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Chapter 02. Feudalism, Capitalism and Socialism (Old NCERT World History Story of Civilisation by Arjun Dev)

Chapter 2. Feudalism, Capitalism and Socialism

In the previous chapter, you learned about the rise of a new economic system in the world. In this chapter you will read of the developments that transformed the political systems of many countries of Europe and of the Americas in the 18th and 19th centuries. The basic features of these developments were the growth of democratic political systems, nationalism and socialism. Together with the’ industrial Revolution, they brought about great changes and helped to determine people’s thought and conditions of life for a long time to come. These developments began first in certain parts of Europe. Since then, particularly from the 19th century, the establishment of democratic political systems and of independent states based on nationalism have been among the primary aims of peoples the world over. Simultaneously with these in some countries and later in other countries ideas of socialism have inspired movements of social equality.

Feudalism to Nation States

Under feudalism, societies were divided into classes some of which were privileged while the others were exploited. A man’s entire life was determined at the time of his birth, depending on the class into which he was born. You have read that the two main classes in the feudal society were feudal lords and serfs.
The political systems of the time were also determined by the prevailing social and economic system. Most of the population was excluded from having any share in the governance of the country.
Many kings claimed divine rights, that is, that their power was derived from God and not from any capability to rule. Their word was law. A French king declared, “I am the State. ”
The boundaries of states also were irrational. If you see old maps you will be able to recognize very few states of modern Europe. There were all kinds of states—empires, feudal estates, city-states.
The territories within a state were not necessarily contiguous. The people inhabiting these states were not homogeneous. Empires, for example, included territories far apart from each other and inhabited by people of different nationalities.
Similarly, the territories inhabited by a homogeneous people were divided into a number of states, some under a local ruler, some under the Church and some as parts of an empire. As a result of many factors nation-states had begun to be formed. However, this process was limited to a few areas. Most of the European states for a long time to come had no rational basis.

Middle Class

You have read of the rise of new social groups and classes during the later Middle Ages and about the role played by the middle class in bringing about the Renaissance in Europe. In economic life, this class gradually became very important. However, it was obstructed in its growth by the outdated political systems based on privilege.
It could grow only if it also held the political power. With the Industrial Revolution, the strength of this class increased further and the removal of the outdated political systems acquired urgency. The spread of the Industrial Revolution in many countries was slow because of the backward political system that prevailed there. Another important new class that arose, particularly after the Industrial Revolution, was the working class, or the industrial workers. This class also was opposed to the autocratic political systems.
Serfdom had declined in some countries but in most other countries of Europe, it was still the dominant feature of the social system. There were many revolts of the serfs but they were suppressed. However, during the period from the 17th to the 19th centuries, there arose movements in different parts of Europe to overthrow the existing political systems. The first successful revolution which overthrew the autocratic monarchy took place in England in the 17th century.
Simultaneously, there was also the rise and growth of national consciousness and movements to unite the different territories inhabited by the people of a nation if they were divided into different states, and to overthrow foreign imperial rule if the territories of a nation were part of a larger empire ruled by an alien emperor.

The Renaissance

The Renaissance had inaugurated an era of questioning the established beliefs. Gradually, this questioning covered every aspect of thought and belief. The period after the 16th century, witnessed an intellectual revolution when all the existing beliefs based on faith came under heavy attack.
Great progress was made in various sciences, which also undermined the existing beliefs. The new ideas were characterized by rationalism and were increasingly concerned with secular affairs. Because of the growing emphasis on reason, the period of the 18th century in European history is called the Age of reason or the Age of Enlightenment.
Gradually the beliefs that permitted people to be divided into higher or lower groups on the basis of birth, and into privileged groups and others, and the hold of the Church in the sphere of ideas, were undermined.
The new ideas were ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity. Thus arose ideas of freedom, democracy and equality, which became the rallying slogans of peoples everywhere.
Simultaneously, there also arose ideas of nationalism which brought a sense of unity and oneness to the people forming a nation and the desire to organize themselves into independent states with their distinctive national identities.
Movements arose in many parts of Europe and in North America to overthrow the existing autocratic political systems and replace them by democratic political system and to abolish privileges and establish the equality of political rights. These movements which began earlier became powerful forces in the 19th century Europe.
In this chapter you will read about some revolutions that led to the overthrow of autocratic governments and their replacement by democratic forms of government. You will also read about some successful movements of national independence and national unification. In the last section, you will read about the emergence of ideas of socialism and about the movements based on those ideas which took shape.

What is a Revolution?

Changes in political and social systems have often been brought about by revolutions. A revolution, as you know from your study of the Industrial Revolution, means a drastic or radical change.
A revolution can be the sudden overthrow of an established government or system by force and bloodshed; it can also be a great change that comes slowly and peacefully. The developments described in this chapter were, in some aspects, rapid and accompanied by violence but many of the lasting changes they brought about have taken place gradually and without bloodshed.
However, you should remember that every change of government is not a revolution. A revolution involves a fundamental change in the entire political system of a country, a change in the nature of government, in the class or classes that hold political power, and also in the aims of the government.
People do not usually revolt against a government or a certain system unless they believe that it is no longer possible to live in the old way. Revolutions occur when an existing system becomes unbearable to a vast majority of the people. This, in itself, makes conditions ‘ripe’ for setting up a new system.
Revolutions are ‘contagious’. Revolutionary ideas originating in one place may spread to other places very fast and influence the thinking and actions of peoples suffering under oppressive governments in other lands. Revolutions have played an essential role in the development of human societies. Without them, one kind of system, however unsuitable for the times it might be, would continue for ever and there would be no progress.


While some Englishmen were battling at home for improvements in Parliament and reforms in religion, others were adventuring across the Atlantic to establish colonies and trade in the Americas.
In the 16th century, European countries began to make settlements there. In North America, colonies were established by France, Holland and Spain as well as by England.
In the 18th century, England drove France out of the eastern part of the continent and Canada. She had earlier taken New Netherlands from the Dutch, changing its name to New York.

The English Colonies in America

By the middle of the 18th century there were 13 English colonies in North America along the Atlantic Coast. Landless peasants, people seeking religious freedom, traders, and profiteers had settled there. The bulk of the population consisted of independent farmers. Infant industries had developed in such products as wool, flax, and leather.
In the north there were fishing and ship-building. In the south, large plantations like feudal manors had grown up where tobacco and cotton were grown with slave labour brought from Africa.
Each colony had a local assembly elected by qualified voters. These assemblies enacted laws concerning local matters, and levied taxes. However, they were under the rule of the mother country.
By the 18th century, the colonists found the laws which the English government imposed upon them more and more objectionable. The idea of being an independent nation grew and developed into the Revolutionary War in which the colonists gained their independence.

Causes of the War of American Independence

The colonial policy of England in economic matters was the primary cause of resentment in the American colonies. England’s policies did not encourage the American colonies to develop an economy of their own.
The English Parliament had forbidden them to use non-British ships in their trade. Certain products, such as tobacco, cotton and sugar, could be exported only to England.
Heavy duties were imposed on the import of goods in the colonies from other places. The colonies were also forbidden to start certain industries, for example, iron works and textiles.
They were forced to import these goods from England. Thus, in every possible way, the growth of industry and trade in the colonies was impeded.
The English also angered the colonists by issuing a proclamation to prevent them from moving west into new lands. English aristocrats had bought lands in America and got rents from the farmers. They wanted to keep the colonists as renters.
Taxes to finance wars
As a result of continuous wars in Europe, the English government was burdened with debt. It needed money. In 1765, the English Parliament passed the Stamp Act which imposed stamp taxes on all business transactions in the American colonies. Revenue stamps up to 20 shillings were to be affixed to legal documents and other papers.
This Act aroused violent resentment among all sections of the colonists and led them to boycott English goods. There were uprisings in many towns and tax-collectors were killed.
The colonists claimed that, since English Parliament had no representatives from the colonies, it had no right to levy taxes on them. The revenue from these taxes was used not in the interests of the colonies but of English.
The American revolutionaries were inspired by the ideas of the English philosophers of the 17th century. These philosophers— Locke,Harrington,Milton—believed that men had certain fundamental rights which no government had the right to infringe.
American thinkers, especially Thomas Jefferson, were also inspired by what French philosophers were saying and writing at that time. Jefferson asserted the colonists’ right to rebellion, and encouraged their increasing desire for independence.
Support for independence was forcefully expressed by Thomas Paine, who detested the inequalities of English society, and had come to America. In a pamphlet entitled Common Sense, he wrote, ‘It was repugnant to reason to suppose that this continent can long remain subject to any external power…there is something absurd in supposing a Continent to be perpetually governed by an island’.

No taxation without representation

The leaders in the Massachusetts colony called together representatives from other colonies to consider their common problems.
In this Massachusetts assembly, they agreed and declared that the English Parliament had no right to levy taxes on them. ‘No taxation without representation’ was the slogan they adopted.
And they threatened to stop the import of British goods. The threat led English to repeal the Stamp Act, but Parliament still insisted that it had the right to levy taxes. Then Parliament imposed a tax on consumer goods coming into the colonies, such as paper, glass, tea and paint.
Again the colonies objected saying that only their own assemblies had the right to raise money through taxes. In protest the colonies cut down the English imports by one-half. The English withdrew the plan- leaving only the tax on tea to assert their right to levy taxes.

Boston Tea Party

The tax on tea led to trouble. In 1773, several colonies refused to unload the tea coming in English ships.
In Boston, when the governor ordered a ship to be unloaded, a group of citizens, dressed as American Indians, boarded the ship and dumped the crates of tea into the water. This incident is known as ‘the Boston Tea Party’. The English government then closed the port of Boston to all trade and precipitated the uprising of the colonies.

Declaration of Independence

The representatives of the 13 American colonies met as a group in what is called the First Continental -Congress at Philadelphia in 1774. This Congress appealed to the English King to remove restrictions on industries and trade and not to impose any taxes without their consent.
The King declared their action a mutiny and ordered troops to be sent to suppress it. The colonies then planned for military defence with local troops or militia.
In 1775, the first battle of the revolution was fought when a thousand soldiers met the colonial militia in Independence. The Declaration On 4 July 1776, the Second Continental Congress asserted ‘that all men are created equal, Congress adopted the Declaration of that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’.
The Declaration advanced the principle that the people are the source of authority and affirmed the people’s right to set up their own government. The Declaration also stated that the American colonies had been oppressed by the English government and that ‘these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states’.
Up to this time the colonists had been fighting for their rights as Englishmen. After the Declaration in 1776, they fought for their right to be an independent nation.

The War of Independence

George Washington was put in command of the American forces. The first battles took place in and around Boston. Then English sent a force to Canada with the plan to march it south to meet another English force, and so cut the American colonies in half.
But English general spoiled the plan. As the English marched south, the Americans met and defeated them. This victory of the rough American militia-men against a trained British force gave the Americans confidence.
The French government now decided to help the colonies with troops, supplies and funds—to embarrass the English, Frances old enemy. Other enemies of English—Spain and Holland—were soon fighting the English elsewhere
Meanwhile, trouble was brewing for Britain at home. There was a threat of rebellion in Ireland; some leaders inParliament were opposing the war with the colonists.
The war ended in 1781 when the English commander, Cornwallis, later to become governor-general in India, surrendered. Two years later, in 1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed and the English recognized the independence of its 13 former colonies.

The American Constitution

When the war of independence started, each of the 13 colonies was a separate state with its own army, boundaries, customs duties and finances. But they co-operated against a common enemy. In 1781, as states of the United States, they united through a plan for a national government. A constitutional convention was called in Philadelphia to frame a new constitution, which came into effect in 1789.
The American constitution established a republican form of government at a time when states in other parts of the world were governed by monarchies. The American Constitution set up a federal system under which powers were divided between a central or federal government and the state governments.
Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, and his followers campaigned for the addition of a Bill of Rights to the federal constitution. This was done through ten amendments which guaranteed many rights to the American people. The most noted of these are freedom of speech, press and religion, and justice under law.
The constitution marked the emergence of the United States of America as a nation in world history. It was the first written republican constitution ever framed in history, which is still in operation.

Significance of the American Revolution

The words of the Declaration of Independence regarding the equality of all men and the ‘inalienable rights’ of man electrified the atmosphere in America and outside. Lafayette, the French general who fought on the side of American revolutionaries, was soon to become a hero of the French Revolution. Thomas Paine also participated in the French Revolution.
By its example, the American Revolution inspired many revolutionaries in Europe later in the 19th century. It encouraged Spanish and Portuguese colonies in Central and South America to rebel and gain their independence.
The main achievement of the American Revolution was the establishment of a republic. This republic was, however, not truly democratic. The right to vote was limited. Negroes— most of them still slaves—American Indians, and women had no vote.
Election laws in all states favored men of property for many years. But progress towards democracy had begun. In some states, state religion was abolished, along with religious qualifications for holding public offices.

The Growth of a Nation

Early in the 19th century, many new areas were added to the United States. The vast territory in the middle of the continent, known as Louisiana, was purchased from France. Florida was acquired from Spain. By the 1850’s, after a war with Mexico, the United States had extended its boundaries to the Pacific Ocean. People had continued to move west. The westward expansion of the United States was at the expense of the
American Indians who were driven out of their territories and in the course of a few decades their population was reduced to an insignificant number. Increasing settlements in the west brought about increasing conflicts between the southern states that wanted to extend slavery to the western territories and the northern states that objected to a slave economy.
A change of revolutionary significance came with the Civil War when slave-owning states of the south seceded from the Union and set up a separate government. The Civil War raged from 1861 to 1865 and ended in the defeat of the southern states.
It was a victory for the capitalistic industrial states of the north over the slave-owning states of the south. The federal government abolished slavery. The abolition of slavery, however, did not end discrimination against the Black people and their struggle to make equal rights a reality continued.
The French Revolution was brewing while the War of American Independence was being fought. Conditions in France were vastly different from those in the New World, but many of the same revolutionary ideas were at work. The French Revolution, however, was more world-shaking than the American. It became a widespread upheaval over which no one could remain neutral.

Social Conditions in the 18th-century France

To understand how and why the French Revolution occurred, we have to understand French society of that time. We have to realize also that conditions in France were no worse than the conditions that existed in other parts of Europe.
Autocratic, extravagant rulers, privileged nobles and clergy, landless peasants, jobless workers, unequal taxation—the list of hardships endured by the common people is a very long one. France was a strong and powerful state in the 18th century. She had seized vast territories in North America, islands in the West Indies. However, despite its outward strength, the French monarchy was facing a crisis which was to lead to its destruction.

First and Second Estate

French society was divided into classes, or estates. There were two privileged classes: Privileged class Also known as Clergy: First estate 1. 3 lakh clerics. Nobility: Second estate 80 thousand families
People in these two classes were exempted from almost all taxes;They controlled most of the administrative posts and all the high-ranking posts in the army. In a population of 25,000,000 people, these two classes together owned about 40 per cent of the total land of France. Their incomes came primarily from their, large land-holdings.
A minority of these also depended on pensions and gifts from the king. They considered it beneath their dignity to trade or to be engaged in manufacture or to do any work. The life of the nobility was everywhere characterized by extravagance and luxury. There were, of course, poorer sections in these two top estates. They were discontented and blamed the richer members of their class for their misery.

Third Estate

The rest of the people of France were called the Third Estate. They were the common people and numbered about 95 per cent of the total population. People of the Third Estate were the unprivileged people. However, there were many differences in their wealth and style of living.
The Peasants
The largest section of ‘the Third Estate consisted of the peasants, almost 80 per cent of the total population of France. The lives of this vast class were wretched. Most of the peasants were free, unlike the serfs in the Middle Ages, and unlike the serfs in eastern Europe in the 18th century. Many owned their own lands. But a great majority of the French peasants were landless or had very small holdings.
They could earn hardly enough for subsistence. The plight of the tenants and share-croppers was worse. After rents, the peasant’s share was reduced to one-third or one-fourth of what he produced. The people who worked on land for wages lived on even less.
Certain changes in agriculture in the 18th century France further worsened the condition of the peasant. He could no longer take wood from the forests or graze’ his flocks on uncultivated land. The burden of taxation was intolerable. Besides taxes, there was also ‘forced labour’ which had been a feudal privilege of the lord and which was more and more resorted to for public works. There were taxes for local roads and bridges, the church, and other needs of the community. A bad harvest under these conditions inevitably led to starvation and unrest.
The Middle Classes
Not all the people belonging to the Third Estate worked on the land. There were the artisans, workers and poor people living in towns and cities. Then there was the middle class or the bourgeoisie.
This class consisted of the educated people— writers, doctors, judges, lawyers, teachers, civil servants— and the richer people who were merchants, bankers, and manufacturers.
Economically, this class was the most important one. It was the forerunner of the builders of the industries which were to transform economic and social life in the 19th century.
The merchant-business groups, though new in history, had grown very important and rich, helped by the trade with French colonies in America. Since these people had money, the state, the clergy and the nobility were indebted to them. However, the middle class had no political rights. It had no social status, and its members had to suffer many humiliations.
The Artisans and City Workers
The condition of the city poor—workers and artisans—was inhuman in the 18th-century France. They were looked upon as inferior creatures without any rights. No worker could leave his job for another without the employer’s consent and a certificate of good conduct.
Workers not having a certificate could be arrested. They had to toil for long hours from early morning till late at night. They, too, paid heavy taxes. The oppressed workers formed many secret societies and often resorted to strikes and rebellion.
This group was to become the mainstay of the French Revolution, and the city of Paris with a population of more than 500,000 was to play an important part in it. In this number was an army of rebels, waiting for an opportunity to strike at the old order.

The Monarchy

At the head of the French state stood the king, an absolute monarch. Louis XVI was the king of France when the revolution broke out. He was a man of mediocre intelligence, obstinate and indifferent to the work of the government. Brain work, it is said, depressed him.
His beautiful but ’empty-headed’ wife, Marie Antoinette, squandered money on festivities and interfered in state appointments in order to promote her favorites. Louis, too, showered favours and pensions upon his friends.
The state was always faced by financial troubles as one would expect. Keeping huge armies and waging wars made matters worse. Finally, it brought the state to bankruptcy.

The Intellectual Movement

Discontent or even wretchedness is not enough to make a successful revolution. Someone must help the discontented to focus on an ‘enemy’ and provide ideals to fight for. In other words, revolutionary thinking and ideas must precede revolutionary action. France in the 18th century had many revolutionary thinkers. Without the ideas spread by these philosophers, the French Revolution would simply have been an outbreak of violence.
Rationalism: the Age of Reason
Because of the ideas expressed by the French intellectuals, the 18th century has been called the Age of Reason. Christianity had taught that man was born to suffer. The French revolutionary philosophers asserted that man was born to be happy. They believed that man can attain happiness if reason is allowed to destroy prejudice and reform man’s institutions.
They either denied the existence of God or ignored Him. In place of God they asserted the doctrine of ‘Nature’ and the need to understand its laws. They urged faith in reason. The power of reason alone, they said, was sufficient to build a perfect society.
Attack on the Clergy
The clergy were the first to feel the brunt of the French philosophers. A long series of scientific advances dating from the Renaissance helped in their campaign against the clergy. Voltaire, one of the most famous French writers of the time, though not an atheist, believed all religions absurd and contrary to reason.
After Voltaire, other philosophers, atheists and materialists, gained popularity. They believed that man’s destiny lay in this world rather than in heaven. Writings attacking religion fed the fires of revolution because the Church gave support to autocratic monarchy and the old order.
Physiocrates and Laissez Faire
The French economists of the time were called ‘physiocrats’. They believed in “Laissez faire” about which you’ve already read in chapter7
According to this theory, a person must be left free to manage and dispose of his property in the way he thinks best. Like the English and American revolutionaries before them, the physiocrats said that taxes should be imposed only with the consent of those on whom they were levied. These ideas were a direct denial of the privileges and feudal rights that protected the upper classes.
Democracy: Jean Jacques Rousseau
The philosopher-writer, Montesquieu, thought about the kind of government that is best suited to man and outlined the principles of constitutional monarchy.
However, it was Jean Jacques Rousseau who asserted the doctrine of popular sovereignty and democracy. He said, ‘Man is born free, yet everywhere he is in chains. ’ He talked of the ‘state of nature’ when man was free, and said that freedom was lost following the emergence of property. He recognized property in modern societies as a ‘necessary evil’.
What was needed, said Rousseau, was a new ‘social contract’ to guarantee the freedom, equality and happiness which man had enjoyed in the state of nature. Rousseau’s theories also contained a principle that had been written into the American Declaration of Independence: no political system can maintain itself without the consent of the governed.

Outbreak of the Revolution

In 1789, Louis XVI’s need for money compelled him to agree to a meeting of the States General— the old feudal assembly. Louis wanted to obtain its consent for new loans and taxes. All three Estates were represented in it but each one held a separate meeting.
On 17 June 1789, members of the Third Estate, claiming to represent 96 per cent of the nation’s population, declared themselves the National Assembly.
On 20 June, they found their meeting-hall occupied by royal guards but, determined to meet, they moved to the nearby royal tennis court to work out a constitution.
Louis then made preparations to break up the Assembly. Troops were called: rumours spread that leading members of the Assembly would soon be arrested. This enraged the people, who began to gather in their thousands. They, were soon joined by the guards. They surrounded the Bastille, a state prison,
On 14 July After a four-hour siege, they broke open the doors, freeing all the prisoners. The fall of the Bastille symbolized the fall of autocracy. July 14 is celebrated every year as a national holiday in France.

After Fall of Bastille

After 14 July 1789, Louis XVI was king only in name. The National Assembly began to enact laws.
Following the fall of the Bastille, the revolt spread to other towns and cities and finally into the countryside. The National Assembly adopted the famous Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen. It specified the equality of all men before the law, eligibility of all citizens for all pubic offices, freedom from arrest or punishment without proven cause, freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
Most important of all, to the middle class, it required equitable distribution of the burdens of taxation and rights of private property.
The revolutionary importance of this declaration for Europe cannot be overestimated. Every government in Europe was based on privilege. If these ideas were applied, the entire old order of Europe would be destroyed.

War and End of Monarchy

The people of France were soon involved in a war to defend the Revolution and the nation. Many nobles and clerics fled the country and encouraged foreign governments to intervene in France against the Revolution. The king and queen tried to escape from France in disguise but they were recognized and brought back as captives and traitors.
The old National Assembly was replaced by a Legislative Assembly. This Assembly took over the property of those people who had fled. It sent word to the Austrian emperor, who was mobilizing support against France to renounce every treaty directed against the French nation. When the emperor refused, the Legislative Assembly declared war.
Soon France was fighting Austria, Prussia, and Savoy in Italy. The three were supported by an army of the French exiles.
France had destroyed feudalism and monarchy and founded new institutions based on liberty and equality, whereas in these countries the old way of life remained. The commander-in-chief of the Austro-Prussian forces stated that the aim was to suppress anarchy in France and to restore the king’s authority. The French revolutionaries replied by offering ‘fraternity and assistance’ to all people wishing to destroy the old order in their countries.
The king and queen were tried and executed in 1793. This was followed by a declaration of war against Britain, Holland, Spain and Hungary.
Then, a radical group, the Jacobins, believing in direct democracy, tame to power. Fearing that the Revolution was in danger, this group took to strong measures to crush forces inimical to the Revolution. In 14 months, some 17,000 people, including those who were innocent, were tried and executed. Some people have called it the “Reign of Terror“. Later, a new constitution was drawn up. But the army became increasingly powerful and this led to the rise of Napoleon, who was soon to declare himself Emperor of the French Republic.

Napoleonic Wars

From 1792 to 1815, France was engaged in war almost continuously. It was a war between France and other states. Some historians have termed it as an international civil war because it was fought between revolutionary France and countries upholding the old order. In this war, France was alone.
However, until Napoleon became emperor, almost every enlightened person in the world sympathized with the French Revolution.
Between 1793 and 1796 French armies conquered almost all of western Europe. When Napoleon pressed on to Malta, Egypt and Syria (1797-99), the French were ousted from Italy.
After Napoleon seized power, France recovered the territories she had lost and defeated Austria in 1805, Prussia in 1806, and Russia in 1807. On the sea the French could not score against the stronger British navy.
Finally, an alliance of almost all Europe defeated France at Leipzig in 1813. These allied forces later occupied Paris, and Napoleon was defeated. His attempt at recovery was foiled at the battle of Waterloo in June 1815. The peace settlement, which involved all Europe, took place at the Congress of Vienna.
After the defeat of Napoleon, the old ruling dynasty of France was restored to power. However, within a few years, in 1830, there was another outbreak of revolution. In 1848, the monarchy was again overthrown though it soon reappeared. Finally, in 1871, the Republic was again proclaimed.

Consequences of the Revolution

1. A major result of the Revolution was the destruction of feudalism in France. All the laws of the old feudal regime were annulled. Church lands and lands held in common by the community were bought by the middle classes. The lands of nobles were confiscated. Privileged classes were abolished.
2. After Napoleon seized power. The Napoleonic Code was introduced. Many elements of this Code remained in force for a long time; some of them exist even to this day.
3. Another lasting result of the Revolution in France was the building up of a new economic system in place of the feudal system which had been overthrown. This system was capitalism about which you have read in Chapter7. Even the restored monarchy could not bring back the feudal system or destroy the new economic institutions that had come into being.
4. The French Revolution gave the term ‘nation’ its modern meaning. A nation is not the territory that the people belonging to it inhabit but the people themselves. France was not merely the territories known as France but the ‘French people’.
5. From this followed the idea of sovereignty, that a nation recognizes no law or authority above its own. And if a nation is sovereign, that means the people constituting the nation are the source of all power and authority. There cannot be any rulers above the people, only a republic in which the government derives its authority from the people and is answerable to the people. It is interesting to remember that when Napoleon became emperor he called himself the ‘Emperor of the French Republic’. Such was the strength of the idea of people’s sovereignty.
6. It was this idea of the people being the sovereign that gave France her military strength. The entire nation was united behind the army which consisted of revolutionary citizens. In a war in which almost all of Europe was ranged against France, she would have had no chance with just a mercenary army.
7. Under the Jacobin constitution, all people were given the right to vote and the right of insurrection. The constitution stated that the government must provide the people with work or livelihood. The happiness of all was proclaimed as the aim of government. Though it was never really put into effect, it was the first genuinely democratic constitution in history.
8. The government abolished slavery in the French colonies.
9. Napoleon’s rise to power was a step backward. However, though he destroyed the Republic and established an empire, the idea of the republic could not be destroyed.
10. The Revolution had come about with the support and blood of common people— the city poor and the peasants. In 1792, for the first time in history, workers, peasants and other non-propertied classes were given equal political rights.
11. Although the right to vote and elect representatives did not solve the problems of the common people. The peasants got their lands. But to the workers and artisans— the people who were the backbone of the revolutionary movement—the Revolution did not bring real equality. To them, real equality could come only with economic equality.
12. France soon became one of the first countries where the ideas of social equality, of socialism, gave rise to a new kind of political movement.

Impact of French Revolution on the World

The French Revolution had been a world-shaking event. For years to come its direct influence was felt in many parts of the world. It inspired revolutionary movements in almost every country of Europe and in South and Central America.
For a long time the French Revolution became the classic example of a revolution which people of many nations tried to emulate.
The impact of the French Revolution can be summed up, in the words of T. Kolokotrones, one of the revolutionary fighters in the Greek war of independence: “According to my judgment, the French Revolution and the doings of Napoleon opened the eyes of the world. The nations knew nothing before, and the people thought that kings were gods upon the earth and that they were bound to say that whatever they did was well done. Through this present change it is more difficult to rule the people. ”
Even though the old ruling dynasty of France had been restored to power in 1815, and the autocratic governments of Europe found themselves safe for the time being, the rulers found it increasingly difficult to rule the people.
Some of the changes that took place in many parts of Europe and the Americas in the early 19th century were the immediate, direct consequences of the Revolution and the Napoleonic wars.
The wars in which France was engaged with other European powers had resulted in the French occupation of vast areas of Europe for some time.
The French soldiers, wherever they went, carried with them ideas of liberty and equality shaking the old feudal order. They destroyed serfdom in areas which came under their occupation and modernized the systems of administration.
Under Napoleon, the French had become conquerors instead of liberators. The countries which organized popular resistance against the French occupation carried out reforms in their social and political system. The leading powers of Europe did not succeed in restoring the old order either in France or in the countries that the Revolution had reached.
The political and social systems of the 18th century had received a heavy blow. They were soon to die in most of Europe under the impact of the revolutionary movements that sprang up everywhere in Europe.

Revolutions in Central and South America

The impact of the Revolution was felt on the far away American continent. Revolutionary France had abolished slavery in her colonies. The former French colony of Haiti became a republic. This was the first republic established by the black people, formerly slaves, in the Americas.
Inspired by this example, revolutionary movements arose in the Americas to overthrow foreign rule, to abolish slavery and to establish independent republics.
The chief European imperialist powers in Central and South America were Spain and Portugal. Spain had been occupied by France, and Portugal was involved in a conflict with France.
During the early 19th century, these two imperialist countries were cut off from their colonies, with the result that most of the Portuguese and Spanish colonies in Central and South America became independent.
The movements for independence in these countries had earlier been inspired by the successful War of American Independence. The French Revolution ensured their success.
By the third decade of the 19th century, almost entire Central and South America had been liberated from the Spanish and the Portuguese rule and a number of independent republics were established. In these republics slavery was abolished.
It, however, persisted in the United States for a few more decades where it was finally abolished following the Civil War about which you have read before in this chapter. Simon Bolivar, Bernardo O’Higgins and San Martin were the great leaders in South America at this time.

Revolutionary Movements in Europe

The period after 1815 saw the emergence of revolutionary activity in every country in Europe. In some countries, the aim of the revolutionaries was the overthrow of autocratic rulers and the abolition of serfdom; in some it was the overthrow of foreign rule and in some others it was social, political and economic reforms.
Nationalism emerged as a major force in this period. However, it is interesting to see that this nationalism was neither exclusive nor chauvinistic.
Revolutionaries fighting for independence did not fight for their independence alone or against the despotism of their rulers only. They did not want their nation to dominate other nations.
They were in fact inspired by the aim of fighting against despotism everywhere. They were united into a kind of international brotherhood of peoples against all despots.
The South American revolutionaries O’Higgins, Simon Bolivar and San Martin fought for the independence of many countries in South America.
Mazzini, one of the foremost leaders of the struggle for Italian unification and independence, formed a number of organizations such as Young Poland, Young Germany and Young Italy for the liberation of these countries.
Garibaldi, another great leader of the Italian revolutionaries, fought for the freedom of the peoples of South America.
The great English poet Lord Byron was also one of these revolutionaries. He fought for the freedom of Greece and died there. He declared that he would war with every despotism in every nation. These words of Byron best sum up the attitude of a large number of revolutionaries of the time.
However, as the revolutionaries were united in their common aim of overthrowing despotism everywhere, the autocratic governments also were united to suppress every revolt and movement against any despotism.
Holy Alliance
In 1815, the rulers of Austria, Britain, Russia and Prussia formed an alliance. One of the major declared aims of this alliance was to suppress any attempt by the people to overthrow a ruler whom these countries considered the ‘legitimate’ ruler of the country.
The new ruler of France also soon joined this alliance. Austria, Russia and Prussia had formed another alliance which they called the Holy Alliance.
This alliance which many other rulers also joined was even more openly opposed to democratic ideas and movements than the first. After 1815 the rulers of Europe tried to suppress all movements for freedom and democracy in their own as well as in other countries.
In 1821, for example, Austria sent her armies into Naples and Piedmont in Italy to suppress the uprisings that had taken place there. In many countries of Europe, the freedom of the press was abolished and a large number of spies were recruited to keep watch on the activities of the revolutionaries.
The oppressive measures introduced by the rulers failed to curb the revolutionary movements in Europe. In 1830 revolutions broke out in a number of countries. The French monarch fled away to England and was succeeded by Louis Philippe who promised to rule according to the wishes of the people.
There was a revolt in Belgium for freedom from Holland. Insurrections broke out in various states of Italy and Germany and in Poland. Although most of these revolts were suppressed, the independence of two new nations was recognized— of Greece in 1830 and of Belgium in 1839.
Revolutions of 1848
Within a few years after the revolts of 1830 had been suppressed, the revolutionary movements in Europe again gained momentum. In 1848, revolutions broke out in almost every country of Europe, which dealt a mortal blow to the countries of the Holy Alliance.
Early in 1848, there was a revolt in Italy. In February, revolution broke out in France and Louis Philippe who had been installed as king after the 1830 revolution fled away. France again became a republic for some time but power was usurped by Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, popularly known as Napoleon III, a nephew of Napoleon, in 1852.
France finally became a republic in 1871 when the empire of Louis Bonaparte collapsed. The revolution in France was soon followed by uprisings in many towns of Germany. The rulers of many German states, including Prussia which was a member of the Holy Alliance, agreed to introduce many reforms.
Simultaneously, there were uprisings in Vienna, the capital, and in other towns of the Austrian empire, another member of the Holy Alliance. Metternich, the Chancellor of the empire, who was the most hated man in Europe, had to flee.
The Austrian empire in those days was a large empire ruling over many nations of Europe. It ruled over Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Poland, Yugoslavia and many other areas.
Revolts had broken out in all the subject nations of the empire as well as in Austria. Even though these revolts did not succeed, the empire was badly shaken. The revolutions of 1848 failed to overthrow the established oppressive regimes of Europe though they considerably weakened them. The most significant aspect of the 1848 revolutions was the emergence of a new political force in Europe.
You have read in Chapte 7 about the rise of a new social class in Europe following the Industrial Revolution— the working class. The workers were a major force in the revolutions of 1848. Their aim was not merely the overthrow of autocracies but also the destruction of the economic system that had grown with the Industrial Revolution— capitalism. Other participants in the revolutions— the capitalists, the merchants and other people belonging to the middle class—wanted constitutional reforms.
They looked upon the demands of the workers for social revolution with horror. When the revolutionary movements were at their peak, they decided to compromise with the rulers.
Growth of Democracy in England
The first successful revolution that overthrew the autocratic monarchy took place in England in the seventeenth century. This had resulted in the establishment of the supremacy of Parliament in England. However, Parliament at that time was not a truly democratic institution.
The right to vote was limited to a very small percentage of the population. Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the demand for making Parliament’ a democratic institution grew. Campaigns to extend the right to vote to every citizen were waged. These campaigns were led by radical leaders who represented the interests of workers, and the city poor, and by those representing the industrialists.
Until 1832, representation in Parliament was based not on population but on election districts— counties and boroughs. Many of these were no longer populated excepted for a few houses, while new towns and cities with large populations had no representation.
Under the Act of 1832, the old unpopulated areas or ‘rotten boroughs’, as they were called, were abolished and their seats were given to new towns and cities. At this time also, the right to vote was extended to those who owned or rented a house of a certain value in the towns or in villages. This formed only about 10 per cent of the population.
In ch. 7, You have read of the Christian Movement which was launched to get the right to vote for workers. Though the movement declined in the 1850’s, it left its influence and through the Acts of 1867. 1882, 1918 and 1929, all adult citizens were enfranchised.
Thus it was over 200 years after Parliament became supreme that it became also a truly representative body of the British people.

Unification of Germany

One of the major features of the 19th century history of Europe was the struggles for national unification and independence. The achievement of independence by Greece and Belgium has been mentioned before. Germany and Italy were the other two important nations which emerged as united, independent states in the 19th century.
In the 18th century, Germany was divided into a number of states. Some of these states were very small and did not extend beyond the limits of a city. During the Napoleonic wars, many of these states ceased to exist. At the end of the wars there were still thirty-eight independent states in Germany. Among them Prussia, Wurttemberg, Bavaria, and Saxony were fairly large.
was the most powerful in Militarily and in extent. It was also the most reactionary. The big landlords of Prussia known as Junkers formed the dominant section in Prussian society. Prussia was also one of the leaders of the Holy Alliance.
Problems of divided Germany
The division of Germany into a number of states had hampered the economic development of Germany. The social and political system in these states was also very backward.
With the growth of national consciousness, particularly after the French Revolution, the people of these states had started demanding the national unification of Germany, establishment of democratic government and social and economic reforms.
In 1815, the German states along with Austria were organised into a Germanic Confederation. However, each state tried to preserve its independence and its oppressive political and social system.
In 1848 revolts occurred in every German state and the rulers were forced to grant democratic constitutions. To unite Germany and to frame a constitution for the united Germany, a constituent assembly met in Frankfurt.
The initial success of the revolts had made the German democrats and nationalists think that victory had been achieved. While they debated the clauses of the constitution, the rulers prepared themselves to suppress the movement.
The Frankfurt Assembly proposed the unification of Germany as a constitutional monarchy under the King of Prussia who would become emperor of Germany. However, the King of Prussia declined the offer. He did not wish to accept the crown from the elected representatives of the people. Repression soon followed and even the rights that people had won in the initial stages of the revolution were taken away. Thousands of German revolutionaries had to flee the country and live in exile.
Bismarck: Policy of blood & iron
With the failure of the revolution of 1848 to unify Germany, one phase in the struggle for unification came to an end. Now Germany was to be unified not into a democratic country by the efforts of revolutionaries but by the rulers into a militaristic empire.
The leader of this policy was Bismarck who belonged to a Prussian aristocratic family. He wanted to preserve the predominance of the landed aristocrats and the army in the united German state and to achieve the unification of Germany under the leadership of the Prussian monarchy.
He described his policy of unification as one of ‘blood and iron’. The policy of ‘blood and iron’ meant a policy of war. The first aim he pursued was the elimination of Austria from the Germanic Confederation.
He aligned with Austria in a war against Denmark over the possession of Schleswig and Holstein. After Denmark’s defeat, he entered into an alliance with Italy against Austria, defeated Austria and dissolved the Germanic Confederation.
Thus Austria was separated from other German states. In place of the old Confederation, he united 22 states of Germany into North German Confederation in 1866. The constitution of this Confederation made the king of Prussia the hereditary head of the Confederation. The unification of Germany was completed as a result of a war between Prussia and France.
Fall of Louis Bonaparte
In 1870, Louis Bonaparte, whose power had begun to collapse, declared war on Prussia in the hope of maintaining his empire through a military victory. The war was partly provoked by Bismarck. It proved disastrous for the empire of Louis Bonaparte.
The French armies were defeated and the French emperor was captured. After her defeat, France finally became a republic. Germany’s unification was completed as a result of the war which enabled Bismarck to absorb the remaining German states into a united Germany.
The formal ceremony at which King William I of Prussia took the title of German’ Emperor was not held on German soil. It took place at Versailles in France, in the palace of the French kings. After her unification, Germany emerged as a very strong power in Europe. It underwent heavy industrialization in a very short period and soon joined the scramble for colonies. However, the militarism which made Germany into a great power was to prove disastrous to the people of Germany in the years to come.

Unification of Italy

Like Germany, Italy was also divided into a number of states.
The major states in the early 19th century Italy were Sardinia, Lombardy, Venetia, Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (Sicily and Naples), Papal States, Tuscany, Parma and Modena.
Of these the most powerful was the kingdom of Sardinia. Venetia and Lombardy were under Austrian occupation. Thus the Italian people were faced with the task of expelling the Austrians and forcing the rulers of independent states to unite.
Young Italy movement
The struggle for Italian independence and unification was organized by the two famous revolutionaries of Italy whose names have been mentioned in the earlier part of this chapter— Giuseppe Mazzini and Giuseppe Garibaldi.
The movement led by them is known as the ‘Young Italy’ movement. It aimed at the independence and unification of Italy and the establishment of a republic there. In 1848, as in other parts of Europe, revolutionary uprisings had broken out in Italy and the rulers were forced to grant certain democratic reforms to the people. However, the goal of independence and unification was still distant.
Italy after the revolution of 1848.
The king of Sardinia had introduced many reforms in the political system of his kingdom after the revolution of 1848. After 1848, his prime minister, Count Cavour, took the initiative of uniting Italy under the leadership of Sardinia.
Cavour’s policy in some ways was similar to that followed by Bismarck in Germany. Hoping to gain the support of Britain and France, he entered the Crimean war in 1853-56 against Russia even though Sardinia had no dispute with Russia. However, nothing came out of this war.
In 1859, Cavour entered into an alliance with Louis Bonaparte and went to war with Austria. Although France soon withdrew from the war, Austria was ousted from Lombardy, which was taken over by Sardinia.
Tuscany, Modena, Parma and the Papal States of the north also joined Sardinia. Venetia, however, was still under Austrian occupation. The other states that remained to be united with Sardinia were the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and Rome which was under the rule of the Pope.
Uprising in Sicilies
Meanwhile an uprising had broken out in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Garibaldi marched into the island of Sicily with his revolutionary fighters and liberated it from the rule of the king within three months. Then he marched to Naples in support of the revolt that had already broken out there.
By the end Of November 1860 the entire Kingdom of the Two Sicilies had been liberated. The Italian revolutionaries were not perhaps strong enough to push the victory of the people in the Sicilies further with a view to establishing a united republic of Italy.
They surrendered the former kingdom to the King of Sardinia, Victor Emmanuel II, who then took the title of King of Italy in 1861. Garibaldi, the revolutionary who had played such a vital role in the liberation and unification of Italy, now retired to lead a life of obscurity.
Rome become the Capital
Rome was still outside the kingdom of Italy. It was ruled over by the Pope with the help of the French soldiers provided to him by Louis Bonaparte. When the war between France and Prussia broke out in 1870, Bonaparte was forced to withdraw his troops from Rome.
Italian soldiers occupied the city of Rome in 1870, and in July 1871, Rome became the capital of united Italy. In spite of the important role played by democratic and revolutionary leaders such as Mazzini and Garibaldi in the struggle for Italy’s liberation and unification, Italy also, like Germany, became a monarchy.

After the revolts and unifications

The unification of Germany and Italy, in spite of the fact that democracy was not completely victorious there, marked a great advance in the history of the two countries.
The revolutions and movements described above, along with the Industrial Revolution, deeply influenced the course of the history of mankind. The forces that generated these revolutions and movements were also at work in other countries. Their success in one place fed the fires of revolt and encouraged change in the rest of the world. They are still being felt today, transforming social, political and economic life everywhere.
One of the aspects of the movements described so far is the gradual growth of political democracy, that is, the ever increasing participation of increasing number of people in the political life of a country.
This happened in countries where the form of government became republican as well as in those which remained monarchies such as England, Germany and Italy. The period of autocracies and privileged aristocracies was gradually coming to an end. Alongside, there were also the movements for national unity and national independence.
These movements were victorious in Italy, Germany, and some other countries of Europe and in the, Americas. In a few more decades they were to succeed in the rest a Europe and in the recent period in most of the world. It is necessary to remember here that the new political and economic system that was emerging in Europe in the 19th century was also creating imperialism.
The period of the triumph of democracy and in Europe was also the period of the conquest of Asia and Africa by the imperialist powers of Europe. The 19th century saw the beginning of the revolts against imperialism in Asia and Africa. There were two mighty revolts
1. 1857 in India
2. Taiping rebellion in China.
Later, nationalist movements in the modem sense began to be organized in all countries of Asia and Africa.


You have already read about the emergence of a new social and economic system called capitalism. Under this system, the means of production such as factories and the things produced by factories were owned and controlled by a few people. The vast majority of the people who worked in the factories had no rights. Their conditions of work and living were miserable. They were frequently without jobs. The workers gradually began to organize themselves into trade unions to protect their common rights though for a long time there were laws against workers combining themselves into unions. The governments were also forced to pass laws against some of the worse features of capitalism. For example Laws to protect workers from unsafe conditions of work were passed in many countries. Some progress was also made in regulating hours of work.
Some workers had begun to think that machines were the cause of their misery. In England, there was a movement to machines led the Luddites so named after their leader Ned Ludd. However, they soon realized that the destruction of machines would not put an end to their misery. In England, a new political movement started which aimed at winning political rights for workers. This was the Chartist movement about which you have read before.

Early Socialists

The greatest challenge to capitalism came from the ideas of socialism and the movements based on those ideas. The idea grew that capitalism itself is evil and that it needs to be replaced by a different kind and economic system in which the means a production would be owned by the society as a whole and not by a few individuals.
Many philosophers and reformers in the past had expressed their revulsion against inequalities in society and in favour of a system in which everyone would be equal. However these ideas had remained as mere dreams. The French Revolution a 1789 with its promise of equality had given a new impetus to these ideas. But the French Revolution, while it put an end to the autocratic rule of the French king, it did not did not usher in an era of equality in economic, social and political life. The-wide gap between the aims of the French Revolution and the actual conditions in France after the revolution created serious discontent among the people. It led to an attempt to overthrow the existing government in France with a view to building a society based on socialist ideas. This attempt, known as Babeufs Conspiracy, is an An important event in the history of socialism.

Babeuf Conspiracy

The Conspiracy, as the name indicates, was the work of Babeuf. He was born in 1760 and had participated in the French Revolution. He organized a secret society called the Society of the Equals. Babeuf, in a manifesto, had declared, “Nature gave everyone an equal right to the enjoyment of all goods…. . In a true society, there is no room for either rich or poor”. He said that it was necessary to make another revolution which would do away “with the terrible contrasts between rich and poor, masters and servants; The time has come to set up the republic of equals, whose welcoming doors will be open to all mankind. ” The society planned an uprising but the government came to know of the plan and in May 1796, a large number of leaders including Babeuf were arrested. Babeuf was executed in 1797. Though Babeuf’s attempt at overthrowing the government had failed, his ideas exercised an important influence on the growth of socialist movement.

Utopian Socialists

There was another group of socialists in the early history of socialism which included
1. Saint-Simon (1760-1825)
2. Charles Fourier (1772-1837)
3. Robert Owen (1771-1858)
They viewed property in relation to its usefulness to society. They recognized the evils of capitalism and proposed the establishment of a new and better system of society in its place. Saint-Simon coined the slogan, ‘from each according to his capacity, to each according to his work‘. They visualized a society free from exploitation of any kind and one in which all would contribute their best and would share the fruits of their labour. However, the methods they advocated for the establishment of such a society were impracticable and ineffective. Hence they came to be called utopian socialists.


There were many other philosophers and revolutionaries who helped in spreading ideas of socialism. One of the most prominent among them was Louis-Auguste Blanqui (1805-81) who played a leading role in every uprising in Paris from the 1830’s to 1871. He believed that through a revolutionary conspiracy, power could be captured to bring about socialism. When he died. 200,000 workers joined the funeral procession in Paris.

Communist League

Many groups and organisations were also formed to spread socialist ideas and organise workers. One of these was the League of the Just which had members in many countries of Europe. Its slogan was ‘All men are brothers’. Thus internationalism was one of its important features. In 1847, its name was changed to the Communist League and it declared as its aim, “the downfall of the bourgeoisie, the rule of the proletariat, the overthrow of the old society of middle class, based on class distinction, and the establishment of a new society without classes and without private property. ” Its journal carried the slogan, “Proletarians of all lands, unite;” It instructed Karl Marx and Frederick Engels to draft a manifesto.

Marxian Socialism

The Communist Manifesto first appeared in German in February 1848. The influence of this document in the history of the socialist movement is without a rival. It was the work of Karl Marx (1818-83) and his lifelong associate Frederick Engels (1820-M). Both Marx and Engels were born in Germany, but spent much of their life outside Germany, mostly in England. Through their work in the socialist movement and through their numerous writings, they gave a new direction to socialist ideology and movement. Their philosophy is known as Marxism and it has influenced almost every field of knowledge. Their view of socialism is called scientific socialism.
The Communist Manifesto stated that the aim of workers all over the world was the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of socialism. “In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class differences”, it said “appears an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all”. It pointed out that socialism was not merely desirable, but also inevitable. Capitalism, it said, does not serve the needs of man and, like other social and economic systems in history, it would be replaced by a system, better suited to human needs. Marx analysed the working of capitalism in his famous work Das Kapital (Capital) and pointed out the characteristics that would lead to its destruction. According to him,
1. Workers produce more ‘value’ than they get in the form of wages, the difference being appropriated by the capitalists in the form of profits.
2. This constitutes the basis of conflict in capitalist society. Profits can be increased at the cost of workers’ wages and, therefore, the interests of workers and capitalists are irreconcilable.
3. Economic crises were inevitable under capitalism because of the discrepancy between the purchasing power of workers and total production. These crises would be resolved only if the private ownership of the means of production is abolished and the profit motive eliminated from the system of production. With this, production would be carried on for social good rather than for profits for a few
4. The exploiting classes would disappear and a classless society would emerge in which there would be no difference between what was good for the individual and for society as a whole.
Marx and Engels believed that this would be accomplished by the working class which was the most revolutionary class in capitalist society. They advocated that the emancipation of the working class would emancipate the whole human race from all traces of social injustice.
Around the time the Communist Manifesto was published, revolutions broke out in almost every country in Europe. You have read about these revolutions of 1848 before. These revolts aimed at the overthrow of autocratic governments, establishment of democracy and also, in countries such as Italy and Germany, at national unification. One of the major forces in these revolutions were the workers who had been inspired by ideas of socialism. The Communist League participated in these revolutions in many countries. However, all these revolutions were suppressed.

After 1848 revolution

With the failure of the 1848 revolutions, the socialist movement seems to have abated. However, it was soon to rise in strength again. One of the outstanding features of the various socialist groups was their internationalist character. You have read about the Communist League before. In Britain, an organisation called the Society of Fraternal Democrats had been formed in 1846. It had close links with other similar organizations in Europe and with the Chartists in Britain. All these organisations emphasized the idea that the cause of the working class in all countries was the same. A leader of the Society of Fraternal Democrats, for example, said in 1848, “I appeal to the oppressed classes in every country to Unite for the common cause. ” The people, according to him, were the workers and peasants, and the cause of the people was “the cause of labour, of labour enslaved and exploited…. In all countries there are people who grow corn and eat potatoes, who make clothes and wear rags, who build houses and live in wretched hovels. Do not the workers of all nations have the same reason for complaint and the same causes of distress? Have they not, therefore, the same just cause?’ It was these ideas of international solidarity that were to remain the fundamental features of the socialist movement in the coming years.

The First International, 1864

One of the most important events in the history of the socialist movement was the formation in 1864 of the International Working Men’s Association, or the First International, as it is called. With its formation, it has been said, “Socialism stepped on the stage of history as a world movement”. The meeting at which it was formed took place in London and was attended by delegates from Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Poland and Switzerland. Marx drafted ‘An Address to the Working Classes’ which has become famous as the ‘Inaugural Address of the International Working Men’s Association’. This “Address” along with the General Rules outlined the principles and aims of the International. The emancipation of the working classes, it was declared, must be won by the working classes themselves. The central aim of the International was declared to be the total ‘abolition of all class rule’. The universal character of the struggle of the working class was emphasized. The Address ended with the slogan, as in the Communist Manifesto, “Proletarians of all lands, unite;”
From the time of its formation, the International was considered by the governments of the time as a menace and attempts were made to exterminate it. It was persecuted and declared illegal in many countries.
During the short period of its existence, the International exercised a tremendous influence on workers’ movements in Europe and North America. It played a particularly important role in creating bonds of international solidarity by arranging aid from workers of many countries in support of the workers’ struggle in any particular country. For example, when in 1867, 5000 bronze workers in Paris who had formed a union were threatened with dismissal, the International collected money for them; from workers in other countries and forced the ‘factory owners to withdraw their threats. Though its membership was not very large, it was feared by the rulers for the sense of workers’ solidarity that it had succeeded in creating.
One of the finest examples of workers’ solidarity was evidenced at the time of the war between Prussia and France in 1870. You have read about this war earlier in the context of the unification of Germany. The war was condemned both by the German and French workers as a crime committed by the French and Prussian dynasties. The French and German branches of the International sent messages of good wishes and solidarity to each other. The Social Democratic Party in Germany in a message to the French workers, said,
“…we shall never forget that the workers of all nations are our friends and the despots of all nations are our enemies. ” After the defeat of the French army, the German government announced its intention to annex Alsace-Lorraine from France. The German workers protested against this and there were many demonstrations in various cities of Germany. All the leaders of German workers were arrested on charges of treason.

The Paris Commune, 1871

The war between France and Prussia led to another important development—an uprising by the workers of Paris and the seizure of-power by-them. This is one of the most important events in the history of socialism. Within a few weeks of the war the French army had been defeated and the French emperor Louis Bonaparte had been taken prisoner. A new government had come into being and had declared France a republic. This government was dominated by the propertied classes and had agreed to Bismarck’s terms for truce including the surrender of Paris, cession of Alsace-Lorraine and the payment of a huge war indemnity. The workers of Paris regarded the surrender by the government as treacherous. They refused to surrender. The government withdrew from Paris on 18 February 1871 and asked for German help to crush Paris. The workers of Paris elected a council which on 28 March 1871 assumed the title of the Paris Commune. It was elected by universal adult franchise and represented the workers and the lower middle classes of Paris. It proclaimed as its aim “the ending…of exploitation, stock-exchange speculation, monopolies and privileges to which the proletariat attributes its slavery, and the fatherland its misery and ruin”. All public offices were elected by universal suffrage with people having the right to recall.
The Paris Commune was the result of an upsurge in which the workers had played the dominant role, the result of the first workers’ revolution in history. It was soon drowned in blood. The French government which had established its headquarters in Versailles attacked Paris with a huge army. In this they received the help of Germany also. The attacks on Paris had begun in April. On 21 May the troops entered Paris. The battle continued in the city of Paris up to 28 May when the Commune was finally exterminated. The government which had surrendered to the German invaders, however, turned on the workers of Paris with unusual ferocity. It is estimated that between 14,000 to 30,000 defenders of the Commune were slaughtered in the streets of Paris or killed by firing squads. Thousands were deported and imprisoned. The French government called it the victory of order, justice and civilization. The International’s address on the Commune to its members, written by Marx, concluded with the words, “Working Men’s Paris, with its Commune, will be forever celebrated as the glorious harbinger of a new society. Its martyrs are enshrined in the great heart of the working class. Its exterminators history has already nailed to that eternal pillory from which all the prayers of their priests will not avail to redeem them”.
The demise of 1st international
The extermination of the Commune was followed by systematic attempts to destroy the International in almost every country of Europe. The International had organised support for the Commune and after its destruction was engaged in aiding the refugees from Paris. It appeared to gain strength in many countries of Europe inspite of the fact that the revolution in Paris had been suppressed. However, soon it collapsed as a result of internal differences. The International was not a homogeneous organisation. It represented many different trends in. the workers’ movement. Due to differences on aims and methods, it was split in 1872 and was formally dissolved in 1876. In the meantime, however, the socialist parties in many countries of Europe had begun to grow and after a few years they were to unite and form another International.

The Second International

When the First International was formed, there did not exist well-organised socialist parties: there were only a few groups. However, in the 1870’s and the 1880s in almost every country in Europe socialist parties were formed. Some of them became quite strong having lakhs of members. They participated in national elections and in some countries came to have a fairly large representation in the parliament. Similarly, the strength and membership of the trade unions also increased and there were many strikes. For example the German Socialist Party had polled over 750,000 votes in 1887. It was the largest socialist party in Europe. In Britain, where the trade unions had a membership of a million had been formed the Social Democratic Federation, The Socialist League and the Fabian Society. In France there were many socialist parties. There were socialist parties in every other country of Europe with varying strength and in USA and some other countries in the Americas. Socialist began to take root in Japan in the 1890’s. Thus though the First International had been dissolved, the movement had become a mass movement.
To unite the socialist parties in various countries into an international organisation, a Congress was held in Paris on 14 July 1889, the centenary of the French Revolution of 1789. The result of this was what has come to be known as the Second International. The formation of the Second International a new stage in the history of socialism. An important step taken at the Congress was to make the first May every year as a day of working class solidarity. It was decided to organise on that day a great international demonstration in such a way what “the in all lands and cities will simultaneously demand from the powers that be a limitation the working day to eight hours.
On the first May 1890, millions of workers all over Europe and America Struck work and held massive demonstrations. Since then the first of May is observed as the international class day all over the world.
The period after the formation a the Second International saw a steady increase in the strength of the socialist parties and of trade unions. In 1914, the membership of the socialist party of Germany was over a million and it had polled over 4 million in France, the socialists has polled about 1. 4 million votes; in Austria, over a million. The total number of trade union membership in Germany, Britain and France alone was about 8 million. The socialist and workers’ movement had become a major force in almost every country of Europe.
2nd international: achievements
The most significant achievements of the Second International were its campaign against militarism and war and in asserting the principle of the basic equality of all peoples and their right to freedom and national independence. The period from the last decade of the 19th century saw the growing militarization of every country in Europe. It was a period when war seemed imminent and every country was spending increasingly huge sums in preparing for it. Europe was getting divided into groups of warring blocs, the struggle for colonies being the main cause of conflicts between them. The struggle against militarism and the prevention of war became the major aims of the Second International and of the socialist parties affiliated to it. They expressed the conviction that capitalism was the root cause of war. They also resolved that while wars could be ended only with the destruction of capitalism, it was the duty of the socialists to prevent their occurrence and, if they broke out, to bring about their speedy end. The second International also decided that the socialists should utilize the “economic and political crisis created by the war, to rouse the masses and thereby to hasten the downfall of capitalist rule”. The socialist movement had made the international solidarity of workers as a fundamental principle. When Russia and Japan were warring on each other, the leader of the Japanese socialist group and the leader of the Russian socialists were made the joint presidents of the Second International at its Congress in 1904. The socialists in many countries had resolved to call for a general strike to prevent their countries from participating in wars. They suffered at the hands of their governments who were preparing for war. Jean Jaures, the great leader of the French socialists was assassinated on the eve of the First World War for campaigning against war.
2nd International: cry against colonialism
The Second International also condemned colonialism and committed the socialist parties to oppose the robbery and subjugation of colonial peoples. The 1904 Congress was attended by the Grand Old Man of the Indian national movement, Dadabhai Naoroji, who pleaded the cause of India’s freedom. He was supported by the British delegates at the Congress. The President asked the Congress “to treat with the greatest reverence the statement of the Indian delegate, an old man of eighty, who had sacrificed fifty-five years of his life to the struggle for the freedom and happiness of his people”. When Dadabhai Naoroji went to the rostrum, he was greeted with tumultuous cheers and applause.
2nd International: Limitations
In spite of its many achievements and its growing strength, the Second International suffered from many weaknesses. Unlike the First International, it was a loose federation of socialist parties of many countries. While the socialist parties in many countries had become mass parties, basic differences had arisen among them.
While some sections believed in the necessity of a revolution to overthrow capitalism, others began to believe that socialism could be achieved through gradual reforms. The latter were willing to support the existing governments in certain circumstances. Some sections in the socialist parties even favoured colonialism.
On the question of war, while the attitude of the Second International was clear, many socialist parties had serious differences. Some of them thought that if they organised opposition to the war, they would be crushed. They were also not willing, as the Second International had recommended, to utilize the war, once it had broken out, to promote revolution. It was on the question of the war that the Second International suffered a fatal blow. When the First World War broke out, most of the socialist parties extended their support to their respective governments. This had serious consequences for the socialist movement. The Second International ceased to function and the socialist movement in every country was split. With the outbreak of the First World War, an important phase in the history of the socialist movement came to a close.
1. Though the socialist movement did not succeed in bringing about a socialist revolution in any country in the 19th century, it brought about widespread awareness of the problems created by capitalism and the inadequacies of democracy.
2. It also emerged as a powerful political movement in a number of countries. It was to play an increasingly important role in the coming years all over the world, making socialism, along with democracy and nationalism, the dominating factor in the history of the world in the 20th century.


1. Explain the following terms: Third Estate, Bourgeoisie, Proletariat, Junkers, Paris Commune, Means of Production, Socialism, Utopian Socialists.
2. Identify the following people, telling the part each played in the revolutions and movements described in this chapter: Jefferson, Washington, Thomas Paine, Louis XVI, Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Napoleon, Simon Bolivar, Mazzini, Garibaldi, Cavour, Bismarck, Babeuf, Karl Marx.
3. Explain briefly the conditions that brought about the American and French revolutions.
4. What were the main ideas behind the French Revolution?
5. Explain why the following documents were ‘revolutionary’ when they were written: Declaration of Independence, Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, Communist Manifesto.
6. Explain the impact of the French Revolution on the Spanish colonies in America.
7. Describe the different stages in the unification of Germany and Italy.
8. When was the First International formed? What were its main contributions to the growth of the socialist movement?
9. When was the Second International formed? For which other great event is that year important? What were the main aims of the Second International?
10. Select a suitable scale to show events on a time-line beginning with 1774 and ending with 1871. Show on this timeline the revolutions and movements described in this chapter and the various events connected with them.
11. Write a paper entitled ‘People Revolt when Conditions become Unbearable’, using the revolutions as evidence.
12. Read the ‘revolutionary documents’ cited in No. 5 above and select statements for a bulletin board display under the heading ‘Ideas that Caused Revolutions’.
13. Preparing essays on the lives of persons who participated in the revolutionary movements of countries other than their own
14. Read a few documents connected with socialist movement and select statements for a bulletin board display, under the heading ideas of socialism
15. What is sociopolitical revolution? Why revolutions often violent? When can a revolution be called successful?
16. Which of the revolutions seem to have brought about the greatest change to the country where the revolution occurred? Give reasons for your answer
17. do you think that each of the revolutions and moments described in this chapter truthfully be called a step forward in the progress of men? Why or why not
18. why did France help the revolutionary forces in the American Revolution?
19. Why did the achievement of national unity in Germany and Italy not result in the establishment of republics in these countries?
20. Why read the aims of the socialist movement internationalist in the character from the very beginning?
21. Discuss the role of Karl Marx in the history of Socialist movement.

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