of the rest of the world. It fascinates us still.