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1740s

The Enlightenment begins, a period of intellectual curiosity, scientific investigation and political philosophical debate

1740

War of the Austrian Succession, one of many wars leading to massive national debt for France

1748

Montesquieu publishes The Spirit of the Laws

1756

Seven Years' War with Britain and her colonies, which further exacerbates the French debt crisis

1762

Rousseau publishes The Social Contract

1774

August: Turgot becomes finance minister of France

August: after a period of division, the parlements are reorganised back into their original form

1775

April: American Revolutionary War (1775-1783) begins

June: Louis XVI crowned as king

1776

Finance minister Turgot dismissed by Louis XVI

October: Jacques Necker appointed minister of finances

1777

July: La Fayette volunteers to fight with American revolutionaries; becomes a general in their Continental Army

1778

February: France signs a military alliance with the American revolutionaries

July: Louis XVI formally declares war on Britain in support of the Americans, adding to the debt crisis

1781

Jacques Necker issues his misleading Compte Rendu, an account of the French financial situation

Necker dismissed by the king, at the suggestion of Marie-Antoinette

1782

Les Liaisons dangereuse published by de Laclos

1783

September: Treaty of Paris brings victory in the American Revolutionary War, though at great financial cost to France

1785

The Affair of the Diamond Necklace publicly embarrasses the royals, somewhat unfairly

1786

August: Calonne, the new finance minister, informs Louis that of the nation's imminent bankruptcy, proposing taxation reform

December: the Assembly of Notables is convened

1787

February: first Assembly of Notables meets and discusses the nation's financial status

March: Calonne publicly proposes tax reforms and is opposed by the Assembly of Notables

April: Louis attempts to break the stalemate by dismissing Calonne; he is replaced by Brienne

May: the first Assembly of Notables is dissolved

June: Brienne, the new finance minister, sends bills proposing tax reforms to the parlements

July: Parisian parlement rejects Brienne's legislative proposal for tax reform

August: The king dismisses the Paris and Bordeaux parlements, ordering them into exile

September: Brienne withdraws his reform package and settles instead for an extension of the vingtième

October: King allows parlements to be recalled and re-seated

November: the duc d'Orleans is exiled by lettre de cachetafter criticising the king's treatment of the parlements

1788

January: the parlement registers further loans but declares all lettres de cachet to be illegal

May: Two members of the Paris parlement are arrested for opposing the ministry's reforms

June: mobs riot and protest in Grenoble and Brittany, demanding the reinstatement of their local parlement

July: the beginning of rural harvests suggest poor years of agricultural production in 1788-9

August: Brienne schedules the Estates-General for May 1789, after learning that the state cannot repay loans

August: Brienne resigns and is replaced by Necker; critics of Brienne are released from arrest or exile

September: the parlement demands the Estates-General convene using the same procedures as its last meeting in 1614

October: Necker convenes another Assembly of Notables to discuss arrangements for the Estates-General

November: Society of Thirty formed, a group of liberal constitutionalists (including La Fayette, Sieyes, Talleyrand)

December: the second Assembly of Notables is dismissed after refusing to double the representation for the Third Estate

December: Necker and the king declare that the Third-Estate representation shall double, despite opposition from the Notables

1789

January: Sieyes publishes What is the Third Estate?

January: Louis commissions the writing and collation of cahiers de doleances, following the procedures of 1614

February: elections for delegates to the Estates-General begin throughout France

April 27: Gossip sparks the Reveillon and Henriot riots in Paris

May 5: Estates-General opens at Versailles; the First and Second Estates determine to vote by order, not by head

May 27: within the Third Estate delegates, Sieyes moves that the group affirms its constitutional and political powers

June 13: on invitation, several members of the clergy and aristocracy voluntarily choose to join the Third Estate

June 17: the Third Estate declares itself to be the National Assembly

June 20: after being locked out of a meeting hall, the Third Estate adopts the Tennis-Court Oath

June 23: Seance Royale; the king offers a 35-point program aimed at maintaining the three-estate hierarchy

June 24: more clergymen and nobles, including the Duc d'Orleans, cross the floor and side with the National Assembly

June 27: Louis XVI backs down and orders the other two estates to join with the Third Estate

June 30: crowd of 4,000 storms a prison on the left bank of the Seine, freeing dozens of mutinous soldiers

July: bread prices continue to soar, particularly in cities; most workers spend 80% of wages on bread alone

July 1: Louis XVI orders more troops to mobilise, particularly around Paris

July 2: public meetings at the Palais-Royal express great concern at the troop build-up

July 9: National Assembly reorganises itself and becomes the National Constituent Assembly

July 11: Necker dismissed by the king, prompting riots and sacking of monasteries and chateaux

July 11: La Fayette proposes that France adopt a 'Declaration of Rights', based on the American model

July 14: Bastille prison stormed and several officials (de Laulnay, Foulon, de Flesselle) murdered

July 13: the electors of Paris form a standing committee (commune) and a citizens' militia (the National Guard)

July 15: La Fayette appointed as commander of the National Guard

July 16: National Constituent Assembly insistson Necker's recall; Necker reappointed by the king

July 16: large numbers of royal troops headed towards Paris and Versailles are withdrawn

July 17: first signs of the Great Fear in rural France; National Constituent Assembly begins work on a constitutione

August 4: night-sitting of the National Constituent Assembly surrenders feudalism (the 'August Decrees')

August 11: abovreforms are ratified by the Assembly, with several less-radical amendments

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