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Revolutions Change the World


In this chapter you will read about revolutions that changed the lives of people around the world. Follow the time line and the map to find out when and where these changes occurred. Some happened very quickly while others took longer. In each case, people's lives were changed, with effects that are still felt today.



The French Revolution

Focus Activity


What conditions led to the French Revolution?


• absolute monarchy

• divine right


• estates

• aristocracy

• peasants

• Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen

• Reign of Terror


• Louis XVI

• Marie Antoinette

• Maximilien Robespierre

Napoleon Bonaparte


• Versailles

• Paris

• Bastille

Read Aloud

Can you not hear in your hearts the voices of the citizens who died? Can you not see all the nations of the world, all the generations present and future, waiting until you show them whether the King has the right to murder citizens and groups without punishment; whether a monarch is a god whose actions must be blessed or a man whose crimes must be punished."

The words above were spoken by Jean Mailhe (MAY yuh) in France in 1792. As a member of the newly elected National Assembly, Mailhe was calling for the execution, or killing, of the king.


Just four years earlier King Louis XVI held firm control over his kingdom. France was an absolute monarchy. This means that the king had complete power to govern. His title, "Louis, by the Grace of God, King of France," showed the belief in his divine right. Divine right was a belief that a monarch's authority came from God. Now, in a sudden turn of events, the king faced the judgment of people he once ruled.

Throughout the continent, a system of rule based on the power of monarchs, nobles, and church leaders had been in place for centuries. Unhappiness with this system, however, was leading the people of France closer to a revolution. A revolution is a sudden or great change. The revolution in France would upset the old system of government and change Europe.



In many ways France in '1789 was not much different from France in the Middle Ages. Although feudalism no longer existed, most people still worked the land. By '1789, however, the population had been divided into three estates, or social classes. The chart on this page shows France's three estates.

The Three Estates

The First Estate was made up of the Catholic clergy. The clergy consists of people who perform religious services. About 130,000 of France's 26 million people belonged to the clergy. The wealthy Catholic Church owned nearly 15 percent of France's land and paid no regular taxes.

Aristocracy (ar uh STOHK ruh see) made up the Second Estate. The aristocracy included members of noble families. In the late '1700s nobles owned about 25 percent of the land in France. Most of them did not pay taxes. Although most nobles were rich, they had little power in government. In fact they were unhappy that the king held all political power in France. Even the richest nobles could not make laws.

The vast majority of people, nearly 98 percent, belonged to the Third Estate. This group included merchants and lawyers as well as craftworkers and peasants. Peasants are farm workers. A few members of the Third Estate were rich. Most, however, were poor.

Although many peasants owned land, they often did not have enough to support themselves and their families. One traveler described a seven-year-old peasant girl as "terribly ragged, if possible worse clad than if with no clothes at all." The different members of the Third Estate had two things in common. They paid taxes and had no say in how they were governed.

This cartoon from 1789 shows the First and Second estates riding on the back of the Third Estate.


The French social classes were called estates.

1. Which estate made up the largest percentage of the population?

2. How did the Third Estate's percentage of land compare to its percentage of the population?



By the late 1770s the French had been greatly influenced by the American Revolution. One French noblewoman said,

The American cause seemed our own; we were proud of their victories, we cried at their defeats, we tore down bulletins and read them in our houses. None of us reflected on the danger that the New World could give to the Old.

France had given millions of dollars to support the American colonies in their war against the British. This expense, as well as the cost of the king's lifestyle, drained money from the French government. By 1789 there was no money left.

The Revolution Begins

King Louis XVI hoped to raise more money by taxing the nobles, or the Second Estate. The nobles refused. They demanded a meeting of the Estates General. The Estates General was a group made up of representatives from each of the three estates.

The Estates General met near the king's palace in Versailles (vair SIGH) in May of 1789. Members of the Third Estate wanted equal rights. They did not like being the least powerful group in France. A priest described the dissatisfaction of the Third Estate:

What is the Third Estate? Everything. What has it been up 'til now in the political order? Nothing. What does it desire to be? Something.

Soon the members of the Third Estate began meeting to write a constitution. They formed a new law making body, called the National Assembly. The French Revolution had begun.

Storming the Bastille

Struggle for power between the estates and the king developed so quickly that rumors began to fly. One rumor was that the king was sending troops to break up the National Assembly. On July 14, 1789, about 800 people gathered in Paris, the capital of France. They marched to the big stone prison fortress called the Bastille (bas TEEL). They hoped to get weapons there to defend themselves. As people surrounded the prison, someone fired a cannon into the crowd.

Nearby, a citizen named Pierre Hulin convinced a group of 60 soldiers to help the crowd. "Do you not hear the cannons? Parisians are being slaughtered like sheep. Will you not march on the Bastille?" he said.

Although 98 people died, the marchers and soldiers captured the Bastille. This event became an important symbol of revolution to the French people. The anniversary of Bastille Day is still celebrated in France every July 14. The event also showed that even the army did not support the king.

End of the Monarchy

In August of 1789 the National Assembly issued a statement called the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. This statement called for fair taxation and freedom of religion. Most important, the Declaration said that all men were "born and remain free and equal in rights." Soon shouts of "Liberty! Equality! Fraternity [brotherhood]!" were heard across France.

Crowds also began singing a song, La Marseillaise (lah mahr say YEZ). It became France's national anthem. What does the song tell you about the point of view of the French people?


Marie Antoinette (above), Queen of France and wife of Louis XVI, was beheaded in 1793. The guillotine (below) killed thousands during the revolution.


The old France was gone. A new democratic government was rising in its place. The king was still leader of the government, but the National Assembly now had most of the power. In 1791 King Louis XVI was forced to approve the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.

After approving the Declaration, King Louis, Queen Marie Antoinette (muh REE an twuh NET), and their family tried to escape. They left Paris disguised as a family of tourists. They had not gone far, however, before someone recognized the king from his picture on money. The man tipped over a cart of furniture on a bridge to block the family's escape. Soldiers soon arrived and returned the royal family to Paris. In 1792 the monarchy was abolished and France became a republic.

The Reign of Terror

The change from a monarchy to a republic was not smooth for France. The Assembly angered many people by taking all land away from the Catholic Church. Priests who did not support the revolution lost their churches.

Maximilien Robespierre (MAX ih mihl yen ROHBZ pee air), a Revolution leader, became the most powerful man in the new government. He waged a war against enemies of the revolution by executing suspects. This period of cruelty became known as the Reign of Terror.

Robespierre's weapon was a machine, the guillotine (GEE oh teen), with a steel blade that chopped off people's leads. In January 1793 King Louis XVI was tried and executed by guillotine in i public square in Paris. Queen Marie Antoinette's execution by guillotine followed in October.

Aristocrats and nobles were targeted for death. However, it seemed no one was safe from the threat of execution. People feared execution for such "crimes" as giving sour wine to soldiers or weeping at the murder of a family member. When the Reign of Terror came to an end in 1794, about 40,000 French citizens had been killed. One of them was Robespierre himself.

The Revolution Ends

The time has come when people would ask for bread and be given corpses.

The woman who wrote this statement lived during the Reign of Terror.


She summed up the disappointment that many people felt. Five years of revolution and bloodshed left many people hoping for peace and stability.

In this environment, the army gained more and more power. A 26-year-old general named Napoleon Bonaparte (nuh POH lee un BOH nuh pahrt), from the island of Corsica, became extremely popular. His success in a French war against Italy won him great support. When he returned to Paris in 1799, one newspaper reported: "Everyone is thrilled" by his victory.

Five years later, the young general had gained control of the new French Republic and crowned himself Emperor Napoleon I. Barely 10 years after the execution of Louis XVI, France had another absolute ruler. The French Republic was over.

After making himself emperor of France in 1804, Napoleon set out to conquer lands across Europe.


Napoleon expanded French power across Europe. His armies conquered Holland, Germany, Italy, and Belgium, bringing new riches to the French.

Although France once again had a monarch, many of the changes that had come with the Revolution remained. For example, the old system of three estates was gone forever.

Napoleon's vast empire collapsed in 1815. The French began again to build a republic. They picked up many of the ideas that had fueled the revolution 25 years earlier. After the fateful events in France in 1789, the world would never be the same again. From India to Turkey to South America, the ideas of "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" sparked national freedom movements around the world.

Reviewing Facts and Ideas


• Before the Revolution French society was divided into three "estates."

• The French Revolution began in 1789.

• Robespierre's Reign of Terror brought fear and disorder to France.

• Napoleon Bonaparte created a huge European empire.


1. Who made up the Three Estates?

2. Why was a meeting of the Estates General called in 1789?

3. FOCUS List three reasons for the discontent among many French people before the Revolution.

4. THINKING SKILL What effects did the American Revolution have on France?

5. WRITE As a member of the Third Estate, write a paragraph describing changes you would like to see.



The Colonies Gain Independence

Focus Activity


How did European colonies gain independence?


• Latin America

• mestizo

• confederation


• Toussaint L'Ouverture

• Miguel Hidalgo

• Jose Maria Morelos

Agustin de Iturbide

• Simon Bolivar

• Jose de San Martin


• Hispaniola

• Dolores

• Venezuela

Read Aloud

"We are threatened with the fear of death, dishonor, and every harm; there is nothing we have not suffered at the hands of Spain."

Simon Bolivar (see MOHN boh LEE vahr) wrote these words in a letter in 1815. He went on to free his native Venezuela and several other South American nations from Spanish rule. Freedom was a goal that inspired many people in colonies around the world.


In the year 1800 the United States was the only independent country in the Americas. Yet the desire for independence was felt in colonies throughout the world. The American and French Revolutions caused others in the Americas to think about gaining their own rights. Many Spanish colonists said, "I am not a Spaniard, I am American." These feelings spread throughout Latin America. Latin America is a cultural region south of the United States that was strongly influenced by Spain, Portugal, and France.

Europe's costly wars with Napoleon made it possible for colonies to take control of their own governments. A period of 300 years of European rule in the Americas was ending. By 1830 North and South America were made up almost entirely of independent nations. Eventually, Australia would also begin the journey towards independence.



Although each colony in Latin America was unique, all had some things in common. For one, they felt that European nations were taking advantage of them. Europeans took minerals and crops, but gave little in return.

People born in the Latin American colonies struggled to grow crops or to work in mines for other people. Like the English colonists of North America, Latin Americans also had to pay taxes without having a voice in their government. One popular song expressed the Latin American colonists' viewpoint:

If anyone wants to know

Why I go shirtless

It's because of the taxes

Of the king.

Revolution in the Caribbean

The first rumblings of independence began on the large Caribbean island of Hispaniola (hihs pun YOH luh). Although Columbus had claimed Hispaniola for Spain in 1492, France controlled the western part of the island. In the French colony, called Saint Domingue (san duh MANG), enslaved Africans grew coffee and sugar on plantations.

When the French Revolution broke out across the Atlantic, distant cries of "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" echoed in Saint Domingue. In 1791 a group of about 100,000 slaves rose up against plantation owners. This group was led by Toussaint L'Ouverture (too SAN loo ver TYUR). L'Ouverture believed that slavery was wrong. He and other former slaves forced the French to abolish it throughout Saint Domingue. In '1796 L'Ouverture took control of the colony's government.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte tried to regain control of Saint Domingue. He sent a huge army to restart the practice of slavery on the island. This time L'Ouverture began a revolution to drive the French out completely.

Although L'Ouverture was captured and taken to France, the revolution became the first successful slave revolution in history. From it, the independent country of Haiti was born on Hispaniola in 1804.


By 1805 all of Middle America and the Caribbean had been claimed by European countries.

1. Which European country claimed the most land in the area?

2. What separates Haiti from South America?


This painting by Mexican artist Jose Orozco shows Miguel Hidalgo rallying Mexicans to fight for independence from Spain.


Six years after independence in Haiti, the bells of freedom began ringing in Mexico as well. The Spanish grip on New Spain, or Mexico, weakened when Napoleon conquered Spain in 1808.

Mexico was the richest of Spain's colonies. Remember that the colony's economy depended on silver mines and large farms called haciendas. Nearly half of the money made here went to the king's treasury in Spain. As a result, a few Mexicans became very rich. Most, though, were very poor.

The Call of Dolores

One Sunday morning in 1810, a priest, Miguel Hidalgo (mee GEL ee DAHL goh) was speaking to the poor people in the town of Dolores (doh LOHR es). Hidalgo felt a duty to improve life for Mexicans. He called upon his listeners to sweep the Europeans from office and create a better government. In this stirring speech, now known as The Call of Dolores, Hidalgo encouraged the local people to "recover from the hated Spaniards the land stolen from your forefathers."

The response to Hidalgo's speech was explosive. His words fueled a revolution that called for freedom from Spain and equality for all people. Most of Hidalgo's supporters were poor Native Americans and mestizos (me STEE sohs). Mestizos are people of mixed Native American and European ancestry. People of African descent also joined the cause.

Combined, the poor mestizos and Mexicans of African descent made up about 80 percent of Mexico's population. Some Mexicans of European descent also supported the movement for independence.


A Setback

The angry crowd in Dolores arrested Spanish officials and destroyed Spanish haciendas. The number of revolutionaries swelled to 25,000, and Hidalgo's army captured the nearby city of Guanajuato (gwah nah HWAH toh). As they moved on toward Mexico City, another 60,000 people joined in the march. Hidalgo called for equality for all groups. He also declared the end of slavery and the unfair taxes that the people had to pay the Spanish government.

Hidalgo's army never reached Mexico City. The Spanish army pursued the rebels, captured Hidalgo, and executed him in 1811. All hope for the Mexican war of independence seemed lost.

After Hidalgo's death, another priest, named JosŽ Maria Morelos (ho SE mah REE ah moh RE lohs), carried on the revolution. Morelos led a small army in central Mexico. He fought strong Spanish forces for several years. In 1813 Morelos called Mexico's first national congress and declared the colony's independence from Spain. In 1815, like Hidalgo before him, Morelos was captured and killed by Spanish soldiers.

An Independent Mexico

One of the soldiers who had fought against both Hidalgo and Morelos soon came to power. Agustin de Iturbide was an officer in the Spanish army. In 1821 Iturbide issued the Plan de Iguala (PLAHN DE ee GWAH lah). It described his own ideas about Mexico.

All inhabitants of New Spain, without any distinction between Europeans, Africans, and Indians, are citizens of this monarchy. . . . Behold the sweet chain that unites us; consider the bonds of friendship, interdependence of interest, education, language, and harmony of feelings. . . . The time has arrived . . . that our union should emancipate [free] America without need of foreign help. At the head of a brave and determined army, I [declare] the Independence of Northern America.

Finally, 11 years after Miguel Hidalgo rang the bell at his church in Dolores, Mexico was independent. However, Hidalgo's dream of liberty and equality for all Mexicans was lost. In 1822 Iturbide declared himself Emperor of Mexico. Five months later he dismissed the congress Morelos had started. Many years would pass before all Mexicans were given a say in their government.

This huge monument was built in honor of Jose Morelos.



The forces of liberty soon pressed upon other parts of the world. Beginning in 1810 the Spanish-speaking colonies of South America began to revolt. Brazil, ruled by Portugal, was not far behind. On the other side of the world, Australia was also headed for change.

The Liberator of South America

The driving force behind independence in South America was Simon Bolivar. Bolivar was born into one of the richest families in Venezuela. He had read books by French writers explaining ideas of freedom. Liberty and equality served as the main goals of his struggle. Bolivar offered the hope of freedom from colonial rule to all people who joined his cause.

Bolivar spent ten years struggling to free his homeland from Spain. In 1821 a decade of leading armies through the rain forests and mountains of South America finally paid off. Bolivar's forces defeated the Spanish army in Venezuela. In a speech to his troops, Bolivar said:

But we cannot rest. Other obligations await us. And when our native land is entirely free, we shall go to fight the Spaniards in any part of America where they are in control, and we shall throw them into the sea. Freedom shall live protected by our swords!

Bolivar carried the revolution further into South America, freeing the areas now known as Colombia, Bolivia, Panama, Ecuador, and Peru from Spanish rule. His actions won him the nickname "Liberator of South America."

From the southern part of the continent came another liberator. His name was JosŽ de San Martin (ho SE DE sahn mahr TEEN). San Martin led revolutions in Argentina and Chile. Find his route on the map on this page.


Bolivar and San Martin won independence for many of the lands of South America.

1. Which of these two liberators traveled farther south in South America?

2. How far is Santiago from Lima?

Simon Bolivar, a Venezuelan soldier, liberated much of northern South America.

Changes in Australia

Remember that in 1788 the English founded the colony of New South Wales in Australia. Eventually, other colonies such as Van Diemen's Land, South Australia, and Western Australia were also established.


The Parliament House in Canberra is the center of Australia's government.

It was difficult for England to govern these colonies from so far away. As a result, the Australian Colonies Government Act was passed in 1850. This allowed the colonies to create constitutions and legislative bodies.

Years later, as France and Germany became interested in lands near Australia, Australians began to see a need for a confederation that would help protect the colonies by unifying them. A confederation is a group of provinces or states under a central government. The Commonwealth of Australia came into existence on January 1, 1901. Although this new commonwealth kept the British monarch as its highest ruler, it was united and free to govern itself.


The 1800s brought many freedoms to European colonists throughout the world. Sometimes the change came peacefully, as it did in Australia. Often, however, people had to fight for their freedom.

With liberty came responsibility. The young countries were now able to make decisions for themselves. Faraway kings and queens no longer took a large share of wealth. However, it was still difficult for the new nations to build strong economies. Often a few rich families controlled the country's land and money.

The peasants of Mexico often said their revolution "placed the same rider on a new mule." They meant that one group of rulers usually just replaced another. Although the colonies were free, freedom and equality for all people remained a distant promise.

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