chapter  4
The Age of Revolution in France and the Americas, 1775–1815
Pages 28

In the last quarter of the eighteenth century, revolutionaries in Britain’s American colonies and then in France attempted to apply the ideas of the Enlightenment in order to bring about political change. They succeeded. In America, the severing of the colonies’ alliance with Great Britain led to a republican form of government-a radical notion in the eighteenth century. The French revolutionaries ended up abolishing a monarchy that had endured for over a thousand years and experimenting with a number of new forms of government. They also went much further than their American counterparts in attempting to enact social reform. Their ideas and actions reverberated throughout Europe and, eventually, the world. People were either inspired or terrified by the French Revolution. Napoleon Bonaparte, who emerged as the leader of a new French empire, exported the revolution and made the fears of many a reality at the same time that the spread of French ideas created new adherents outside of France. For the French proclaimed not merely the rights of Frenchmen, but the rights of all men. Each country and people impacted by the French Revolution responded in a unique way relative to their particular circumstances. For example, the Revolution attracted greater sympathy in the urbanized areas of the Low Countries, Switzerland, western Germany, and Italy than in the more agrarian regions of Spain, Eastern Europe, Russia, and the Balkans.