11) Early Revolutions

Storming Of The Bastille

The Storming of the Bastille. This became the moment that many historians claim to be the start of the French Revolution. (Public Domain photo. Info can be found here)

This chapter covers the first two major revolutions of this era and how they were connected to the developments of the enlightenment. A brief overview of important enlightenment thinkers and their beliefs is followed by an introduction to the American Revolution. It is important to note that the section on the American Revolution is taken mostly from a world history perspective instead of the kind you may get in a US history class. We focus mainly on the aspects of the Revolution and aftermath that have profound effect on later changes in thought around the globe, and the help given by other countries to the war effort in the US. After that there is a long and in depth explanation of both the French Revolution and the rise and fall of Napoleon. The extreme focus on this revolution as opposed to the American version should not be seen by students as a reflection of what is more important, but simply a reflection of the course scope that leaves out US history, except when it is in connection with other countries.

Essential Questions

  1. Why is the concept of the “Social Contract” such a revolutionary idea in history? Were some interpretations of it more positive than others?
  2. Would you call the Marquis de Lafayette a hero, as Americans tend to, or an important but ineffectual leader, as he is often considered in France? Why or why not?
  3. Would you consider the overall legacy of Napoleon as a positive one when also considering morality and not just his military prowess? Why or why not?
  4. Which of the revolutions covered in this chapter are the more important to world history? Explain your decision in detail.
  5. What were the causes and effects of the French Revolution to world history?

Chapter 11 Content

Section 1: The Enlightenment

Enlightenment Overview

English Roots of the Enlightenment

French Enlightenment Thinkers

Later Changes in the Enlightenment

The Enlightenment Loses Steam

Section 2: The American Revolution

Issues After the 7 Years' War

Problems Get Worse

The Declaration Of Independence

The American Revolution

The Articles Of Confederation

The Demise of the Articles of Confederation

The U.S. Constitution

The Ratification of the Constitution

The Forgotten Foreign Hero of the War

Section 3: The French Revolution

France Prior to the Revolution

An Important Royal Marriage

Causes of the Revolution

The Rise of the National Assembly

The Storming of the Bastille

Creating the New Government

Women's March on Versailles

The Women's March Gets Violent

The Assembly Slowly Grows More Radical

Attack on the Church

The End of the Monarchy

Austria Again Threatens War

The September Massacres

Military Improvements & the Economy

Radical Phase of the National Assembly

The Reign of Terror

Maximilien Robespierre

Thermidorian Reaction

Marquis de Lafayette During the French Revolution

Section 4: The Rise of Napoleon

The Rise of Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon's 1st Italian Campaign

The Directory

Napoleon's Egyptian (& Syrian) Expedition

Napoleon's Changes in Egypt

Expedition Runs into Problems

The French Attack On Syria

The Siege of Acre

The Retreat From Syria & Egypt

The Start of the Consulate

The 2nd Coalition & 2nd Italian Campaign

Section 5: The French Empire

The Rise of the Empire

The Government Under the Empire

The 3rd Coalition

The Battle of Trafalgar

The Battle of Austerlitz

The End of the 3rd Coalition

The 4th Coalition

The End of the 4th Coalition

The Peninsular War

Attacking Spain

Guerrilla War in Spain

The End of the Peninsular War

The 5th Coalition

Section 6: The Empire Slowly Unravels

The Invasion of Russia

French Retreat

The 6th Coalition

The 100 Days & 7th Coalition

Napoleon's Death & Legacy

Prince Klemens Wenzel Von Metternich

The Congress of Vienna

"There are only two forces in the world, the sword and the spirit. In the long run the sword will always be conquered by the spirit."

- Napoleon Bonaparte

Why do history teachers love Napoleon?

It is claimed that Napoleon had an eidetic (photographic) memory. For this reason he was fond of saying that he never learned anything from any battle because he always simply did what the military manuals said. Historians often use this as a reason to claim that the knowledge of history is important because he had built his career on it.

Obviously, this is far from the only reason for his fame. His instinct for what others would do in battle was every bit as important to his rise (if not more) as his knowledge of military strategy. No matter how much importance you place on his many talents, the idea of being a lover of history makes historians appreciate him greatly. 

Chapter Resources

Chapter Notes

Review Assignment

Review Material