Today, scholars define revolution as a social phenomenon that implies a rapid change in governmental authorities since citizens are not satisfied with the existent political regime and attempt to modify the current situation in the desired way with the help of strike or revolt (Sisson, 2014). This definition of revolution can be distinguished from “war”, as it majorly focuses on the propaganda of new ideas and modification of the laws, social structure, and the Constitution while war often pertains to as an armed conflict with a diverse range of objectives such as the expansion of the territory (Sisson, 2014).
The revolutions in France and America had a vehement impact on the current politics of the world and social attitudes and viewpoints, and they could be considered as the bright examples of social change reflected in the global history. Consequently, in the context of this research paper, it is vital to review triggers and reasons for the selected revolutions, changes in people’s attitudes, and their outcomes with the help of the literature review. In the end, conclusions are drawn to summarize the main findings of the paper.
Reasons for Revolutions
The American Revolution
To establish a foundation for discussion, the American Revolution could be discovered as a revolt that took place in colonies to gain independence from Britain in 1775, and it contributed to the establishment of the modern United States of America (Allison, 2015). Thus, this social change was triggered by a sequence of events including the Boston Massacre, Stamp Act, and Boston Tea Party (Allison, 2015). In his case, the potential reasons would be generalized, as this revolution and war were majorly driven by changes in opinions and the actions of Britain.
As it was mentioned earlier, the government of Britain tended to use colonies as a source of income and imposed severe taxes to gain profits. This matter changed attitude towards Britain, as the colonists wanted their rights to be recognized (Sisson, 2014). Nonetheless, their preferences were not reflected in the current politics of Britain.
The desire for freedom, along with the development of liberalism, republicanism, and the rising role of equality during the Age of Enlightenment contributed to the popularity of political leaders such as Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, who promoted the revolution as a pathway to success, prosperity, and freedom (Sisson, 2014). Simultaneously, the geographical location of the colonies and their substantial distance from Britain required the development of local legislatures and created an illusion of independence. Overall, the American Revolution was triggered by an array of social and economic factors, and it explained the complexity of this social event.
The French Revolution
Initially, the French Revolution started in 1789 and was targeted at diminishing the era of absolute monarchy and the establishment of France as a democratic republic (Andress, 2015). Similarly, to the American Revolution, the French Revolution was triggered by a plethora of factors. For example, one could not underestimate the paramount importance of economic forces such as high taxes, the rise of prices, and economic recession (Andress, 2015). Along with the insufficient politics of Louis XVI, economic fluctuations created tensions in the society while the King lost the trust of the population.
It also took place since initially, Louis XVI approved a new Constitution, but after that, he started to oppose radical changes and created dissatisfaction in society (Andress, 2015). Apart from these political and economic forces, the American Revolution could be considered as another major cause, as French people got “infected” by American revolutionary ideals. In turn, similarly to the situation in America, during these years, the bourgeoisie and the Age of Enlightenment experienced a rise while promoting the concepts of equality, freedom, and liberty in the society (Guettner, 2016). Overall, it could be said that the French Revolution was triggered by an array of factors including the interest in enlightenment and equality, and these matters underlined its similarities with the one that took place in America.
Changes in People’s Attitudes Towards Government and Fairness
The American Revolution
In the previous section, it was proclaimed that Britain’s actions could be considered one of the reasons that changed people’s attitudes towards fairness. For example, Britain viewed colonies as the sources of income while their rights were not recognized. To increase their profitability, the governmental authorities obliged the colonists to pay taxes and constantly increased them (Sisson, 2014). This matter triggered riots and revolts such as the Boston Tea Party, as colonists did not see this action as appropriate (Allison, 2015).
Their attitudes changed since they viewed equality and fairness as priorities, but the British government did not want to give them more power and freedoms due to political and economic reasons. Along with that, a high interest in the Age of Enlightenment only strengthened the positions concerning the unfairness of British authorities and underlined the need for revolution as the only way to diminish law disobedience, minimize levels of corruption, and promote equality for all.
The French Revolution
Similarly to the American Revolution, in France, people were satisfied with the politics of the government before they started increasing the taxes. In this instance, high taxation rates and rising prices for food such as bread not only questioned the effectiveness of the present ruler but also doubted the necessity of absolute monarchy. Unreasonably high taxation created a perception among the population that the government was unfair since along with galloping inflation for commodities, their rights and freedoms were not recognized and cherished (Andress, 2015).
Meanwhile, the Age of Enlightenment increased the awareness of people about equality and made bourgeoisie one of the dominating social classes. This knowledge accompanied by dissatisfaction and leadership created favorable grounds for the revolution and increased tensions between society and government. To summarize, similarly to the American Revolution, changes in people’s viewpoints took place, as they were able to see the insufficiency of government and lack of fairness in its decision-making.
The Outcomes of These Revolutions
The American Revolution
It is evident that these revolutions had a dramatic impact on the structure of society and developed different attitudes. One of the most important results of the American Revolution was the development of the modern Constitution of the United States of America (Sisson, 2014). This document guaranteed the rights of the citizens of the country by promoting equality, recognition of freedoms, and the importance of obeying the law. Along with that, it declared the independence of the United States of America and defined the main governmental branches including judicial, executive, and representative ones to delegate responsibilities and ensure that the opinions and suggestions of the citizens were considered (Sisson, 2014).
Along with that, the effects of this revolution crossed the country’s borders. For example, with the help of migration, revolutionary ideas became highly popular in modern Canada while leading to its independence from Britain in 1982 (Studin, 2014). Overall, disregarding economic challenges and high mortality rates associated with this revolution and subsequent war, the American Revolution assisted the USA is becoming the realm and cradle of the modern democracy while emphasizing its central role inequality, tolerance, diversity, and multiculturalism.
The French Revolution
One of the major similarities of the French Revolution with the American one was the active development of civil rights and freedoms while giving people opportunities to choose their professional spheres, promoting entrepreneurship, and establishing a unified and fair taxation system (Guettner, 2016). In turn, it caused a decline in absolute monarchies while creating a favorable environment for liberalism, radicalism, and nationalism.
The popularity of the last one was linked to the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte, and his reign was associated with highly centralized power, expansive politics, and terror (Andress, 2015). His actions changed the structure of Europe while making France the motherland of nationalism and causing modifications in political regimes of other countries such as Soviet Russia (Guettner, 2016). Overall, the outcomes of this revolution altered global history while creating irreversible consequences in European countries and their political ideologies.
To summarize, both American and French revolutions were triggered by a diverse array of forces including the rise of the Age of Enlightenment, an upsurge in taxes, and the lack of satisfaction with the existent government, and these factors explained the complexity of this social phenomenon. A combination of these aspects underlined that the government was unfair while the revolution was the only pathway to success and prosperity. Apart from changes in political structures in the past, these events had a substantial impact on the modern political regimes and ideologies such as leading to the rise of nationalism and democracy and promoting equality and freedom as the core social values.
Allison, R. (2015). The American Revolution: A very short introduction. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Andress, D. (2015). The Oxford handbook of the French Revolution. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Guettner, D. (2016). The French Revolution and Europe – Its echoes, its influence, its impact. Journal of the Australian Early Medieval Association, 51(1), 34-42.
Sisson, D. (2014). The American Revolution of 1800: How Jefferson rescued democracy from tyranny and faction, and what this means today. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
Studin, I. (2014). The strategic constitution: Understanding Canadian power in the world. Vancouver, Canada: UBC Press.