French Revolution exam question: Assembly of Notables

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Exam task

Section A Question 1/2 – French Revolution


“Using three or four points explain how the Assembly of Notables contributed to a revolutionary situation to May 1789.”

Student response

“The Assembly of Notables essentially weakened Louis’ authority in a time of crisis and thus had serious ramifications politically, socially and financially. Firstly, The Assembly of Notables refused to endorse Calonne’s proposed tax reforms, suggesting that they did not have the authority, which meant that the financial crisis remained unsolved. Secondly, they demanded to see the state of finances, in open defiance to the King’s authority. The failure of the Assembly led to Brienne attempting to pass through the reforms through the parlements in May 1787. However the parlements also refused, resulting in even greater tension between aristocrats and the monarchy. Thus, Louis dismissed them in August 1787 and recalled them in September, indicative of his political indecision, before attempting a lit de justice in November which was an attempt to force through the reforms. The subsequent response of the parlements was to declare the revolutionary “Fundamental Laws of the Kingdom” in May 1788 which earned them the support of the bourgeoisie and the Third Estate. This revolutionary proclamation compelled Louis to arrest the members of parelements in all provinces, culminating in the day of Tiles in June 1788 which led to the breakdown of royal authority and the triumph of the urban workers and the parlements. Hence, Brienne was forced to announce the calling of an Estates General in May 1789 as the government was desperate to stabilise finances. Thus, the Assembly of Notables was the first instance of open defiance towards Louis, leading to further political and social unrest, weakening his power and finally to the important Estates General.”

Teacher feedback

This response contains the foundations of a good answer. It remains focused on the question and the key topic (the Assembly of Notables). It begins by explaining how the Assembly of Notables contributed to the revolution, then introduces some relevant and clearly scaffolded points. There is some room for improvement, however. There needed to be some more focus on the Assembly of Notables itself, rather than the parlements. What was the Assembly of Notables? Who made up the Notables and what were their political views? Why did they block the proposed fiscal reforms? A fuller response would have considered these issues. This response would score in the region of 6-7 out of 10.

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