World History 2 102 - 7.3 Revolutions: America, France, and Haiti

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Explain the causes, ideological framing, and consequences of the American Revolution
  • Explain the causes, ideological framing, and consequences of the French Revolution
  • Explain the causes, ideological framing, and consequences of the Haitian Revolution
  • Analyze the similarities and differences among the American, French, and Haitian Revolutions

The growing emphasis the Enlightenment placed on natural rights, the autonomy of the wealthy middle class, and the cross-cultural encounters of the burgeoning global economy generated many social and political transformations in the eighteenth century. In particular, the entrenched privileges of the nobility, the traditional dominance of the Catholic Church, and arbitrary royal entitlements were common targets of criticism among those who could participate in the public sphere of the era. As fiscal crises developed and tensions exploded between European kingdoms and their Atlantic colonies, the rhetoric of the Enlightenment fused with a series of popular uprisings and created revolutionary conditions on both sides of the Atlantic. By the end of the century, the American, French, and Haitian Revolutions were the results (Figure 7.10).

Two groups of armed men walk toward each other in front of a large castle. Several men lay on the ground and appear dead.
Figure 7.10 In this image from about 1790, an unknown painter has depicted a pivotal moment that ignited the French Revolution when the people of Paris captured the Bastille, a fortress and prison that had become a symbol of the monarchy’s despotism. The event is commemorated every year on July 14, France’s national holiday. (credit: “Storming of the Bastille and arrest of the Governor M. de Launay, July 14, 1789” by Museum of the History of France/Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

Each of these conflicts brought a different degree of change. They also all represented an imperfect realization of Enlightenment ideals, and they underscored the reality that political rights and liberties remained restricted to a small group that largely excluded women and the poor. With the exception of the Haitian Revolution, they did little to improve the conditions experienced by Black and Indigenous peoples.

This lesson has no exercises.

The content of this course has been taken from the free World History, Volume 2: from 1400 textbook by Openstax