The period prior to the French Revolution in 1789 has been labeled the Ancien Regime. This "blanket term" refers to the social and political arrangements of the fifty years leading up to the revolution, and can only be used when comparing the new times to those of the old. The Ancien Regime, which is characterized by the faults and abuses of the time, contained several circumstances that created enough tension to push for a revolutionary change. Combined with the constant battle with Britain and the strive for world hegemony, the awareness of national inadequacy, and heavy taxation, the fall of the Ancien Regime saw a revolutionary process unique to the French at that time.
France's struggle with long time enemy Britain began in 1689 and went on until late 1815. Upon entering the War of the Austrian Succession in 1740, the French knew that their goal of world hegemony was beyond their reach, and the French willingly backed down to the British as the worlds super power. The French faced great defeat in the war by the British and consequently suffered many losses. Following the conclusion of the war in 1748, the French social and political structure was severely scrutinized and compared against that of the British, a nation who had achieved their military goals. France then tried to adopt and follow the ways of the British, even going as far to take social and political ideas from their philosophers into their period of Enlightenment.
French philosopher Voltaire said it best when he described the feelings of the people of France leading up to the Revolution as a "civil war in every soul". This "civil war" was the people's inner conflict of their attachment to the old order, and the realization that it would no longer work. There emerged a revolutionary ideology that came not from revolutionaries or philosophers, but from those of the ruling class, who would share their thoughts and ideas in the Paris salons.