A legacy is the long-term effect of something. A person or an event or a piece of writing from the past may still shape what people believe and how they live in society today.

The Declaration of the Rights of Man

One of the legacies of the French Revolution is a document called The Declaration of the Rights of Man, which became part of French law on 16 August 1789. This document was based on the ideas of Rousseau and the American Constitution. It promised freedom to the people of France. The document is about how people should live together in society, and it has had an impact on people all over the world. Some of its key principles were;

  • equality of the law
  • freedom of expression and religion
  • all people are presumed innocent until proven guilty

Inspiring other Political revolutions in Europe, paving the way to democracy

Political revolution in Europe began with the French Revolution. This revolution influenced the people in other European countries and political revolutions raged through Europe as people fought against the authority of kings. In 1848, France had yet another revolution that spread across Europe. These revolutions gave hope to societies where people were free and equal and made way for democracy in Europe as the 20th century.

To read more about the other European Revolutions visit our grade 10 archive on the topic.

In addition, the website chnm.gmu.edu has a great feature on the French Revolution. Importantly, if you click on ‘explore’ you will see a detailed section on the ‘Legacy of the French Revolution’. ‘The powerful influence of the French Revolution can be traced in the reactions of those who witnessed the event firsthand and in the strong emotions it has aroused ever since. For some, the French Revolution was a beacon of light that gave a world dominated by aristocratic privilege and monarchical tyranny a hope of freedom. Nineteenth-century revolutionaries and nationalists frequently harkened back to the days of 1789, sometimes even taking up the names, terms, colors, and rituals of the original French Revolution. Twentieth-century revolutionaries looked to 1789 as a kind of template for revolutionary events. If Robespierre could come on the heels of Lafayette and he, in turn, could give way to Napoleon, then might modern revolutions inevitably follow a similar scripted path, toward authoritarianism? Did revolutions always begin with hope and enthusiasm only to turn violently radical and then permit an authoritarian, even dictatorial figure, to seize power? Were revolutions like some sort of political fever, with distinct symptoms? Scholars and political activists continue to argue these questions. Yet no matter what their interpretation, the lessons and impact of the Revolution continue to be at the heart of several different historical and contemporary political debates’.– From the website chnm.gmu.edu last accessed November 2011.

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