LOCATIONS: Moscow, Egypt, Belgium, Great Britain, Austria, Brazil, Haiti, Mexico, Crimean Peninsula, India, Ottoman Empire (These locations are superimposed over a contemporary political map of the world.)
109. the Enlightenment
The big lesson of the Scientific Revolution was that "natural laws" governed the operation of the universe—not God, superstition, witchcraft, or mysterious forces like spontaneous generation. Furthermore, these natural laws could be discovered by using reason. Writers and thinkers began to take these lessons from science—the physical world—and apply them to society, the world of people.
During this new "Age of Reason," philosophers like John Locke in England and Voltaire in France claimed the power to rule came from the people, not from a divine right. They asked if nations should be ruled by monarchs who came to power through an accident of birth. They wrote of "self-evident truths" that required more democratic forms of government and "natural laws" that made all people equal. French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote, "Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains." Rousseau said the ruler had a social contract with the people. If a ruler didn't do what was best for the people, he violated the contract, and the people had a right to overthrow him.
Old ideas like serfdom and absolute monarchy were considered leftovers from the outdated Ancien Regime (old regime, old system). Many educated people rejected traditional religion, becoming Deists who believed in God and morality but did not accept church authority, church rituals, or beliefs that disagreed with science. These ideas about reason, freedom, and equality are called the Enlightenment.
110. Adam Smith
Enlightenment thinking wasn't limited to politics; it extended to other areas of society such as economics and women's rights. 1n 1776, Scottish philosopher Adam Smith published an influential book called The Wealth of Nations; it is considered the first full explanation of the capitalist economic system. Smith said rulers should stop trying to control their nations' economies. Economies would work best, he said, if they were left alone to control themselves through the "invisible hand" of competition in a free market. Smith's belief came to be known as laissez faire (LES-ay-fair), French for "leave it alone."
. English writer Mary Wollstonecraft believed Enlightenment ideas about equality should apply to women as well as men. Her book, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, proposed that educational systems be reformed to give girls the same education as boys. Her controversial ideas had little immediate effect, but they became a foundation for the women's movement that would arise in the next century.
111. American Revolution
Enlightenment ideas found fertile ground in the British colonies of America where influential leaders such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and George Washington were Enlightenment thinkers and Deists. Americans felt Britain had violated the social contract by passing unfair laws, so Americans were justified in throwing off British rule. The American Revolution in 1776 made a big impression on many people in Europe who saw it as a turning point in history; Americans had enforced the social contract, ended rule by the king, and established the first national democracy since ancient times.
The Declaration of Independence, written largely by Jefferson, began with a restatement of the Enlightenment ideas of philosopher John Locke: "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." By demonstrating that Enlightenment ideas could be used to govern a nation, the young democracy in America became the model for a better world.
112. The Third Estate
Although France was a birthplace of Enlightenment thinking, France was still living under the Ancien Regime. Society was made up of three classes called estates. The First Estate was the clergy (church officials), and the Second Estate was the nobility. The clergy and nobles made up only two percent of the population, but they owned one-third of the land, and they paid few taxes. Everyone else belonged to the Third Estate, the commoner class in France. They paid the taxes that financed France's government.
The commoners of the large Third Estate included rural peasants, the urban poor, artisans, and the middle class. The middle class, or bourgeoisie (burzh-wah-zee), was made up of successful and educated people like large landowners, merchants, doctors, lawyers, scholars, and government officials. They had wealth and economic power and paid taxes, but they had little say in government. In America, it was the middle class who led the revolution against England; in France the middle class was growing restless too.
In 1789, King Louis XVI (the Sun King's great, great, great grandson) called representatives from France's three estates to the palace at Versailles for a meeting of the Estates General, an old institution from medieval times that had met only once in the past three centuries. The king needed cash.
113. French Revolution
France was deeply in debt from supporting the American Revolution against the British, France's old enemy. King Louis XVI convened the Estates General to discuss raising taxes. Representatives from the Third Estate, mostly bourgeoisie, knew they would be out-voted by the other two estates and be stuck paying the new taxes. Frustrated, the Third Estate declared it was the nation's new parliament, the "National Assembly." When locked out of their meeting room, the Assembly met on a tennis court and swore an oath not to go home until France had a modern constitution. The king called out the army.
In 1789, France was ripe for revolution. Not only were the bourgeoisie angry about having little say in government, the peasants and urban poor were hungry after two years of bad harvests. As the king's troops marched toward Versailles, the enraged people of Paris stormed and captured the Bastille, a prison that represented the Ancien Regime. (Bastille Day, July 14, is France's independence day.)
The French Revolution was underway. The Paris mob executed the mayor and paraded his head through the streets on a pole. Throughout the countryside, peasants attacked the nobility and burned feudal documents. The National Assembly abolished feudalism in France, and in the streets the common people shouted, "Liberte', Egalite', Fraternite'!" (Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood). Hungry women armed themselves and marched to Versailles; they forced the king to return to Paris where they placed him under house arrest.
114. Reign of Terror
Many of France's nobles fled to other countries where they encouraged foreign kings to stop the French Revolution before it could spread. France was soon at war with Prussia and Austria, later joined by Britain, Spain, and the Netherlands. France drafted all able-bodied men into the military and raised an army of nearly one million men. With foreign armies invading French territory, economic problems in Paris, and fears about enemies within France, a group of radicals took control of the revolution.
The radicals took extreme measures against their enemies, real or imagined. After the king and queen were caught attempting to flee from France, they were marched to the guillotine and beheaded. Members of the nobility and the clergy were beheaded. The radicals even beheaded other revolutionaries. Some 50,000 people died during France's bloody "Reign of Terror," about half at the guillotine.
After the French army managed to eliminate the immediate threat of foreign invasion, new leaders took control in France and ended the Reign of Terror. Still, the government was unable to end foreign wars or improve the economy, and the army was frequently called in to maintain order. In 1799, a brilliant young general named Napoleon Bonaparte seized control of France.
Napoleon was a popular leader. After military victories in Italy, he proclaimed himself emperor and began his conquest of Europe. Napoleon's army was unique: French soldiers believed in their cause of spreading the Revolution, and the army chose its officers based on ability, not on noble birth. Leading a capable, dedicated, and battle-hardened army, Napoleon easily defeated all forces sent against him.
In the lands he conquered Napoleon eliminated feudalism and serfdom, improved education, and promoted the arts and sciences. He established a uniform legal system, the Napoleonic Code, that guaranteed freedom of religion and granted equal rights to all men. The Code, however, reduced gains made by women during the revolution. Women would have to wait another century for their equality.
116. Neoclassical art and Classical music
In Europe, divine right, absolute monarchy, and the Ancien Regime were swept away by the Enlightenment, revolution, and Napoleon. A simpler artistic style was needed to replace the rich and fancy Baroque style of the god-kings. Again the Western world turned to classical Greece and Rome for artistic inspiration; the new style was termed "Neoclassical," meaning "new classical."
Emperor Napoleon considered himself the new Caesar of the new Rome. He had himself crowned in the style of Roman emperors. He built classical-style monuments such as the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, and he spread Neoclassicism to the countries he conquered. Meanwhile, the young republic in the United States chose Neoclassical architecture for its new capital in Washington D.C. Other changes were also happening in the art world: successful members of the middle class now bought art, not just kings and churches. And artists were learning their skills at "academies," not through the support of rich patrons.
While the art and architecture of the period are called Neoclassical, the music is simply called Classical because ancient classical music had not survived to claim that name. Classical music originated with opera, which was meant to imitate ancient Greek theater. Classical music replaced the Baroque musical style popular at the court of France's Louis XIV and other kings.
This was Europe's greatest age of music; it was centered in Vienna, Austria where music was the focus of upper class social life. During a remarkable 50-year period (1775-1825), Classical music giants Haydn, (HIGH-dun) Beethoven, and Mozart worked side-by-side in the same city. "Papa" Haydn gave encouragement to Mozart and lessons to Beethoven. Musicians flocked to Vienna where they found training, jobs, money, honor, and fame.
117. Horatio Nelson
England was the only major European power not conquered by Napoleon, due largely to the British naval victory at Trafalgar. In 1805, a combined French and Spanish fleet of 33 warships was intercepted by a British fleet of 27 ships under the command of Admiral Horatio Nelson, a most uncommon sailor. Wounded in a naval battle ten years earlier, Nelson lost the use of his right eye. In a sea battle three years after that, he lost his right arm. The following year, Nelson defeated a French fleet at "The Battle of the Nile," forcing Napoleon to withdraw from Egypt. Three years after that, he was in a battle against a Dutch fleet when the British commander gave the signal to withdraw. Nelson put the telescope to his blind eye and said he could see no such signal. Nelson went on to destroy the Dutch fleet.
The Battle of Trafalgar would be Nelson's greatest victory and his last. Before the battle, he told his sailors "England expects that every man will do his duty." Nelson's ships engaged the larger enemy fleet at Cape Trafalgar off the southwest coast of Spain. When the smoke cleared, 20 French and Spanish ships had been destroyed or captured without the loss of a single British vessel. Nelson, however, was shot by a French sniper and died aboard his flagship H.M.S. Victory. Before he died, Nelson was certain of victory, and he declared, "Thank God I have done my duty." Trafalgar wrecked Napoleon's plans to invade England, and Britain continued to rule the waves for another hundred years. Today a statue of Admiral Nelson stands atop a tall column in London's main square, Trafalgar Square.
One of France's richest colonies was Haiti in the West Indies. Its wealth was based on a brutal slave economy. Slaves in the Americas often resisted their masters by running away or fighting back. In Haiti, slaves succeeded in taking over a country. When the turmoil of the French Revolution spilled over to Haiti, slaves used the opportunity to revolt. Under the leadership of Toussaint Louverture, slaves took control in Haiti, defeated an invasion force sent by Britain, and freed all slaves on the island.
When Louverture heard that France planned to return and reinstate slavery, he wrote, "Do they think that men who have been able to enjoy the blessing of liberty will calmly see it snatched away?" In 1802, Napoleon sent a large army to Haiti to restore French control and slavery. Louverture was captured and died in a French prison. Soon, however, the French were defeated by a combination of yellow fever and Haitian rebel fighters. Haiti became the second nation in the Americas, after the U.S., to gain independence. Haiti's slave revolt worried slave owners, but it was a symbol of hope to blacks.
119. Napoleon's invasion of Russia
Napoleon's downfall began with his biggest military mistake, an attempt to invade and conquer the vast empire of Russia. The Russians had no hope of defeating Napoleon's huge and powerful Grand Army of more than 600,000 soldiers, the largest army ever assembled in Europe. So, the Russians burned everything in Napoleon's path to deny his army food and shelter. After a bloody but indecisive battle at Borodino, Napoleon captured the Russian capital of Moscow, but it was nearly empty.
Knowing that his army could not survive the coming winter in Russia, Napoleon had to retreat. As the Grand Army made its way back to France, temperatures dropped to 30 degrees below zero during the bitter cold Russian winter of 1812. Between the cold, starvation, Russian attacks, and desertion, only 30,000 of Napoleon's original soldiers returned to France. It was one of the worst disasters in military history.
Disgraced by the ruin of his Grand Army, then defeated in battles by an alliance of European nations, Napoleon was captured and forced into exile on the small island of Elba off the coast of Italy. It wasn't long, however, before Napoleon escaped and returned to France where he raised another army. Napoleon met his final defeat at the hands of a British-led allied army near the town of Waterloo, Belgium in 1815. Again Napoleon was exiled, this time to St. Helena, a remote British island in the South Atlantic, where he died in 1821, probably of stomach cancer or arsenic poisoning.
120. Simon Bolivar
Inspired by revolutions in America and France, people of Latin America wanted independence too. A creole named Simon Bolivar led the way. Bolivar was born in 1783 to a wealthy family in Venezuela. After studying Enlightenment ideas at home and in Europe, Bolivar returned to Venezuela and raised an army to fight for independence from Spain.
With Spain preoccupied by the Napoleonic Wars, Bolivar achieved victory in his native Venezuela, and then went on to defeat the Spanish in what is now Columbia, Ecuador, and Bolivia. His final victory in Peru ended Spanish rule in South America. Bolivar failed, however, in his dream of bringing South America together in a union. Although he died a discouraged man, Bolivar is remembered as "The Liberator," and the country of Bolivia is named in his honor.
At the same time Bolivar was fighting for South American independence in the early 1800s, Mexico and countries in Central America were also fighting for their independence from Spain. Meanwhile, Brazil declared its independence from Portugal. In a period of just twenty years, the three-hundred-year European domination of Latin America came to an end.
121. British Parliament
In contrast to revolutions in the United States, France, and Latin America that lasted only a few years, revolution against the monarchy in England was a long, slow process that took centuries. It began in 1215 when the "Great Council" of English nobles forced King John to sign the Magna Carta, a document that established the principle that the king was not above the law. The Magna Carta was an early step toward the kind of constitutional government later established in the United States, France, and other democracies.
Over time, the Great Council evolved into a law-making body called Parliament. When an English king interfered with religious practices in the mid-1600s, Parliament raised an army that defeated and executed the king. In the late 1600s, Parliament removed another king from power and replaced him with a king and queen who agreed to follow a "Bill of Rights" strongly influenced by the Enlightenment views of John Locke.
Although the British monarch continued to serve as head of state, Parliament has been the true power in Great Britain since the 1700s. England was not yet a democracy, however, because the nobility controlled Parliament, and few people had the right to vote.
122. Catherine the Great
Several weak emperors ruled Russia after the death of Peter the Great. One was Peter III who married a lively German princess named Catherine who was anything but weak. In fact, it's commonly believed she approved Peter's murder in 1762. Although Catherine's son was next in line for the throne, she pushed him aside and ruled Russia as empress. In some respects, Catherine continued the Westernization program begun by Peter the Great. She imported farming and manufacturing techniques from the West along with European art. Enlightenment philosophers were her friends.
But trouble was brewing in the empire. Hardship caused by war with the Ottomans joined with plague to make life especially hard for Russian peasants. They rose up in the greatest revolt yet seen in Russia. After putting down the rebellion, Catherine abandoned her Enlightenment philosophies and ruled with an iron fist. She took rights away from the serfs and increased the power of their noble landlords. By the time she had finished, serfs were little more than slaves, and hardly a free peasant remained in Russia.
But Catherine created one of the world's finest art museums at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, and she expanded the Russian Empire west into Poland. After her armies defeated the weakening Ottoman Empire, Russia took control of the Crimean peninsula on the Black Sea, which gave Russia direct access to the Mediterranean and a warm water port that could stay open year round. Under Catherine's forceful rule, Russia grew strong and was capable of challenging other great powers. For these reasons she earned the title "Catherine the Great."
123. Mughal Empire
Back in the 1300s, when Mongol control over India weakened, India broke into many states. Two centuries later, Muslim invaders armed with firearms conquered northern India and established the Mughal Empire, the last of India's golden ages. The great Mughal ruler Akbar practiced religious tolerance towards India's Hindu majority; he even married a Hindu princess. Trade and agriculture flourished; India exported millions of yards of inexpensive cotton cloth that clothed much of Europe.
A much-admired art style emerged from the blending of Hindu and Islamic artistic traditions. Mughal architecture reached its zenith with the Taj Mahal, a tomb built by a Mughal ruler to honor his beloved wife who died in childbirth. It is considered by many to be the most beautiful building in the world.
In the early 1700s, a Mughal ruler extended his empire over most of southern Asia, but the constant warfare so weakened the empire that India once again fragmented into regional states. The breakdown of Mughal authority gave Britain an opportunity to extend its commercial interests in India. In the mid-1700s, forces from the British East India Company defeated armies of the French and Dutch trading companies. Britain then fought Indian armies to take control of the Bengal region in northeastern India. The ancient and legendary land of India was fast becoming a colony of the British Empire.
124. Gunpowder Empires
After the Chinese invented gunpowder, firearms began to play a major role in world history. Gunpowder weapons helped new rulers take control in Tokugawa Japan, Mughal India, the steppes of Russia, and elsewhere. With the help of gunpowder weapons, European nations created huge trading empires.
The Portuguese were probably first to place cannons on ocean-going ships. Europeans had acquired much of their sailing technology from the East including the compass, astrolabe, rudder, and lateen sails for sailing into the wind. The Europeans added their own improvements including better cannons and faster ships that were built strong enough to withstand the recoil of cannon fire without being shaken apart. With shipboard cannons, Europeans pushed into the waters of Asia and Africa and came to dominate the world's oceans.
Kings in Europe always had to be ready to adopt the latest in weapons technology to survive the endless conflicts among Europe's competing powers. In the next century, the 1800s, Europe's advanced weaponry would extend Western European dominance from the oceans to the land.
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1700s: Enlightenment & Revolution