Second Year: The French Revolution

Revolutionaries in Paris.
Before Second Year you might have known the French Revolution for one thing: the guillotine. This revolution saw the French overthrow (and eventually) behead their king and queen to form a new society based on liberty, equality and fraternity.

Besides the guillotine, the French Revolution is famous for another reason: the Reign of Terror. If you were even suspected of working against the revolution, you could have your head chopped off in no time. It was a dangerous time to live, but it sparked revolutionary thoughts all over Europe, even in Ireland.

The modern French flag comes from the revolution. The blue and red are based on the traditional colours of Paris, where most of the important events of the revolution took place.

Continue to the Irish 1798 Rebellion

Go back to the main Revolutions page, or Second Year 

Ordinary Level students should focus on the Special Topic, which is in *asterisks*.
  • The reasons for the French revolution. (The Three Estates, the National Assembly, Louis and Marie)
  • The storming of the Bastille: why did it happen?
  • The National Assembly and the Declaration of the Rights of Man.
  • War with Austria
  • *Robespierre and the Reign of Terror*
  • The Results of the French Revolution.

Click here for advice and tips on answering exam questions.


1. What was the Reign of Terror in France during the 1790s? (2011 HL)

2. Choose one of the revolutions from the period, 1771-1815, and give two causes of that
    revolution. (2009 HL)

3. Explain the following term: guillotine (2008 OL)


Q.5C, 2008 HL

Write an account of one of the following topics:    (12)

(i)     Causes of the American War of Independence.
(ii)    The Reign of Terror in France, September 1793 to July 1794.
(iii)   Reasons for the failure of the 1798 Rebellion in Ireland.


The same People in History questions covers all three of the countries you study in this section. There are two possible People in History questions for the Age of Revolutions. Don't worry about the years attached to the questions. They might vary, but they always mean the Age of Revolutions.

Because this is the French Revolution page, the answers below talk about France and Maximilien Robespierre. For America or Ireland, go to their pages.

A named leader involved in a revolution (America or France or Ireland) during the period 1771-1815
(2015 OL, 2012 HL, 2010 HL, 2010 OL, 2008 OL)

A supporter of a named revolutionary leader during the period 1770-1803 /
A person fighting in a revolution (in France, Ireland or America) during the Age of Revolutions 
(2006 HL, 2012 OL)

The execution of Robespierre (click to make bigger).
Place de la Bastille (in English)
Discover France has the history of the Bastille Castle. You might not know that when it was stormed, there were only 7 prisoners inside.

Newspaper Account of the Fall of the Bastille (in English)
This is an English translation of a newspaper account of what happened in Paris on 14 July, 1789.

Marie Antoinette
A site dedicated to Marie Antoinette. This site is openly biased, as the people who run it like her, but as long as you keep that in mind it's an interesting site to look around. The photo gallery is especially good.

Letter from Marie Antoinette to her mother, 1773
Read Marie in her own words here. It's from years before the revolution. Notice how much she writes about how the people love her and Louis.

The History of the Guillotine
Learn all about France's favourite execution weapon in the 1790s. 

The Reign of Terror (video) 
Watch a video on about the Reign of Terror.

The Reign of Terror
Robespierre said "Terror is nothing other than justice". Read all his year in power here