Till now I had the view that Third Estate was of mostly peasants and small tradesman and consequently had low economy but today I found these lines in Interpreting the French Revolution by Francois Furet

Was the French Revolution indeed inevitable? In order to view it as such, all one has to do is reconstitute the flow of the movement toward it and that of the resistance it encountered and then set up, precisely in 1789, the shock that resolved the contradiction. On one side one places a stupid monarchy and an egotistical nobility, linked by common interests as well as by reactionary policies and ideologies. One the other, the rest of civil society, led, indeed carried along, by a rich, ambitious and frustrated bourgeoisie.

I have assumed that by “bourgeoise“ he meant the Third Estate, but were those people rich?

  • 5
    Define "rich"? Not just in relative terms ("rich" only has meaning in comparison to someone else - were the bourgeoise richer than other members of the third estate - absolutely! in comparison to the first or second estate? less likely), but in contemporary terms - they had money, but not land. If one argues that the revolution was driven by the transition of a land based wealth /food rent to a money based wealth/capitalist economy, then the argument makes sense. But there are too many undefined terms to contemplate an answer.
    – MCW
    Nov 14, 2020 at 19:10
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    This is an ill-posed question since the 3rd estate was heterogeneous. The vast majority (over 80%) were poor peasants, but at the other extreme were members of "haute bourgeoisie" some of whom were as rich as the members of the 1st estate. Nov 14, 2020 at 22:06
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    There is always a group of people, who, by their arrogance, trying to shut every question down and making this site as useless as possible.
    – user117640
    Nov 14, 2020 at 23:16
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    @user117640: the entire point of the stackExchange sites is that they are community driven. Our moderators on History are, if anything, hesitant to assertively shut down questions; and careful only to cast the final vote for closing or deletion. If you are unhappy participating in a site encouraging broad community participation: you are always free to create your own site with your own rules, and yourself as sole moderator Nov 14, 2020 at 23:52
  • @MoisheKohan I think you have the 1st and 2nd estates mixed up.
    – C Monsour
    Nov 15, 2020 at 2:01

2 Answers 2


The Third Estate was basically everyone except the clergy and the nobility. Therefore it also had rising merchants in it who became rich by their trade. These are the people who are commonly called the bourgeoisie. The lower classes often choose them as their leaders during rebellions.

You have to understand that in the early middle ages, wealth didn't determine you status. Herritage and social prestige did it which expressed itself in the classes of nobility and clergy. Money was not that important and making a lot of money with trade was often condemmed as fraudulent by the church. The activities of the merchants were heavily regulated and kind of suppressed. That they became politically powerful only evoled over time as culture began to change together with commercialisation and the development of money, trade and the banking system.

  • Complicating matters is that the rich often bought their way into the nobility for the tax benefits.
    – Mary
    Nov 15, 2020 at 0:47
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    It’s really a good answer. Thanks for your comment in the main question. Nov 15, 2020 at 6:44
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    Sources would improve this answer. Nov 15, 2020 at 8:03
  • @Lars Bosteen : There are many books about these topics. I'll think about good ones.
    – user117640
    Nov 17, 2020 at 6:25

Off the top of my head, three well known leaders of the Jacobins are:

Having sufficient means as to allow extended stays in Paris during the Estates General was not common; so yes, in general the representatives of the Third Estate tended to be both men of both social standing and good income.

The financial means necessary to attend varied of course with distance from Paris, but as today those selected to represent the third Estate tended to be those of greater than average social standing, in turn generally associated with being well-off and well-known.

  • You know that there were riots going on at that time? Having no house to stay was the last problem these people had.
    – user117640
    Nov 14, 2020 at 23:21

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