World History Lecture Nine

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As Christianity continued to grow in the 1700s, many around the world came to the same conclusion: they wanted their own country rather than taking orders from a king. But kings resisted these demands for independence by the people, and revolutions became necessary to overthrow kings.

During the 1600s in England, there was some of the worst religious persecution in the history of the world, as Protestants harshly persecuted each other and there was also continuous conflict between Protestants and Catholics. The conflict between Anglicans and Puritans in England was particularly severe, causing many Puritans to flee to New England. (In the United States the Anglican Church is known as the Episcopal Church, due to a name change that resulted from the American Revolution.) Quakers were also persecuted in England, and William Penn founded the state of Pennsylvania in the late 1600s after being persecuted in England for his Quaker faith. In 1688, a “bloodless” revolution known as the “Glorious Revolution” replaced a rare Catholic English King (James II) with a King and Queen who were Anglican (William and Mary).

In the 1700s, all the revolutions were quite bloody, entailing violence and great losses of life and limbs. Nearly every region of the world saw violent revolutions. There was the American Revolution, which began with bloodshed in 1775 (Lexington and Concord and the ride of Paul Revere), and then the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, and ultimately the conclusion with the Treaty of Paris in 1783. There were also many other revolutions, including ones in Mexico, Haiti, South America, China and France. We will learn about all of them here, spending most of our time on the French Revolution.

Beginning in 1800, a new leader had a dramatic effect on Europe: Napoleon Bonaparte, known to the world as simply Napoleon. He possessed a combination of military genius, unlimited ambition, leadership and a brilliant mind like Alexander the Great of the ancient Greek world. Napoleon had an ambition and drive that were so great that the term “Napoleon complex” is still used today to describe a power-hungry, diminutive person intent on taking over everything in sight. But just as Alexander the Great could not capture India and the Mongols could not take Japan, Napoleon could not conquer Russia in the wintertime. Over a century later, the German Adolf Hitler also failed in a similar attempt. Once Napoleon failed, other nations in Europe began to rise in power.

Some monarchs (kings or queens) avoided or delayed revolutions by becoming “enlightened despots” in order to conform to the Enlightenment ideas of good government. These rulers attempted or pretended to put the well-being of the people and the state ahead of the monarchs’ own preferences. Examples were Catherine the Great of Russia, Frederick II (the Great) of Prussia (the most powerful of the German states), and the Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II of Austria. Often these reforms included some freedom of religion and speech, as allowed by Joseph II and Frederick the Great. Catherine the Great continued to modernize Russia as Peter the Great had done, but she also participated with Prussia and Austria in carving up Poland in the First, Second and Third Partitions (1772, 1793 and 1795) such that Poland did not exist again as a separate nation until after World War I. In addition, Catherine the Great gave increased power to the Russian nobles over the serfs in order to appease the nobles.

Religious Conflict in England

In the 1600s, the major European countries adhered to the doctrine of “divine right of kings,” holding that the authority of a king came from God. But in England, unlike the countries in continental Europe, a system of government known as a "constitutional monarchy" required the king to obey the law and share power with the Parliament, after the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688. In all the other countries the king (or queen) typically did whatever he (or she) wanted.

The sharing of power between the King of England and the Parliament caused continual conflict, some of it religious in nature. The religious disagreements between the Church of England, the Puritans, the Quakers and other Christian faiths caused many to flee to the new colonies in America to establish religious communities free from persecution in England. But notice that many of these Christian denominations, such as the Puritans,[1] did not believe in religious freedom for others any more than the Church of England did.

After the founder of the Church of England (King Henry VIII) died in 1547, there were three noteworthy monarchs: Elizabeth I, James I and Charles I. Queen Elizabeth took the throne in 1558, about a decade after King Henry VIII, and remains the most popular English monarch in history. She ruled for nearly 45 years, until her death in 1603, and had two remarkable accomplishments: she deftly managed Parliament and many religious conflicts, and she crushed the massive Spanish Armada that attempted to invade England in 1588. A Protestant who was eventually excommunicated by the Catholic Church, Elizabeth obtained the “Religious Settlement” from Parliament in 1559 that funded the Church of England and set many rules for it (like the ability of its clergy to marry) that remain to this day. Queen Elizabeth’s successful rule is known as the “Elizabethan Age.”

Queen Elizabeth was known as the “Virgin Queen” as she never married. It was during her reign that Sir Walter Raleigh received a charter to establish the first English settlement in North America. This first charter named the region “Virginia” in 1584 in honor of the “Virgin Queen.”[2]

Queen Elizabeth had no heirs. After her death in 1603, her cousin James Stuart, King James VI of Scotland, took the English throne as James I. The King James Version of the Bible, first published in 1611, was the magnificent English translation funded by his reign. This stunning work greatly influenced the development of the English language for centuries to come. But unlike Elizabeth, James I fought frequently with Parliament.

It was during the reign of James I in 1605 that the “Gunpowder Plot” was discovered. It supposedly consisted of a conspiracy to assassinate the Anglican King James I, and his ministers, at the State Opening of Parliament by exploding barrels of gunpowder placed in the cellar of the building. Amazingly, perhaps too remarkable to be believed, the barrels of gunpowder were "discovered" just in time beforehand, and Catholic Guy Fawkes was executed along with other Catholics for an alleged conspiracy. The Oxford Dictionary of World History notes the possibility that the Protestant statesman Robert Cecil (who helped install James I to the throne) “manufactured the plot” to influence public opinion at a time of religious conflict.[3] In other words, the whole thing could have been a setup in order make a scapegoat out of Guy Fawkes and his colleagues. But Englishmen continue to commemorate this "discovery" of the "plot" annually on November 5th, with festivities that include bonfires, fireworks and the burning of effigies.

Charles I became the king in 1625 and conflicts worsened between the Crown and Parliament. Charles I needed funding in 1628, but Parliament refused unless Charles signed the Petition of Right. This important document would have limited the powers of the king in four significant ways. The king could no longer imprison people without good reason, or force people to house soldiers in their private homes, or impose taxes without the consent of Parliament, or impose martial (military) law during peacetime. The king’s power would be greatly weakened by this Petition. Charles accepted the Petition, but refused to abide by it.

Charles also refused to give religious freedom to Puritans in England and Presbyterians in Scotland. This and a dispute over the power of the royalty led to the religious "English Civil War" from 1642 to 1651, whereupon the Puritan leader Oliver Cromwell emerged victorious. King Charles was then tried and publicly executed. This was the first execution of a king by his own people in history, setting an example that future revolutions imitated. Another result of the English Civil War is that the Church of England (Anglicans) lost power and other Christian denominations could then grow there.

An example of the harsh religious conflict in England under Charles I was the experience of the Puritan William Prynne (1600-69). He wrote and distributed pamphlets, including his famous pamphlet Histrio Mastix (1632) that attacked stage-plays liked by Queen Henrietta Maria. Prynne’s writings caused him to be tried before the monarch’s Star Chamber and, of course, he was convicted in that unfair tribunal. (To this day the term “Star Chamber” refers to an inherently unjust proceeding.) The sentence of Prynne in 1634 was an extremely harsh life imprisonment and also the cropping of his ears (removal of part of his ears to disfigure him).

But Prynne, even with his ears cropped, continued to write pamphlets. In 1637 he was further punished by branding the remainder of his ears. In 1640, the Long Parliament limited the absolute power of the monarch and freed Prynne. He was then even elected to Parliament in 1648. But in December 1648 the English army (led by the Puritan Colonel Thomas Pride) held a coup that excluded more than 100 members of Parliament, who were supporters of Charles I, from the House of Commons. That was known as “Pride’s Purge.” The remaining “rump” Parliament then assembled without these excluded members, and this allowed the execution of King Charles I. With all the fighting and religious persecution, it is easy to see why some Puritans decided to come to America during this time rather than stay in England!

After defeating Charles I, Oliver Cromwell initially founded the “Commonwealth” (1649-53), which was a republican form of government. But like other future revolutionaries, Cromwell then decided simply to rule as a military dictator with the title of Lord Protector (but not a “king”), which he did until his death in 1658. Most revolutions simply replace one form of dictatorship with another. The shining exception was the American Revolution, as its leader (George Washington) voluntarily gave up his power for the good of the people.

To this day Cromwell is loved by many in England, but hated by others. The Irish, which suffered from his brutality in Ireland, vilify Cromwell. Royalists, or those who love the English monarchy, also hated Cromwell and even dug up his corpse to behead him when the monarchy regained power. The anger against Cromwell was so great that his severed head was displayed outside Westminster Abbey for over 20 years, from 1661 to 1685, and the remainder of his corpse thrown into a disgraceful pit.

After Cromwell passed away peacefully in London, his son Richard became Lord Protector. But Richard was extremely ineffective and indecisive. He was replaced by the older son of King Charles I, who had been executed as part of the English Civil War. Charles II returned from exile to take the throne, and instituted the Restoration (of the monarchy) in 1660. Richard Cromwell was allowed to retire to his estate in Huntingdonshire (perhaps a sign that the monarchy had nothing to fear from him). King Charles II ruled from 1660 until his death in 1685, during which he established the rights of prisoners not to be held unless there was a good reason. This was the Habeas Corpus Act, passed in 1679, which became a basic right under the U.S. Constitution, Article One, Section Nine (“The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”). Also during the reign of Charles II the first political parties developed, known as the Whigs, a party which favored free trade, limits on the power of the monarch and tolerance of non-conformist protestants, and the Tories, an aristocratic party which supported the King and the Church of England.

James II, a Catholic, was the second son of Charles I and succeeded Charles II to the throne. The Catholic-Anglican conflict had been ongoing for over a hundred years, and many Protestants were unhappy about having a Catholic rule the country. Even now in England there are laws prohibiting a Catholic or a person married to a Catholic from becoming King or Queen. In 1688, the Protestants in Parliament asked Mary, the Protestant daughter of James II, to rule England (and Scotland) along with her Protestant husband William of Orange. James II was forced to flee to France, where he died in exile in 1701.

This transfer in power during 1688-1689 became known as the “Glorious Revolution,” or the bloodless revolt. But while the ouster of James II itself was bloodless, it was incited in part by the execution of 300 persons (and sale into slavery of another 800) who participated in the 1685 revolt against James II. This revolt is known as (Duke) Monmouth’s Rebellion.

William and Mary were the only “joint sovereigns” in British history such that each had equal power, because usually either the king or the queen has all the power and the spouse (if any) serves merely as a “consort”. The College of William and Mary in Virginia, founded by this king and queen in 1693, is the second oldest college in America. Mary died in 1694, and William then ruled alone until 1702, when he died.

UK map.jpg

William and Mary agreed in 1689 to a new Bill of Rights proposed by Parliament, which prevented a monarch from:

  1. denying citizens the right to petition (complaint to) the monarch
  2. infringing on freedom of speech in Parliament
  3. suspending a law of Parliament
  4. imposing taxes without the consent of Parliament.

Today the term “Great Britain” means England, Scotland and Wales, which share the same large island (see right). It is “Great" to distinguish it from France's Brittania Minor (more simply, “Brittany”).

The term “United Kingdom” (UK) refers to the combination (union) of “Great Britain” and “Northern Ireland,” which is part of the island of Ireland. There is conflict to this day between Unionists, who are mostly Protestant, and Nationalists, who are mostly Catholic, as to whether Northern Ireland should remain part of the United Kingdom, or be united with the Republic of Ireland (Northern Ireland and the Republic share the same island).

The United Kingdom was formed in 1800 in response to the movement towards independence by Ireland. Although Ireland had a large majority of Catholics at the time, many leaders of the early Irish independence movement were Protestant. The movement culminated in the Easter Rising in 1916 and the war for independence for Ireland in 1920s.

Within Great Britain, the people of Scotland and Wales take offense at being called "English". The Scottish, for example, pride themselves at being different to the English, and many seek independence from England today.

The Protestant majority of Northern Ireland, most of whom prefer to remain united with Great Britain, to be called “British”; the Catholic minority of Northern Ireland, most of whom wish to become united with the Republic of Ireland, prefer to be called “Irish”. On the Rugby field however, where the island of Ireland is represented by a single team, both groups are whole-heartedly Irish, especially when playing the old enemy, England.

The Protestant versus Catholic feud in Great Britain is almost entirely anachronistic. Today one of the most popular names for a newborn baby boy in England (and France) is “Mohammed”.

Age of Revolution

The Age of Revolution is a general time period when revolutions swept the world to overthrow kings (monarchies) and establish constitutional forms of government. Some historians, focusing on the major revolutions that overthrew monarchies, consider the late 1700s to be the Age of Revolution, including the American (1776-1783) and French Revolutions (1789) and its subsequent Reign of Terror (1793-94). Other historians, seeing continued occurrence of revolutions worldwide after 1800, describe the period as being from 1776 to 1848, a year in which there were many unsuccessful revolutions and Karl Marx wrote the inspiration for future revolutions, The Communist Manifesto.

A “revolution” is itself a controversial idea, and has little or no basis in Christianity. The ancient Greeks were entirely opposed to the idea of a revolution, and thought it occurred only when the morality and religious values of a society had decayed. In the Middle Ages, revolution was unknown and armed revolt against one’s society was unacceptable. Religious authority was strong and social order was desired. Armed revolt by Christians against their government leaders did not occur in ancient Rome, when the emperors were as cruel as possible, and such revolts remained rare or non-existent for over 1600 years. It was not until the early 1700s that the English language developed the word “revolution” to mean an armed overthrow of a government.

Historians credit Machiavelli as being the first thinker to lay the intellectual foundation for revolutions, though he never used the term. His work did indicate the need for change in the structure of government, and he expressed concern with maintaining stability. The English poet and writer John Milton (1608-74) was the first to express the desirability of revolution to overthrow a tyrant or abusive dictator, and thereby achieve freedom for the people. Milton’s view differed from Englishman Thomas Hobbes, who wrote in the Leviathan (1651) that people were inherently greedy and cruel, and that we needed an absolute monarchy to restrain our worst desires.

The German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) later wrote that revolution was a “natural” step towards mankind reaching a higher ethical value system. The American and French Revolutions drew upon Kant’s ideas.

Subsequently another German philosopher, G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831), insisted that revolutions were essential to human destiny, and that revolutionary leaders were heroes in promoting reform. Karl Marx, the most influential supporter of revolutions in world history, then drew upon Hegel’s ideas in order to promote future communist revolutions.

Revolutions continue even to this day. A revolution occurred in 1979 in Iran, when Islamic Shiites overthrew the Shah of Iran and held American diplomats hostage for about a year.


The American Revolution, beginning with the Declaration of Independence in 1776, was led by a small percentage of the colonists. There were just as many Loyalists (pro-British) as Patriots (pro-revolutionaries). Like the French Revolution discussed below, the American Revolution was instigated by an educated middle class. The ideas were powerful in the Declaration of Independence, which 33-year-old Thomas Jefferson drafted with other Founders based on the Virginia Declaration of Rights, which had been drafted by Founder George Mason. Invoking the authority of God frequently throughout the document, the Declaration contains the most striking legal statement of all time: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” The phrase “that all men are created equal” was original to the Declaration of Independence and was quoted frequently by Abraham Lincoln (e.g., in his Gettysburg Address) and by other future Americans.

The Declaration of Independence drew upon Christianity and the Enlightenment English philosopher John Locke. In his famous work “Two Treatises on Government” (1690), Locke declared that all men have the natural (inalienable) rights of “life, liberty and estate (property).” Adam Smith, the great economist, modified this to be “life, liberty and the pursuit of property.”

Locke also wrote that government exists to defend our natural rights, and when government fails to do so then it may be rightfully overthrown. Locke built on the concept of a “social contract” first proposed by Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), who felt that government was a contract by which people gave up some rights to government to obtain protection and order in return. When this social contract is violated by government, as when it fails to defend our natural rights, then Locke felt that rejecting the authority of government was justified. This logic was embraced by the Declaration of Independence by declaring that the colonies were right to break away from the King of England because he failed to uphold the social contract. The Declaration said: “That to secure these [inalienable] rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government ….” And the Patriots did “abolish” English rule here by winning the American Revolution, leading to the creation of the United States.


The French Revolution is the most famous in all of world history. It started out with the hope and promise of the American Revolution, but ended up with nearly everyone being executed by the guillotine. There was a “Reign of Terror” which was exactly what it name implies: terrifying chaos when anyone and everyone could be killed at any time, for any reason or no reason at all.

In its Old Regime prior to the revolution, France had three tiers or levels in its social system: the First, Second and Third Estates. The First Estate was only 1% of the population but it controlled 10% of the land. This was the clergy and they paid no taxes. To be fair, however, much of this land was church land made available to the public, and clergy do not pay any taxes today in the United States either. The Second Estate was only about 2% of the population but they controlled 20% of the land. This was the landed nobility, and they paid very little in taxes. The Third Estate was everyone else: the peasants, the merchants and the laborers, and they were badly overtaxed by the monarch, King Louis XVI. Recall that taxes were a major cause of the American Revolution also.

The leaders of the Third Estate were the middle class, also known as the bourgeoisie. They did better than the peasants and worked as merchants or skilled artisans. They were educated and trained in many of the ideas of the Enlightenment, most notably Jean Jacques Rousseau. His work, The Social Contract (1762), supported a direct democracy rather than the republican form of government adopted in America. The “social contract” was a contract among free people to create government. Rousseau disapproved of titles like nobility, and demanded complete equality between all people.

France was near bankruptcy in 1789 due to King Louis XVI’s extravagance and high taxes, which discouraged work. The Second Estate then made a big mistake in demanding a meeting of the Estates-General, which was a French Assembly that had not met in 175 years. Each Estate had one vote in the Assembly, such that the First and Second Estates could always outvote the Third Estate. That was acceptable in the early 1600s, but the Third Estate would not allow this in 1789 after learning the Enlightenment ideas. They wanted a system of one vote per delegate, which would have given the Third Estate the same number of votes as the First and Second Estate combined.

When the First and Second Estates refused this request by the Third Estate, the Third Estate left and formed a new National Assembly. When the Third Estate was locked out of its meeting place, it met on a tennis court and took the “Tennis Court Oath” to draft a new French constitution.

Chaos and violence soon hit the streets. On July 14, 1789 (“Bastille Day”), French peasants stormed the large Paris prison known as Bastille, freeing the inmates. The Great Fear or panic resulted, as riots occurred and peasants proceeded to burn wealthy homes. Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, were forced from their home in Versailles by a riot of women over the high price of bread. In an example of the political tactics of class warfare that are used even today, enemies of the privileged Antoinette accused her of responding unsympathetically to the lack of bread for the peasants by declaring, “Let them eat cake!” But when there is a shortage of bread, cake is a sensible substitute!

By then the French Revolution was in full swing. The National Assembly approved the “Declaration of the Rights of Man,” which combined ideas of the American Declaration of Independence with some Enlightenment concepts. The result of this combination was a liberal document guaranteeing more to the people than a government could provide:

Unlike the American declaration that “all men are created equal,” the French version declared that “Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.”[4] Unlike the American declaration that all men have inalienable rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” the French version declared that all men have natural rights of “liberty, property, security and resistance to oppression.” Some of the French declarations seem silly, like this one: “Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.” What is the meaning of a freedom if it is arbitrarily limited by undefined “abuses of this freedom”?

In 1791, a French journalist named Olympe de Gouges proposed a “Declaration of the Rights of Woman,” but the National Assembly rejected her proposal. She, like many other leaders of that time, was eventually executed by guillotine.

The French National Assembly established a constitutional monarchy and, in 1791, adopted a new constitution that created a Legislative Assembly. Three factions quickly formed in the new Legislative Assembly, known as the radicals (liberals), moderates (centrists) and conservatives, similar to those political movements today in the United States. The three factions sat in different sections of the large assembly hall, with the radicals (liberals) sitting on the left, the moderates sitting in the center, and the conservatives sitting on the right. That gave rise to the left-center-right terminology that we still use today in the United States to describe these three political categories.

Meanwhile, Prussia and Austria were at war with one another, and Prussia offered to help the French King Louis XVI and his royal family. In response, in August 1792, the French revolutionaries imprisoned the king and his family.

A new National Convention replaced the Legislative Assembly and abolished the monarchy in order to establish a republic in 1792, which gave all adult males the right to vote. A radical political group called the Jacobins gained power, led by Georges Danton and Jean Paul Marat. Under the influence of the Jacobins, the National Convention used the guillotine to execute Louis XVI in January 1793. By this time many countries, including Great Britain, Spain, the Netherlands, Prussia and Austria, had formed the First Coalition to prevent the violence in France from spreading outside. The National Convention responded by drafting people into an army. Historians claim that women were drafted too, but that may be an exaggeration.

The execution of Louis XVI led almost immediately to the Reign of Terror. Maximilian Robespierre, head of the Committee of Public Safety, proceeded to guillotine numerous alleged enemies, including Marie Antoinette. In a classic illustration of Jesus’s teaching that “he who lives by the sword dies by the sword,” Jacobin leaders Georges Danton (a fiery orator) was guillotined, and Jean-Paul Marat (a scientist) was stabbed to death in his bathtub. Eventually Robespierre himself was guillotined in 1794, and the Reign of Terror ended with his death.

At last the government of France was in the hands of a legislature, and an executive branch of five men called the Directory. The Directory picked a young, highly successful military genius named Napoleon to lead the French army. The very next day Napoleon seized all power in France as its dictator, in November 1799.

The influence of the French Revolution was immense throughout the western hemisphere, as other peoples felt that they, too, could rise up against their rulers and defeat them. Historians credit the French Revolution with spreading the ideas of the Enlightenment, limiting the power of nobility and clergy, and ending an absolute monarchy. But many who supported the French Revolution in its beginning (including Thomas Jefferson) were horrified by where it led, including numerous executions and terror. Some would say that France never fully recovered, as the French Revolution unleashed a hostility towards Christianity that continues to this day in France.

Napoleon’s Empire

Napoleon was smart, ambitious, and a tremendous leader. By 1802, Napoleon had signed peace treaties with all his major enemies in the Second Coalition against France, including Great Britain, Russia and Austria. He then improved France immensely with reformed taxation, better finance through use of a national bank, a successful system of laws known as the Napoleonic Code, and even a public school system. But all was not for the better. Napoleon repealed a ban on slavery in the French Caribbean, restricted freedom of speech and the press, and did not allow women to have the same property rights as men.

Napoleon needed cash to fight a new Third Coalition against him, and also to pay for a failed attempt to quell a rebellion against France in the Caribbean Saint Dominigue (Haiti). To raise cash, Napoleon sold the massive territory from present-day Louisiana through the American Northwest. The southern region that is now the American State of Louisiana had already implemented the Napoleonic Code, and still uses it to this day (unlike the other 49 states of the United States). Napoleon sold this massive tract of land to the United States for a few million dollars in 1803, in what Americans call the “Louisiana Purchase” (it included far more than what is now the State of Louisiana). Then, in 1804, Napoleon declared himself emperor of France and proceeded to conquer or acquire as much territory in Europe as possible. He did very well until he failed to conquer Great Britain, which had a superior navy that defeated Napoleon’s fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. English Admiral Horatio Nelson was the hero of that battle.

But Napoleon continued to win victories on continental Europe, and by 1812 his empire included all of it except Sweden, Portugal and, near Asia, the Ottoman empire. Then came Napoleon’s undoing: his invasion of Russia in the winter of 1812. It is virtually impossible to conquer Russia with a wintertime invasion, because the weather is frightfully cold and the Russian people are extremely resilient, willing to live on rats rather than surrender. The German Adolf Hitler failed in a similar mistake by invading Russia during the wintertime in World War II.

Napoleon made other strategic mistakes also. His blockade against Great Britain in 1806, known as the Continental System, did not help him. His Peninsular War against Spain from 1808 to 1813 was hurtful also.

By 1813 Napoleon’s army was weak enough for massive armies of other nations to combine to defeat him, at the Battle of Leipzig. The coalition of forces from Austria, Prussia, Russia and Sweden outnumbered Napoleon's army by a two-to-one margin. By the following year, in 1814, Napoleon could see that he would have to give up his throne, and his opponents sent him off to an island in the Mediterranean known as Elba. Napoleon remained banished there for a year, but escaped in March 1815 to grab power over France again for “The Hundred Days.” But in June 1815, the Prussia and Great Britain defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, and this time Napoleon was shipped to the distant island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic, where he died in 1821.

In a fascinating historical investigation about ten years ago, scientists analyzed hair samples from Napoleon’s corpse and found arsenic. This led the scientists to conclude that Napoleon had died from poisoning. But then other scientists said that the arsenic was from hair tonic, not poisoning, and that no one had murdered Napoleon after all.

Congress of Vienna

In the aftermath of Napoleon’s defeat, European nations convened in Vienna, Austria in late 1814 through the first half of 1815 to hold the “Congress of Vienna.” Prussia, Austria, Great Britain, Russia and France were all there. Austrian Prince Klemens von Metternich, who was chairman of the proceeding, proposed establishing a “balance of power” among rival nations to ensure that no single nation could threaten the others. Metternich established a set of alliances between nations which required them to assist others if war broke out. This would protect all the nations against revolution or invasion, as the balance of power would shift in response to such threats. These alliances were called the Concert of Europe beginning in 1815. In 1818 France itself entered into an alliance with the Quadruple Alliance powers of Austria, Great Britain, Prussia, and Russia, all of which became part of the "Concert of Europe."

The primary motivation of the Congress of Vienna was to prevent French aggression in the future, or any repetition of what Napoleon had done. Restoration of a balance of power would help protect the other nations and provide for peace in Europe for the future. There were also other goals for this meeting. Royal families feared revolutions in their own nations similar to what France had gone through with its revolution. In other words, the monarchies wanted “legitimacy”.

In addition to the Concert of Europe described above, the Congress of Vienna also adopted these specific changes to the map of Europe:

  1. Gave legitimacy to the monarchies (royal families)
  2. Recognized Switzerland as an independent nation
  3. Required France to return territories conquered by Napoleon
  4. Created the German Confederation
  5. Created the Kingdom of the Netherlands
  6. Allowed the Kingdom of Sardinia to include Genoa

The impact of the new balance of power, the legitimacy of the monarchies and the specific nation-building was enormous throughout the West. A lasting peace in Europe resulted. France lost power, while Great Britain and Prussia (a key part of the future Germany) gained power. Latin American governments established as colonies of European powers felt confident to declare their independence. Finally, and perhaps most of all, nationalism grew in Europe. A century later, this nationalism would result in the worst wars in the history of the world.

Other Revolutions

There were many revolutions in addition to the American and French Revolutions, as the world threw off the yoke of monarchs and replaced them with more representative governments. The most successful of these was the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804) in Latin America. Revolutions in South America from 1810 to 1824 did bring independence from Spain, but failed to lead to prosperity in South America. Mexico won its independence from Spain in a Mexican Revolution that lasted from 1810 to 1821. A century later, from 1910 to 1919, the Mexican Revolution led to a constitution that advanced land reform, education and workers’ rights; historians also credit it for bringing some rights to women.


The first Spanish colony in the New World was the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean, which was one of Christopher Columbus’s initial discoveries. Today Hispaniola has two countries separated by mountains: its eastern two-thirds is the Dominican Republic, while its western one-third is Haiti. The Dominican Republic has produced many great baseball players, including Albert Pujols, Sammy Sosa, Pedro Martinez, Jose Reyes and Manny Ramirez.

In the Treaty of Ryswick in 1697, Spain ceded control of the western third of Hispaniola to France, which established a colony named Saint Dominique (also spelled as “Saint-Domingue”). A hundred years later, this colony (now Haiti) became famous for several reasons: (1) it became the first independent black republic, (2) it was the only nation formed due to a successful slave revolt, and (3) it was the second colony after the United States to declare its independence in the New World, on Jan. 1, 1804. Three centuries later, in 2004, Haiti also had a revolution, or uprising.

The Haitian Revolution began when an African priest sparked an uprising by 100,000 slaves, led by Toussaint L’Ouverture in 1791. French troops eventually arrived in 1802 to suppress the revolution, and tricked L’Ouverture into boarding a French ship where he thought he would be able to sign a peace treaty granting the colony independence from France. Instead he was captured and returned to France, where he died in 1803 in a French prison (France has always had the worst prison conditions in Europe). But Dessalines, a general under L’Ouverture, fought on for freedom on the island, and Haiti successfully declared its independence on Jan. 1, 1804.

Today American missionaries and charity workers, including several who have been associated with our classes (including a student), have a close relationship with the Haiti people.

South America

In the Spanish colonies, creoles (pronounced KREE-oles, who were people born in the colonies to European settlers) were leading revolutions to gain independence from their Spanish rulers. Creole Generals Simon Bolivar and Jose de San Martin led Venezuela, Ecuador, and Argentina to independence. Bernardo O’Higgins led Chile to freedom in 1818 and is viewed as a hero to this day there. Bolivar freed other colonies from Spanish rule at the Battle of Ayacucho in 1824, and attempted to establish the unified nations of “Gran Colombia” and “United Provinces of Central America,” but both collapsed after only a few years.

Brazil won its independence in a peaceful manner. It was a colony of Portugal, and when Napoleon invaded Spain and Portugal in 1807, the family of the Portuguese monarch fled to Brazil. Prince John, the future King John VI, declared the large Brazilian capital of Rio de Janeiro to be the capital of both Brazil and Portugal. In 1822, after the defeat of Napoleon and the return of King John VI to Portugal, the creoles (people of European descent born in the colonies) demanded independence for Brazil. King John declared his son Dom Pedro as ruler of the newly independent Brazil. Brazil was thereby the only Latin American country to be ruled by a king after it gained its independence.

In 1810 in Mexico, a war for independence was initiated by Catholic priest Father Miguel Hidalgo from Dolores, who rallied mestizos (people having both Indian and European ancestors) in a rebellion against Spain. This revolt was memorable because it was the first time a rebellion was led in South America by the mestizos and not by the creoles. Led by Hidalgo, the mestizos marched to Mexico City, but were defeated in 1811 by the Spanish and the creoles. Hidalgo was executed in 1811 and then succeeded by Father José Maria Morelos, who also lost to the creoles, led by Augustin de Iturbide in 1815. The struggle ended in 1821, when Mexico successfully gained independence from Spain.

A Native American governor named Benito Juarez redistributed land to the poor and separated church and state. He was exiled by Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, who was the president of Mexico four times following the revolution against Spain. During his rule, Santa Anna was unable to stop Texas from seceding from Mexico in 1845, an act which fueled the war between Mexico and the United States. In 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo brought an end to this Mexican War, granting the United States Southwest territories including California and New Mexico. Benito Juarez again rose to power in 1861, and strongly opposed the French occupation of Mexico in 1862, and especially the Austrian archduke Maximilian.

When the French left Mexico in 1867, Juarez was succeeded by dictator Porfirio Diaz, of Native American descent, who encouraged building projects and economic growth but unsuccessfully distributed land and failed to resolve problems among the working class such as low wages. Diaz found opposition in Francisco Madero, who founded the “Anti-Reelection Party” and was a firm supporter of democracy. Madero called for an uprising in 1910, marking the beginning of the Mexican Revolution, which lasted until 1917. Other prominent figures of the Mexican Revolution included cowboy Francisco “Pancho” Villa, and peasant leader Emiliano Zapata. Control of Mexico often changed hands and many were assassinated, including Madero, who was then replaced by Diaz’s ally General Victoriano Huerta, who then fled and was replaced by Venustiano Carranza. Carranza met his downfall after tricking and killing Emiliano Zapata in 1919, which turned everyone against Carranza. He attempted to flee Mexico, but was killed. These events marked the end of the Mexican Revolution.

A Mexican Constitution was established as a result of the Revolution, which increased the rights of workers and in some cases the rights of women, and strengthened the land redistribution system. In 1920, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (in Spanish, the Partido Revolucionario Institucional or PRI) was organized. It came to power in 1929 and was the most prominent party in Mexico for the remainder of the 20th century. The IRP gave politicians in Mexico City control, and many of the Mexican constitutional provisions were disregarded by PRI presidents.


The movements towards revolution and nationalism spread to China. Sun Yixian was just one of the many Chinese inspired by the unified nations arising in Europe. A rebellion arose in 1911, which ended the rule of the Qing (also known as Manchu) dynasty. Confucianism was rejected by the reformers, who viewed it as old-fashioned, and reforms were sought to give more rights to workers and the poor. The revolutions did not resolve much, but marked the beginning of a period of strife and unrest for China in the early 1900s, which would lead to its establishment as a Communist nation in later decades.

Revolutionary Art and Literature

Impression Sunrise (best viewed on a computer, or when printed in high-resolution color)

In the early 1800s, art (including music) and literature underwent “revolutions” similar to the political ones. Romanticism was the major artistic movement, reflecting an emphasis on thoughts, feelings and nature. Lord Byron was a leading romanticist who fought for the independence of Greece. This emphasis on feelings mirrored a political romanticism that promoted democracy and the needs of the “common man,” or everyday person.

In music, one of the greatest composers in the history of the world burst onto the scene in the early 1800s: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827). He revolutionized instrumental music and took it to new heights never before thought possible. His achievement was all the more remarkable because he became totally deaf before the age of 40, and before he composed his greatest works. A German like many of the great composers, Beethoven’s works capture an intensity and expressive emotion that surpassed even vocal music. It was Beethoven’s great work that led to this observation: “All arts aspire to the condition of music.”

In the late 1800s, impressionism moved painting further away from its traditions. It began in France and continued into the 1900s. The chief feature of impressionism was to paint the transient effects of color and light, and attempt to capture a fleeting image or “impression”. The feeling of an image was emphasized more than the detail (see right). Major impressionistic painters included Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Pierre Auguste Renoir and Paul Cezanne. Manet, Monet, Renoir and others began emphasizing color and lighting as early as the late 1860s. They often painted landscapes, and insisted on remaining outdoors until completion of the work, unlike predecessors who preferred to complete such work in the studio. Renoir, for example, is known for brilliance of color, intimate charm in his subjects, and a harmony of his lines.

Though the impressionist movement in painting dissolved by the mid-1880s, it changed the path of art forever in its rejection of traditional Western approaches to subject matter. The artist Vincent van Gogh, for example, was greatly influenced by the impressionists. There was a musical impressionism also, which emphasized mood and understatement and reflected its composers’ view that pure sound (like color) is a goal in itself.


  1. Strictly speaking, the Puritans were a "tendency" rather than a "denomination" of Christianity.
  3. Oxford Dictionary of World History, p. 262 (paperback ed. 2001).