How would you atomise this note?

I find figuring out at what level to atomise notes quite challenging to understand, and I’d appreciate it if some people in this wonderful community can look and a note I made and provide guidance on how to split it up. I always find there is a tradeoff between ease of reading (this sample note is for an exam I have coming up, and it’s useful to read through it in whole easily) and ability to create links between notes.

Why Did the French Revolution Occur?

Political Causes

  • The three estate system was being question, with enlightenment ideas spreading.
  • France was the only absolute monarchy left in western europe
  • [[Louis XVI]] was not respected
    • Greatly influenced by others
    • Wife, Marie Antoinette, from Austria, was unpopular
      • known as ‘Madame Deficit’ for her unnecessary spending
  • the Estates General meeting was always going to not be fair towards the 3rd estate, as each estate got one vote, instead of being proportional to population

Tennis Court Oath

  • June 20, 1789
  • Six weeks of meetings occurred. When the ‘deputies’ of the 3rd estate arrived the doors were locked.
  • the deputies met in a tennis court nearby
  • declared themselves the ‘National Assembly’ and made an oath to enact the will of the people
  • National Assembly held meetings and began to run the country
  • formed a national guard to enforce laws/fight Louis’ troops

Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen

  • The National Assembly adopted a manifesto called the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.
  • It directly challenged the authority of Louis XVI, calling for an end of tyranny, the formation of a representative government and a series of individual rights protected by law
  • Written by Marquis de Lafayette (who had been a key player in the American Revolution)
  • Inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence

The End of the Monarchy

  • Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were held prisoners in the Tuileries Palace in Paris.
  • On the night of June 20th, 1791, Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette and their children fled the palace to try to make it to Austria, in order to gather support from Marie Antoinette’s country of birth.
  • They snuck out of the palace in Paris disguised as servants and took a carriage towards Austria but they were recognised in a town called Varennes and forced back to Paris.

Economical Causes

France was essentially bankrupt and didn’t have enough money to support it’s population after the costly [[seven year’s war]], as well as aide sent to help the [[american revolution]].
The king owed money to many other countries which was borrowed to finance the above war, and decided to raise taxes on everyone but the 2nd estate, which he was a part of. This inequality was one of the main reasons the 3rd estate (peasants) rose up against the 1st and 2nd estates. King Louis put in place a policy of ‘deficit spending’ ie spending more than they receive from taxes.

Dismissal of Nekar

[[Louis XVI]]’s economic advisor was dismissed by the king. Jacques Nekar’s policies included:

  1. it was the government’s duty to make sure there was bread (food) for all citizens
  2. 1st and 2nd estates should be taxed as well as the 3rd estate in order to get France out of debt
  3. The king should call a meeting of the Estates General (first time in 175 years)

These policies made him very popular amongst the people (3rd estate). When he was dismissed, “A wax head was carried through the streets to honour Nekar. When Royal guards refused to salute Nekar’s wax head and opened fire on the people. This was the first bloodshed of the Revolution and led to the Storming of the Bastille 3 days later.”

Social Causes

There wasn’t any social mobility (moving from one estate to another

The 3 Estates

  1. First Estate
  2. 130,000 Clergy
  3. No tax
  4. Followed church law
  5. controlled education and censorship of press
  6. Second Estate
  7. 110,000 Nobles
  8. No tax
  9. collected feudal payments from 3rd estate as income from 3rd estate
  10. Third Estate
  11. 25,000,000 Peasants
  12. Paid all of the taxes and tithes

There was a growing Bourgeoisie (Middle class in the 3rd estate) that could read but since they had no social mobility, was stuck doing menial labour. This increased literacy meant that lower class people started reading about revolutionary ideas.
Soldiers returning from fighting in the [[American Revolution]] spread the news of how a revolution could succeed, which inspired the french.

Storming the Bastille

  • July 14, 1789
  • Regarded as the start of the French Revolution
  • 1,000 revolutionaries stormed the Bastille, where gunpowder/ammunition was stored, and political prisoners were housed
  • The governor of the Bastille, DeLaunay had his head paraded around a pike.

The Great Fear

  • After the storming of the Bastille, rebellion spread from Paris to the countryside
  • Rumours spread that nobles were hiring outlaws to terrorise peasants
  • this caused panic known as the Great Fear
  • Peasants armed themselves with farming equipment and caused civil unrest (stormed noble’s home’s, destroying legal papers, burning things)

March to Versailles

  • October 5, 1789
  • Thousands of women joined in the march to Versailles
  • Armed with knives and axes, they broke into the palace and demanded the king and queen returned to Paris
  • With King and Queen in Paris, they essentially became prisoners of the city which signified a change of power, with the King not being the one in charge of everything
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For me the correct level of atomicity depends on how i wanna exploit and link the knowledge later on. In this particular case you talk about a certain number of historical events who happen to be identified as cause for the french resolution.

If I expect that I want to reuse those events independently (to put them for example on a timeline), or refer to them in another note as cause or consequence of other events, or that there might even be a level of causality between them, that I might want to present them as a table listing dates, number of death, or type “political event”, “economical event”, then I would think about those as separate “event” notes, that might be engaged in causality or other relation with other notes (and they could still appear embedded in your french revolution note through transclusion).

So the “correct” level mostly depend on what kind of queries you want your knowledge base to be able to answer, and how you expect to reuse the different elements in different context without having to copy/paste several times the same thing in different note, preventing you from “discovering” how things might be linked.


Why do you believe you have to atomize this particular note?

In reading thru the note, it is quite distinct about its focus - and the title states this.

If this were me, I’d give it a yaml tag properties - #frenchrevolution #history #france

If, for example, Thomas Jefferson was a person you wanted to make into notes later, surround his name into a link [[Thomas Jefferson]].

If this note had more content about stuff that was not directly FR related, that would be fodder to bust out into other notes.

I don’t know much about French Revolution so I made up few things in between.

The idea behind atomic notes is - they should make a point and can be useful on their own as a thought, or in your case, a fact. Luhmann used A6 size index cards, that can fit unto 150 words, so one should try to write atomic notes within this limit. If it cannot be then write multiple independent notes, linked to each other.

Once atomic notes are written, you would like to have a structure note, which is kind of generating an insight note and placing it within your navigation, which means, this insight/structure note can go into index, Map of Contents note (which goes into a higher map of content) or whatever structure you follow to link into your atomic notes. The idea is atomic notes stated the facts, and your own narrative stated the insights.

Finally, the notes should be referenced such that you, yourself as a reader, should have a reason to follow the link further. You wrote the link is not the reason enough, will someone else follow the link?

If you need to skim through your own notes, below is good read. If you need to go into details, you can either follow the links, or, you can go straight into atomic notes without reading the insight below.

French revolution happened during the years of 1789-1790, when the population of France overthrew the monarchy and became a democratic republic.

In those days, it was not easy to organise and lead large number of people, it was a feat to overthrow the monarchy. What made the peasants take up such an act? [[20230828 Politcal Causes| Political Causes]] and the [[20230828 Economical Causes|Economical Situation]]

To understand the reasons, one first needs to know how the society was [[20230828 Three Estates|structured in France]]. There wasn’t any social mobility (moving from one estate to another). There was a growing Bourgeoisie [[20230828 Three Estates|(Middle class in the 3rd estate)]] that could read but since they had no social mobility, was stuck doing menial labour. This increased literacy meant that lower class people started reading about revolutionary ideas.

Soldiers returning from fighting in the [[American Revolution]] spread the news of how a revolution could succeed, which inspired the French.

The foundation of the revolution were laid at an interesting place - [[20230828 Tennis Court Oath|a tennis court]]. This event led to formation of the National Assembly on June 20, 1789, and adoption of a manifesto called [[20230828 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen|Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen]]

It was not the formation of the National Assembly that sparked the revolution, rather [[20230828 Dismissal of Nekar|dismissal of Nekar]], which helped fan the dissent amongst [[20230828 Three Estates|the 3rd estate]]. The revolution started with [[20230828 Storming the Bastille|Storming the Bastille]], which was followed by [[20230828 The Great Fear|The Great Fear]].

Soon after there was [[20230828 March to Versailles|March to Versailles]] on Oct 5, 1789 which led to [[20230828 The End of the Monarchy|The End of the Monarchy]]


That’s really helpful, thank you!

I would call this note “The Reason the French Revolution Occured”.

Then, to link to it, I would add something like this to a note:
This is similar to [[The Reason the French Revolution Occured|the reason the French Revolution occured]].

Atomic notes can be as large as this.

Each reason would then be branched off from this idea.

The principle is, if an idea is in its own note, it’s:

  1. Able to be linked to; and
  2. Able to host its own links to other things.

If it’s not in its own note, it’s not able to do those things.

If that functionality is not important to you, then leave the information in this note, otherwise it might be worth extracting these ideas out over time.

Atomic Ideas:

  1. Enlightenment ideas challenge the three-estate system in France.
  2. France is the last absolute monarchy in Western Europe.
  3. Louis XVI’s lack of respect and influence.
  4. Marie Antoinette’s unpopularity and extravagant spending.
  5. Unfair representation in the Estates General.
  6. The Tennis Court Oath establishes the National Assembly.
  7. Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen challenges Louis XVI’s authority.
  8. Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette’s attempted escape and subsequent return.
  9. France’s economic struggles and debt.
  10. King Louis XVI’s unequal taxation policy.
  11. Dismissal of economic advisor Jacques Necker.
  12. Social immobility and divisions among estates.
  13. Influence of American Revolution on revolutionary ideas.
  14. Storming of the Bastille as the Revolution’s start.
  15. Spread of rebellion beyond Paris during the Great Fear.
  16. Peasants arming themselves during the Great Fear.
  17. March to Versailles and its significance.

Key Insights (graded by importance):

  1. Enlightenment challenges to the three-estate system (9/10).
  2. Establishment of the National Assembly via the Tennis Court Oath (8/10).
  3. Louis XVI’s dismissal of Necker and its consequences (7/10).
  4. Socioeconomic inequality and tax policies leading to unrest (8/10).
  5. Storming of the Bastille and its symbolic importance (9/10).
  6. Spread of rebellion to the countryside during the Great Fear (6/10).
  7. March to Versailles and its impact on the monarchy’s power (7/10).


  1. Enlightenment ideas challenged the entrenched three-estate system, sparking a fundamental shift in societal norms and expectations, propelling the revolution forward.
  2. The Tennis Court Oath marked a pivotal moment as the National Assembly formed, asserting the people’s will against the monarchy’s authority.
  3. The dismissal of Necker, an economic advisor, resulted in popular support and paved the way for further revolutionary actions.
  4. Economic disparities and unjust tax policies fueled by the monarchy’s extravagant spending ignited unrest and pushed peasants to demand change.
  5. The Bastille’s storming symbolized the Revolution’s start, with revolutionary fervor taking hold as the people sought to dismantle oppressive institutions.
  6. The Great Fear’s spread of rebellion beyond Paris underscored the widespread dissatisfaction and desire for change across the nation.
  7. The march to Versailles marked a critical shift as the monarchy’s power waned, signifying a shift towards a more people-centered authority.

Thank you for your input. The answer above is a test run of my prompt framework I‘m just evaluating: How do you use AI to create notes for Zettelkasten?

To amplify @tobei 's thought above, I have found it more useful to think in terms of modular notes rather than atomic notes. “Atomic” implies the note should be framed at the lowest possible level of organization. Conversely, “modular” emphasizes the function of the note as unitary building block contextualized in a wider building project. The latter framing leaves open the possibility that the scope and specificity of the note is flexible, depending on whatever choice is most convenient for treating the relevant idea as a modular unit for use in constructing a wider network of linked ideas.

Accordingly, the specificity or scope of a note should be determined by reference to its intended function as a modular unit of thought that is referenced by other notes, as is relevant in one’s own overarching system of thought.

I’m also pondering the best way to make some of my notes more atomic, and not monolithic, like I’ve done, and I also don’t want to make them atomic just for the sake of it, so I think the approach @tobei is taking here is good. If you want to reuse part of that note, then remove that part and make it in a note of its own. When to do that? I would probably do it when I need it, since otherwise I realised I spend too much time figuring out if a note should be broken up, rather than actually working on notes. HTH.