What is the Third Estate? What Role Did it Play in Revolution?
The Third Estate was the social class under the Old Regime, represented by peasants. The struggles the representatives of the Third Estate had were the causes of the French Revolution.
Three estates, also known as estates of the realm, were orders of the hierarchy of society used in Christian Europe between the medieval period and the early modern one. They were a part of the system of the French Old Regime, also known as Ancien Régime. The system of three estates existed up until the French Revolution, which happened between the end of 1780th and the end of 1790th.
The First Estate was presented by clergy, the Second Estate were nobles, and the Third Estate represented peasants and bourgeoisie. The people belonging to this estate were also known as commoners. In other words, the representatives of the Third Estate were poor, while the clergy (or the First Estate) forced them to pay dues.
Notably, the people of the Third Estate constituted around 98% of the whole population of the country, making this society group the largest one. The depiction of this estate is presented in the image below. In the picture, an individual belonging to the Third Estate is carrying the burden of other estates.
It is crucial to mention that the Third Estate, due to its size, was a highly diverse group of the population. It included people of various classes and economic advantages, occupations, and ideas. Some of them were shopkeepers, others including struggling individuals that did not have enough money to support themselves. Other estates were not as diverse, particularly because they consisted of fewer people, and their representatives were all individuals of a higher social class.
As mentioned above, the Third Estate was one of the largest estates at the time. However, it played no role in the decision-making process, as it could not affect the government’s choices during the period of the Ancien Regime. In simple words, one can say that the clergy had money and the peasants wanted it which led to the conflict.
It is clear that the people of this estate were not treated well compared to the ones belonging to the first and the second ones. As a results of sufferings and frustrations the representatives of the Third Estate experienced, the French Revolution began.
Based on this fact, one can say that the Third Estate played a pivotal role in the Revolution. The estate’s deputies transformed into a National Assembly in 1789, which marked the beginning of the French Revolution. Commoners, including manufacturers, merchants, and people of other occupations, wanted to gain political power.
Peasants, in their turn, wanted to have full rights landowners had and have an ability to enhance their holdings. Moreover, the population of Europe had increased significantly, which created demand for goods and food. If all of these factors did not occur, the world history could have been different. However, as a result of these issues, the French Revolution began as a result of these factors and a political crisis of the time.