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The French Revolution: Radical and Authoritarian Phases

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The French Revolution: Radical and Authoritarian Phases. The initial reforms provoked aristocratic and church resistance, causing civil war in some regions. Foreign regimes opposed the new government. The pressures led to a takeover of the revolution by more radical groups. The monarchy was abolished and the king executed; internal enemies of the regime were purged during the Reign of Terror. The new rulers, led by Robespierre, wished to extend reforms, calling for universal male suffrage and broad social reform. The metric system was introduced, and all citizens became subject to military service. The invaders of France were driven out, and revolutionary fervor spread to other European nations. The radical leadership of the revolution fell in 1795, and more moderate government followed. The final phase of the revolution appeared when a leading general, Napoleon Bonaparte, converted the revolutionary republic into an authoritarian empire. Napoleon confirmed many of the revolution’s accomplishments, including religious liberty and equality under the law for men. Napoleon concentrated on foreign expansion; France, by 1812, dominated most of western Europe except for Britain. Popular resistance in Portugal and Spain, a disastrous invasion of Russia, and British intervention crushed Napoleon’s empire by 1815. The ideals of the revolution—equality under the law, the attack on privileged institutions, popular nationalism—survived the defeat.

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