Political Revolutions Review for AP World History (page 2)

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By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Mar 4, 2011

The Reign of Terror

In 1792, the revolution entered a more radical phase known as the Reign of Terror as the monarchy was abolished, with Louis XVI executed on the guillotine. Under the leadership of a radical club known as the Jacobins, thousands were executed during the Reign of Terror. A new constitution provided universal male suffrage and universal military conscription.

The revolutionaries had to repel foreign armies of Prussia, Russia, Austria, and Great Britain that attempted to preserve the French monarchy. Eventually, the European armies were driven from France, and revolutionaries added new territory in the Netherlands, Germany, and Italy. A wave of nationalism spread throughout France.

The Final Stage

The republican gains of the French Revolution came to an end in 1799 with the rise to power of army general Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon limited the power of the legislative assembly and returned authoritarian rule to France. Napoleon also:

  • Censored speech and the press.
  • Codified laws in Code Napoleon.
  • Granted religious freedom.
  • Established universities.
  • Denied women basic rights.

Napoleon declared himself the emperor of a new French empire in 1804. The major powers of Europe fought a number of wars against Napoleon's armies. An 1812 French invasion of Russia led to a decisive defeat for Napoleon, largely as a result of the harsh Russian winter. The European alliance defeated Napoleon in 1814 and again, decisively, in 1815. Although it was a setback for the revolutionary principles in France, Napoleon's empire spread the ideals of the revolution outside France and created a spirit of nationalism throughout Europe.

The Aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars

After the final defeat of Napoleon in 1815, European leaders met at the Congress of Vienna to restore legitimate monarchs to the thrones of Europe and to create a balance of power. The purpose of the balance of power was to prevent France or any other European nation from dominating the continent again. This spirit of conservatism kept Europe largely at peace until the end of the nineteenth century. Other political movements gained strength: liberalism sought protection for the rights of propertied classes, whereas radicalism wanted broader suffrage and social reforms on behalf of the lower classes. In 1848, a series of revolutions again swept through Europe, bringing the end of monarchy in France. The liberal Revolutions of 1848 largely failed, however, to bring permanent reform to Europe. Nationalist stirrings in Italy and Germany united the various regional political units in both regions. The unification of Italy was completed in 1870, while German unification occurred a year later in 1871.

The Haitian Revolution

The revolutions in the British North American colonies and in France inspired a revolt in the French Caribbean island colony of Saint-Dominigue, or Haiti. The Haitian Revolution was the first incident in world history in which black slaves successfully rebelled against their enslavers. Haiti's colonial economy was based on the production of sugar. Haitian society was divided among slave workers on the sugar plantations, free people of color, and French colonists. During the French Revolution, tensions increased between white inhabitants and free people of color. In 1791, Haitian slaves took advantage of this division to rebel. Under the leadership of a free black named Toussaint L'Overture, the rebellion succeeded, and in 1804 the island declared its independence as the republic of Haiti.

Other Latin American Revolts and Independence Movements

Enlightenment ideas and a succession crisis in Spain created an opportune moment for the realization of independence in Spain's colonies. The placement of Napoleon's brother on the throne of Spain instead of the Spanish king caused the American colonists to question the identity of Spain's ruler. Consequently, independence revolutions broke out in the Americas.

Mexican Independence

In Mexico, the Creole Father Miguel de Hidalgo called on mestizos and Indians to assist him in a rebellion against Spain in 1810. The Creoles, fearing the social reforms that might materialize from mestizo and Indian involvement, initially abandoned the independence movement. After Hidalgo was executed, the Creoles rejoined the cause under Augustín de Iturbide, a Creole officer. In 1821, Mexico declared its independence from Spain. In 1824, Mexico became a republic. The Central American states, which had been a part of Mexico, divided into separate independent nations in 1838.

Revolution in Mexico

In 1876, Porfirio Díaz was elected president of Mexico. For the next 35 years, he continued the economic growth of the rule of his predecessor, Benito Juárez. Díaz encouraged foreign investment, industries, and exports. In contrast to other Latin American countries such as Argentina and Brazil, Mexico was not the destination of many immigrants; its population, therefore, was largely native. Often economic growth did not benefit the peasants and working classes. Opponents of Díaz were arrested or exiled and election fraud was common.

In 1910, the middle class began a movement for election reform. Soon joined by workers and peasants, the reform movement escalated into a 10-year-long rebellion known as the Mexican Revolution. The revolution ended in a new constitution that guaranteed land reform, limited foreign investments, restricted church ownership of property, and reformed education.

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