The French Revolution (French: Révolution française [ʁevɔlysjɔ̃ fʁɑ̃sɛːz]) began in May 1789 when the Ancien Régime was abolished in favour of a constitutional monarchy. Its replacement in September 1792 by the First French Republic led to the execution of Louis XVI in January 1793, and an extended period of political turmoil. This culminated in the appointment of Napoleon as First Consul in November 1799, which is generally taken as its end point. Many of its principles are now considered fundamental aspects of modern liberal democracy.The intellectual origins of the Revolution came from a global network of European and American 'patriots', who shared ideas and political principles, contacts accelerated by the American Revolution. Together, they marked the beginning of the Age of Revolution, which continued into the mid-19th century and impacted much of Europe and the Americas. However, the French quickly discarded the American Revolution as a reference point, and the two revolutions are generally viewed as distinct events, with different causes.Between 1700 and 1789, the French population increased from 18 million to 26 million, leading to large numbers of unemployed, accompanied by sharp increases in food prices caused by years of bad harvests. Widespread social distress led to the convocation of the Estates General in May 1789, the first since 1614. In June, the Estates were converted into a National Assembly, which swept away the existing establishment in a series of radical measures. These included the abolition of feudalism, state control of the Catholic Church and extending the right to vote.
The next three years were dominated by the struggle for political control, exacerbated by economic depression and social unrest. External powers like Austria, Britain and Prussia viewed the Revolution as a threat, leading to the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars in April 1792. Disillusionment with Louis XVI led to the establishment of the First French Republic on 22 September 1792, followed by his execution in January 1793. In June, an uprising in Paris replaced the Girondins who dominated the Assembly with a Committee of Public Safety under Maximilien Robespierre.
This sparked the Reign of Terror, an attempt to eradicate alleged "counter-revolutionaries"; by the time it ended in July 1794, over 16,600 had been executed in Paris and the provinces. As well as external enemies, the Republic faced a series of internal Royalist and Jacobin revolts; in order to deal with these, the Directory took power in November 1795. Despite military success, the cost of the war led to economic stagnation and internal divisions, and in November 1799, the Directory was replaced by the Consulate. This is generally viewed as marking the end of the Revolutionary period.
Many Revolutionary symbols such as La Marseillaise and phrases like Liberté, égalité, fraternité reappeared in other revolts, such as the 1917 Russian Revolution. Over the next two centuries, its key principles like equality would inspire campaigns for the abolition of slavery and universal suffrage. Its values and institutions dominate French politics to this day, and many historians regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in human history.