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American Revolution As the Beginning of the Age of Revolutions: Analytical Essay

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The Age of Revolution was a historical phenomenon, that not only impacted Europe and America, but also started a butterfly effect of revolutionary events across the globe. The Age of Revolution is a period in history, from approximately 1774 to 1849, with which a series of revolutionary movements occurred throughout most of Europe and America. The period is most significant for changing single power monarchies to representative governments with a documented constitution, and the creation of individual nation states. Influenced by the ideas of ‘Enlightenment’ (intellectual and philosophical movement that dominated the world of ideas in Europe during the 18th century), the American Revolution, from the years 1765 to 1783, is considered to be the starting point of the Age of Revolution. It, in turn, worked as the ‘butterfly effect’, inspiring other countries to revolt, starting with the French Revolution in 1789 which later, rapidly spread to the rest of Europe through its propaganda and wars.

In 1799, Napoleon (b. 1769, d. 1821) took power in France and followed on from the French Revolution by conquering most of Europe. This included Belgium, Holland, most of Italy, Austria, most of Germany, Poland and Spain. Although Napoleon attempted to bring improvement to his conquest such as equality before the law, and the civil code, his domineering military occupation triggered nation-wide rebellions. After Napoleon’s defeat, Europeans remaining great powers forged the ‘Holy Alliance’ (an alliance aimed to restrain liberalism and secularism in Europe) at the Congress of Vienna in 1814 to 1815. This was aimed at preventing future revolutions from happening, as well as restoring the previous monarchies.

Spain was significantly weakened by the Napoleonic Invasions and lacked the resources to control its American colonies, almost all of which declared their independence between 1810 and 1820. Revolution then spread back to southern Europe in 1820, with uprisings in Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Greece. Continental Europe was shaken by further revolutionary waves in 1830 and 1848. The 1848 wave is known now as the ‘Spring of Nations’ and encompassed seemingly unconnected uprisings in many countries. The common theme was lower and middle classes demanding equality. Some years of crop failure and hardship as well as the improvement in communication via popular press may have been a common root cause. The democratic demands of the revolutionaries often merged with independence or national unification movements, such as in Germany, Italy, Poland, Hungary. The revolution of the Spring of Nations came to an end in most countries due to disagreement between various factions and marked the end of the era.

Once the American Revolution became an effective uprising that the French observed firsthand, it began a series of complex conflicts between the French with numerous triggers (Marks, How did the American Revolution influence the french revolution?, 2019). After the American colonists won independence from Britain in the Revolutionary War (from 1775 to 1783), the French, who participated in the war themselves, were both close allies and key participants. Several years after the revolt in America, French reformists faced political, social and economic hardship that mirrored the colonists’ struggles (Marks, 2019).

Although the French and American revolution had several distinct and differing motives for revolting against their ruling governments, some similar causes led to both revolutions, including the Economic struggles, Monarchy and Unequal rights. The Economic struggles involved a taxation system both the American and French found discriminating and unfair. Additionally, France’s involvement in the American Revolution (along with extravagant spending practices) left the country on the verge of bankruptcy (Marks, 2019). The monarchy was equally involved in its role as a constitution with a parliamentary system. America has revolted against the royal powers of King George III, much like how the French has risen against Louise XVI (Marks, 2019). Finally, like the American colonists, the French felt that specific rights were only granted to certain segments of society, primarily the elite and aristocrats; triggering an equal rights movement (Marks, 2019).

Whilst the American success in the Revolutionary war created a new nation, the British tore away part of their empire. Modern readers suggest Britain suffered immensely as a result of losing the war, however, the hostility towards Napoleon enabled Britain to fight an extremely long war soon after (Brooks, 2017). Britain spent a vast amount of money fighting the Revolutionary war, sending their national debt soaring, and creating a yearly interest of nearly 10 million pounds (Wilde, 2019).

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The movement of the Atlantic slave trade during a four-hundred-year period was by any standards a major historical phenomenon with long term international consequences (Hardy, 2014). Historians’ estimates of the effects of the slave trade range widely, from those who see the trade as fundamental to the problems that blighted Africa both then and later, to those who see it as only a marginal factor in Africa’s historical development (Hardy, 2014). West Africa was the most severely impacted by the slave trade as Britain’s primary supply of slaves came from countries such as Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau and Mali (Pruitt, 2019). Although, at the height of the slave trade, many other parts of Africa were greatly impacted. Black slaves played a crucial part in the economic development of the New World, above all by making up for shortage of labour, they were especially important for the ‘plantation’ agriculture that developed in the New World, first in Brazil, and later in the Caribbean and the southern parts of North America (, 2019).

The long-term economic exploitation of millions of black slaves was to have a mass effect on the New World’s history. Most fundamentally, it produced deep social divides between the rich-white and poor-black communities, the consequences of which still haunt American societies today (, 2019). At the centre of the debate is the economic transformation of Britain. During the eighteenth century, Britain became the first country in the world to ‘industrialise’, in terms of an unprecedented economic shift towards manufactures and commerce, and the progress of technology. These were also years of large British involvement in the slave trade.

Undoubtedly the slave trade affected the British economy in several different ways. The British cotton mills, which became the emblem of the ‘Industrial Revolution’, depended on cheap slaved-produced cotton from the New World; cotton would have been more costly to obtain elsewhere. British consumers also benefited from other cheap and plentiful slaved-produced goods such as sugar. The profits gained from the slave trade gave the British economy an extra source of capital. Both the Americas and Africa, whose economies depended on slavery, became useful additional export markets for British manufactures. Certain British individuals, businesses, and ports prospered because of the slave trade.

The Atlantic slave trade inevitably inspired the Haitian Revolution, which was the first and only successful anti-slavery and anti-colonial insurrection by self-liberal slaves against French colonial rule in Saint-Domingue (now known as the sovereign nation of Haiti). The revolution began in 1791 and ended in 1804 with the former colony’s independence; involving blacks, mulattoes, French, Spanish and British participants. The Haitian Revolution was the only slave uprising that led to the founding of a state which was both free from slavery, and rules by non-whites and former captives. It is now seen as a defining moment in the history of the Atlantic world.

The Latin American Wars of Independence were a revolutionary wave that took place during the late 18th and early 19th centuries and resulted in the creation of a number of independent countries in Latin America. These revolutions followed the American and French Revolutions which has profound effects on the British, Spanish, Portuguese and French colonies in America. The Peninsular war with France, which resulted from the Napoleonic occupation of Spain, caused Spanish Creoles in Spanish America to question their allegiance to Spain, stoking independence movements that culminated in the wars of independence, which lasted almost two decades. At the same time, the Portuguese monarchy relocated to Brazil during Portugal’s French occupation. After the royal court returned to Lisbon, the prince regent, Pedro, remained in Brazil and in 1822 successfully declared himself emperor of a newly independent Brazil. Cuban independence was fought against Spain in two wars (Ten Years and Little War). Cuba and Puerto Rico remained under Spanish rule until the Spanish–American War in 1898 (Lumen; Boundless World History , 2019)

In conclusion, the Age of Revolution wasn’t only a European and American event, but rather a global phenomenon that impacted parts of Africa and Haiti. It began with the American Revolution for detachment against the British empire, which later inspired the French revolution who overthrew the monarchy and took control of the government. Other catastrophic events that happened within this time period were the Atlantic slave trade by America, and the Haiti slave trade by France. Whilst there was no revolution by the American slave trade, the Haiti revolution was one of the most significant events in history as it was the first and only successful revolt against a white culture. This left the people of Haiti as the first black colony that controlled their own governmental system (Forster).

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American Revolution As the Beginning of the Age of Revolutions: Analytical Essay. (2022, July 14). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 30, 2023, from
“American Revolution As the Beginning of the Age of Revolutions: Analytical Essay.” Edubirdie, 14 Jul. 2022,
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