1. What were the causes of revolution in the British colonies of North America in the 18th century; France in the 18th century; and Mexico in the 19th and 20th centuries?
The feeling of inadequate representation caused unpopular unrest that led to revolutions in France, America and Mexico. Americans opposed taxation without representation and in France, heavy taxation and king’s incompetence made the people rise up to overthrow the political establishment. In Mexico, oppression of the majority by a clique of powerful elite made the masses take up arms. Desire for equality and freedom informed these revolutions.
The first English colonists who landed in America planted the seeds of revolution. These colonists settled in America to seek for religious freedom. This mindset of freedom influenced later generations to seek not only religious freedom but also political freedom. One aspect of the early colonies was the prominence of religious disputes over other discourse. Later, evangelical preachers in Britain landed in America with their new brand of preaching that put individual religious conviction over organized church. The objective of this kind of preaching was purely religious but it had the effect of fostering independent political thinking from the mainstream (Kurtz, 1999). Also, Americans viewed themselves as Englishmen in Diaspora and demanded traditional English rights such as trial by jury and taxation only through representation. Americans also developed the idea that free expression is right as long as what is spoken or written is true. Therefore, the culture of independent thinking among Americans, belief in their rights as Englishmen and human beings and free expression set the stage for conflict with Britain when it tried to curtail their freedom for imperialistic goals (Kurtz, 1999).
The passage of a series of controversial Acts by British parliament which riled Americans caused the revolution in British colonies in North America (Kurtz, 1999). Navigation Act prohibited American merchants from trading with the Dutch, French and Spaniards. To circumnavigate this restriction, merchants resorted to smuggling. In response, the British government gave its officials wide powers of search to stem smuggling. Americans contested the legality of these searches as they violated their constitutional rights but a case brought in court to challenge the same did not succeed. British parliament passed the royal proclamation which further fueled conflict between the colonists and the Britain. These proclamation restricted settler settlements west of Appalachian Mountains. Americans disregarded it and continued to settle there anyway but the unilateral manner in which it was passed caused disquiet. Sugar Act, quartering Act, Declaratory Act and Currency Acts were other legislations that fueled resistance and controversy (Kurtz, 1999). Stamp Act 1775 and a series of other legislations elicited stiff resistance that culminated to rebellion. The British parliament passed these Acts to make the colonies contribute to the cost of administering the empire. In response to these unpopular laws, several colonists formed a committee of correspondences to whip up American sentiment against the British (Kurtz, 1999). This went on until Britain declared the colonies to be in a state of rebellion and sent soldiers to re-impose direct British rule.
The ideas of enlightenment, heavy taxation and the influence of American Revolution led to the French revolution. Philosophers such as Voltaire, Rousseau and others spread the ideas of individual liberty and other revolutionary ideas on government. The writings of these men inspired the French to rise against the king. Also, the success of American Revolution and subsequent adoption of republican ideas of government convinced the revolutionaries that they could succeed.
France incurred heavy debts during the seven years war against Britain which it lost. This led to a fiscal crisis that bankrupted the government. To make matters worse, profligacy of King Louis XVI compounded the situation. The support the government in Paris offered to American effort against the British also increased debts. Further, the king and his advisers hatched a plan to expand the French navy in readiness for a revenge war against Britain. All these actions increased government debts and made them unserviceable. To combat the rising crisis, Machault d’Arnouville created a 5 per cent tax on all revenues but still, government expenditures exceeded revenues. Nobles blocked further attempts to increase taxation. Jacques Necker was appointed by the king to spearhead financial reforms but realizing that further taxation would be blocked, he opted to finance government expenditure through use of large international loans. The inability of the king to make the nobles contribute more to state coffers through taxation made him unable to solve the grave fiscal crisis that government stared in the face. Already, peasants were heavily taxed while the clergy and nobles paid little in taxes. The luxury and great privileges enjoyed by the by clergy and the nobles and the inability of the king to institute reforms radicalized the masses to revolution.
Food riots in Paris and all the major towns started off the revolution. Food scarcity in France as a result of poor harvests in the last two years prior to revolution increased the price of bread beyond the reach of many common people. Subsequent hunger and dissatisfaction of the masses in town provided a perfect atmosphere for revolution.
Francisco Madero led an uprising against the longtime ruler of Mexico Porfirio Diaz starting 1910. These uprising mutated into a revolution that lasted for ten years until 1920. Diaz ruled as a dictator for 30 years before leaving office in 1911. He used unorthodox practices such as bullying voters and outright vote rigging to ensure re-election. His rule brought prosperity albeit at the expense of human rights and personal freedoms. Despite his dictatorship, he managed Mexican economy competently. Opposition to his long time rule galvanized people against him in a revolution.
A select group of Mexicans of European origin controlled the country’s wealth, access to education and political power while the rest wallowed in poverty and political limbo. Revolutionaries sought to correct these state of affairs. Diaz predecessor, Juarez, has tried to correct this but Diaz overturned all reforms when he rose to power. 95 per cent of all land was owned by a paltry 5 per cent of the population and this angered the general populace and thus caused widespread dissatisfaction. Dissatisfaction on skewed allocation of national resources sparked the rebellion led by leaders who included Francisco I. Madero, Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa.
2. How did the Industrial Revolution change the lives of Europeans and Americans? Be sure to consider social, political, technological, economic and cultural changes.
The period of enlightenment coincided with industrial revolution which had far reaching social, political, technological, economic and cultural changes. Within a period of less than 200 years, Europe and America changed completely. Importantly, these changes accelerated political reforms.
Industrial revolution led to the creation of factory which in turn led to rise of cities and large towns. In England, industrialization led to child labor. Employers preferred child labor because it was cheap and as productive. Children could be paid about 10 to 20 per cent of an adult male’s wage. Also, children could tolerate more readily bad working condition at the factory. They worked in coal mines, glass factories, potteries and cotton mills for as long as 14 hours a day, six days a week. Many died in explosions in the mines, lost hands and feet, decapitated and others got blinded. Child supervisors in factories would beat them savagely to increase their output. Laws passed to restrict child employment did not the stop the practice fully. It is estimated that by 1900, around 1.7 million child laborers toiled in American industries (More, 2000).
Housing changed drastically during the period of industrial revolution and after. The owners of factories lived in splendid homes while the workers or laborers lived in small cramped rooms which lacked basic facilities. However, the middle class that emerged as a result of the changes also lived comfortably just like the owners of capital. The poor living condition of the laborers made disease epidemics common which killed thousand if not millions. Such diseases included cholera, typhoid and smallpox. In England, a group called luddites opposed industrialization because it made craft workers jobless. These people would attack and destroy factories and machinery and do other acts of industrial sabotage. To combat them, the British government organized militias or the army to protect factories and hunt down these saboteurs. This industrial unrest eventually led to formation of trade unions to pressure for reforms in factories (More, 2000). Trade unions furthered the interests of workers by withdrawing of all labor resulting in the consequent cessation of all production activities.
Industrial revolution significantly increased the living standard of the population and healthcare (More, 2000). This led to population explosion in UK and America. The discovery of the printing supported the expansion of newspapers and other reading materials which increased literacy levels. Life expectancy levels shot up in both sides of the Atlantic. Industries in cities and big towns attracted a lot of rural people with some hitherto small markets places developing into great urban centers. Population bulge in urban centers would often put existing infrastructure under pressure leading to unhygienic living conditions and rise of social evils such as prostitution, delinquency and criminal activities (More, 2000). Poor sanitation would also lead to frequent Disease outbreaks due to poor sanitation.
Change from a life in villages to large urban centers changed the social structure in fundamental ways. Women and children performed jobs traditionally associated with men. The family unit broke down as a result of long working hours for all members. Children who grew up working all their lives became maladjusted and died early due to diseases such as lung cancer.
The development of middle class forced political changes in England. Emerging middle class and factory owners started to demand political power through vote. The reform bill of 1832 allowed 20 per cent of the male population in England to vote (More, 2000). Chartism, an ideology that called for political reforms gained currency among the working classes. The deplorable working conditions led to development of ideologies such socialism and communism. Overall, industrial revolution gradually increased living standards in UK and America making them to emerge as great nations. Legislations and pressure groups such as trade unions changed the working conditions of laborers in factories. The lives of ordinary people became much easier. People could travel fast and communicate easily over long distances. Political and social events and discussions could be captured much more easily and elicit open debate among the people (More, 2000). This increased accountability and strengthened democratic culture.
Industrial revolution, political reforms and consequent agitation for equal rights by the minorities are inextricably intertwined. Industrial revolution accelerated political reforms which in turn influenced its pace. The idea of human rights and social contract between the rulers and the ruled provided intellectual justification to overthrow despotic rulers and that is what Americans, the French and Mexicans did.
1. How did workers and women suffragettes of the nineteenth century draw upon the ideas of the revolutions of the eighteenth century?
Philosopher John Locke first voiced the notion of equality of all people, in his concept of natural rights. His ideas led to the development of human rights as we understand them today. According to Locke, natural and human rights transcended caste, religion, gender, nationality, creed, ethnicity and culture (Berkin, et al. 2010). The United States declaration of independence and the French revolution brought a new understanding to the concept of human rights by declaring the universality of the equality of man and entrenching those ideas in the constitution. The idea of the universality of human rights was further advanced by thinkers such as Stuart mill, Thomas Paine, and others. The 1948 universal declaration of human rights lists human rights which can be classified as security, due process, liberty, political, equality, welfare, and group rights. Security rights protect individuals from unlawful acts that would lead to loss of life or permanent disablement such as torture, massacre, and murder. Due process rights enshrine the right to fair trial in a fair court following the due process of the law. Liberty rights protects people’s rights to expression, assembly etc. Equality rights envisage equality of all people before the law and protect people from discrimination. Right to education, protection against poverty and lack of food falls under welfare rights. Group rights protect groups of people such as tribes from decimation as in genocide and other forms of mass killings.
The early understanding of human rights was through the natural laws, philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes sought to derive rights from basic humanity and not natural rights (Berkin, et al. 2010). Thomas Hobbes came up with the idea of social contract. His idea of social contract was hypothetical. He hypothesized that individuals form institutions of government on agreement to preserve their community or state or whatever the arrangement may be. They therefore willingly sacrifice their liberty to secure their security. Through this idea of social contract, John Locke theorized that when the state is unable to or refuses to secure the rights of the ruled; the subjects were justified in removing such government (Berkin, et al. 2010). Social contract theory envisages a fiduciary relationship between the government and the ruled. When the government breaks the trust, there is a justifiable ground for its removal. The fiduciary obligation of the ruler requires that he conducts the affairs of the state with skill and certain amount of competence. Under the concept of social contract, the government duty as its fiduciary obligation is therefore to secure rights of the governed and such arrangement is what social contract is all about and it’s whence the human rights springs forth. Human experience, reason and religion have also been vigorously debated as the source of human rights.
These ideas on governance and human rights informed the French, American and Mexican revolution. In America, The colonists initially invoked their rights as Englishmen in their struggle for fair treatment by the crown. With time, however, the abstract idea of natural rights and universal freedom gained currency among the colonists. The framers of declaration of independence invoked universal freedom and equality of all people as a reason enough to seek separation from Britain whose rule had curtailed the liberty of the colonists. American Revolution inspired oppressed elements to seek greater equality as eloquently demonstrated by Abigail Adams writings in support of both women and slave rights. The lower classes adopted the equality rhetoric to demand accountability and fair treatment from entrenched institutions (Berkin, et al. 2010). The declaration that all men are created equals formed the foundation of the quest for greater rights that later informed the struggle for black civil rights, women rights later and the rights of workers. Limitations on political involvement and acquisition of property suddenly became politically incorrect. The same thing happened in France and Mexico, once political freedom was achieved, unions through strikes and other forms of industrial actions pressed for their rights. Women lobbied for enfranchisement and the restoration of full civil rights as human beings with rights (Berkin, et al. 2010).
Industrial revolution, political reforms and consequent agitation for equal rights by the minorities are inextricably intertwined. Industrial revolution accelerated political reforms which in turn influenced its pace. The idea of human rights and social contract between the rulers and the ruled provided intellectual justification for the overthrow of despotic rulers and that is what Americans, the French and Mexicans did. Later, as already noted, women rights activists and trade unions invoked the ideas of freedom and equality to press for the rights of workers and unions (Berkin, et al. 2010).
Berkin, C et al. (2010). Making America: A History of the United States: Since 1865. Stamford,
Connecticut: Cengage Learning
Kurtz, L. (1999). Encyclopedia of violence, peace, & conflict. Burlington, Massachusetts:
More, C. (2000). Understanding the industrial revolution. London: Routledge