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The Revolution, though, is a ripping good story. It also affected the largest population in Europe and so shook Europeans to the core of their being. Over 20% of Europe's population lived in France, and every European agreed that France was the central power of Europe. For such a large and powerful country to fall precipitously into such dark and violent change terrified everyone in Europe; the universal condemnation of the Revolution led to a flurry of introspection. The pain of the process, however, this long, difficult process of remaking society into a non-monarchical, industry-based society, would continue well into the 1940's and beyond.
It soon became clear, however, that the French Revolution posed a major threat to other European states. The revolution itself threatened to spill over into neighboring states and the French were actively encouraging this; the European powers also worried about having a republican state in their midst, one that was tremendously powerful and committed to the notion of exporting this new government into surrounding territories. In addition, some of the royal houses were related to the Bourbons or to Marie Antoinette. In particular, Leopold II of Austria was committed to restoring his sister, Marie Antoinette, and her husband to the throne.
On August 27, 1791, Austria and Prussia issued the Declaration of Pillnitz. This Declaration committed the two countries to restoring the monarchy in France and declared war on the country. By 1792, Britain had joined the war. This counter-revolutionary alliance would light the fire beneath the Revolution and it would, as a result, enter a new, more radical terrifying, stage.
In the summer of 1792, disaffection with the Revolution was growing among the lower classes, especially the peasantry. The Revolution, after all, had been staged by the middle class and the wealthier members of the Third Estate; most of the reforms, especially the economic reforms, benefited only these two groups. In many ways, life had become harder for the lower classes. Agricultural enclosure threw many peasants off their farms and into the arms of starvation; economic reforms had spurred tremendous growth in industries, but had also resulted in wildly fluctuating prices and rampant inflation. You might say that bread was the fuel that fired the Revolution, for just about every major turning point got its start in some civil unrest over the price of bread.
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