Contrary to popular thinking, the peasants were never the leaders of the French Revolution.
French Peasant Family (ca. 1700). The masses of France lived in deplorable conditions. The situation for most farmers, the majority of whom were peasants or serfs, was very difficult. Most owned no land, but instead worked as tenant farmers for large landowners.
By mid-17th century, much of the taxes were being extracted from these folk, and the burden increased until the late 19th century. The short period of their liberation during the Revolution gave small relief. Half lived on the verge of starvation during bad weather.
Portrait by artist-historian George Stuart.
Courtesy George S. Stuart.
Images © copyright by Peter d'Aprix