Enlightenment and Rebellion: c. 1750 - c. 1900

AP Concept: 5.3 Nationalism, Revolution, and Reform
Key Concepts
  • Diffusion of Enlightenment thought often preceded rebellion and revolt
  • Discontent with imperial rule led to rebellion
North America
  • Inspired by Enlightenment ideas of equality and self-rule, the American colonists in North America rebelled against British rule and declared independence in 1776
    • The French and Indian War (or Seven Years' War, 1756 - 1763) between France and Britain led to Britain heavily taxing its North American colonies to repay its debt
    • This signaled that its military power was not equal to that of Europe
    • American colonists refused to pay taxes without representation in Parliament rebelled against British imperial rule
    • Colonists' Declaration of Independence, inspired by Enlightenment ideas, explained their beliefs in independence and equality
    • Colonists and British fought 1775 - 1781, with independence formally established in 1783
  • Colonists created a federal republic with 13 states and a written constitution that guaranteed freedom of speech and religion
  • However, women, slaves, and Native Americans had very few rights under the new constitution
  • French revolutionaries wanted to replace the “old order” of a powerful nobility and create new political, social, and cultural structures along Enlightenment lines
  • French grew discontent with the king thanks to large war debts, a huge tax burden on peasants, and a growing gap between rich and poor
  • Conflict within the Estates General (French assembly) led the Third Estate, representing peasants and bourgeoisie, to declare independence from the others as the National Assembly in 1789
  • National Assembly issued the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, reflecting Enlightenment ideals
  • Assembly also ended the privileged status of the nobility and issued a new constitution that limited the power of the monarchy
  • French radicals took control of the assembly and instigated a Reign of Terror by executing many aristocrats France devolved into war with other European powers
  • Allowed Napoleon Bonaparte to take power in France, with legal equality for all men but limited free speech
  • Slaves working in brutal sugar production on the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean (controlled by Spanish and French) revolted in 1791
  • French settlers and French gens de couleur (free people of color) fell into civil war on the island during the French Revolution allowed Toussaint Louverture to lead the slaves in a successful revolt
  • Issued a constitution granting equality and citizenship to all (again based on Enlightenment ideals) in 1801, and declared independence 1803
  • By 1804 Haiti was the second independent republic in the Western Hemisphere (after the United States) and the first republic to abolish slavery
  • Because of this emancipation, many countries, including the United States, refused to trade with Haiti
Latin America
  • Wealthy Creoles in Latin American colonies controlled by Spain and Portugal wanted to displace the powerful peninsulares, who governed the colonies, and justified their actions with Enlightenment ideals
  • Creoles had grievances about administrative control and economic regulations of the colonies
  • Creole leader Simón Bolivár's Jamaica Letter, rooted in Enlightenment values, explained the Creoles' hope for independence and a better form of government
  • With Napoleon's invasion of Spain and Portugal in 1807, their colonial authority weakened revolts broke out in Argentina, Venezuela, and Mexico
  • Bolivár hoped to create a United States of Latin America, but only succeeded in declaring Brazil's independence
  • Ultimately the Creoles became the dominant class, many peninsulares returned to Europe, and society remained highly stratified
  • Enlightenment thinkers were generally conservative in their view of women's roles led Mary Wollstonecraft to write A Vindication of the Rights of Women, arguing women deserved the same rights granted to men
  • Inspired by Wollstonecraft and other Enlightenment ideas, women in Britain, Canada, and the United States pushed for the right to vote and other legal and economic rights
  • 300 women met in New York in 1848 to demand political rights, employment, and equality in marriage
  • The women's rights movement continued into the 20th century, and finally countries began to give women the right to vote

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State Development: c. 1750 - c. 1900