Friday, October 01, 2010

Hailstones = French Revolution

I can hardly believe it's true but it does sound like hail was one of the contributing causes to France's Republic.

In July 1788 a gigantic hailstorm destroyed crops in France, leading to the worst harvest in 40 years. Due to the shortage of grain, prices for bread skyrocketed, leading to malnutrition, famine and disease. The peasantry was already suffering under high unemployment and the country was almost bankrupt thanks to various wars fought by Louis XV.

When aid from the nobles wasn't forthcoming and the upper classes spent lavishly on food and luxury goods, the lower classes grew resentful. And so began the French Revolution with Robespierre, guillotines, riots, tricoteuses (female knitters who watched guillotine executions) and most notably, the Reign of Terror.

Of course, the causes and details of the Revolution are far more complex than what I've laid out but it's strange to think what effect a little frozen water had on a country and its class system.


Anonymous said...

The King was Louis XVI and the hailstorm did not begin the Revolution but exacerbated the tension and expectation of the people leading up to the Estates-General (opened May 5, 1789) which was called for by the Assembly of Notables (which opened in February, 1787).

theduckthief said...

Hi, if you read my post I don't say that the hailstorm began the Revolution but it was likely 'one of the contributing causes to France's Republic.'

Starvation was a big factor in causing unrest among the peasant population.