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Top 5 Revolutions That Changed the World

Updated on September 13, 2018
Abheek Jamwal profile image

The writer is an enthusiast in world affairs and politics. He loves writing articles about interesting and fascinating topics.

A revolution is said to be a mass movement which aims to establish a new political regime by violently transforming the existing government. A revolution is basically a change in power or organizational structure that takes place over a relatively short period of time.

Revolutions have occurred throughout human history and may vary widely in terms of methods, duration, and their ideologies. Some of these Revolutions are short and bloody while some are long and painful. Each one of the revolutions is different from another, although often there is hunger among people to punish the rulers and find revenge against the old leader in the name of the economic and social problems, which according to them many times disappear with the change of the regime. Here are the 5 most influential revolutions in the history.

A painting of William III of Orange and his wife Mary.
A painting of William III of Orange and his wife Mary.

5. The Glorious Revolution

One of the earliest revolutions to occur in history was the Glorious Revolution of England in 1688.

When the King of Britain, James II, ascended to the English throne, he proceeded to alienate virtually every politically and militarily significant segment of English society by commencing ill-advised attempts to Catholicize the army and to pack parliament with his supporters.

He suspended the operation of various statutes, to evade the Act of Uniformity and the Test Act. He suspended penal legislation against religious nonconformity, allowing dissenters to worship in meeting houses and Catholics to worship in private.

When the King had a son in June 1688, fears of the establishment of a Catholic dynasty in England led prominent Protestant statesmen to invite William III of Orange to assume the throne who was James's nephew and son-in-law. William landed with an army to defend the liberty of England and the Baptist religion and marched on London. Being on the verge of defeat, James fled disgracefully to France. The British Parliament then met and denounced James. It offered the throne to William and his wife Mary as joint sovereigns.

The Glorious Revolution was a bloodless coup with profound effects in the colonies of America. Many Americans got caught up in the spirit of reform and participated in the protest and riots to challenge the royal governors and bureaucrats in the colonies.

4. The Chinese Revolution

The Chinese revolution was a series of great political upheavals in China between 1911 and 1949, which eventually led to Communist Party rule and the establishment of the People's Republic of China.

In 1912, a nationalist revolt overthrew the imperial Qing dynasty. The nationalist leaders such as Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek were increasingly challenged by the growing communist movement. The 10,000-km Long March to the northwest, in the form of an armed rebellion undertaken by the communists from 1934 to 1935 resulted in the emergence of Mao Zedong as the great communist leader.

During World War Il the various Chinese political groups pooled military resources against the Japanese invaders. After the war in 1946, the conflict reignited into open civil war. Mao's troops formed the basis of the PLA Army that renewed the civil war against the nationalists and emerged victorious after defeating them at Huai-Hai and Nanjing in 1949. A Communist rule was established in the People's Republic of China under the leadership of Mao Zedong.

The ideology of Mao Zedong about the communism led China to grow as a formidable power, combining its strength with Russia. China is now expected to be the world largest economy and a superpower by 2050. China's extraordinary economic growth and active diplomacy are already transforming East Asia and Africa, and future decades will see even greater increases in Chinese power and influence.

In 2050, China under its communist government is expected to be the world's richest economy with an estimated GDP ( Gross Domestic Product) of $58 trillion

U.S. President Richard Nixon's with Chinese President Mao Zedong on his visit to China in 1972
U.S. President Richard Nixon's with Chinese President Mao Zedong on his visit to China in 1972

3. The Russian Revolution

The Russian Revolution centers around two primary events, namely the February Revolution and the October Revolution.

The February Revolution

The February revolution removed Tsar Nicholas Il from power, developed spontaneously out of a series of increasingly violent demonstrations and riots on the streets of St. Petersburg, when the Tsar was away from the capital while visiting troops on the World War I front. The February Revolution did not express the wishes of the majority of the Russian population, as the event was primarily limited to the city of St. Petersburg. However, most of those who took power after the February Revolution in the provisional government and local council representing workers and soldiers favored that the rule to be partially democratic.

The October Revolution

The October Revolution or the Bolshevik Revolution overturned the interim temporary government and established the Soviet Union. The October Revolution was a planned event, orchestrated by a small group of people. The Bolsheviks who led this coup prepared it in six months.

After October, the Bolsheviks realized that they could not maintain power through an election based system and sharing power with other parties. As a result, they formally abandoned the democratic process in January 1918 and declared themselves the representatives of a dictatorship of the people under the leadership of Lenin.

Under Lenin’s plan, the government took control of the industries, banking, and foreign trade for the sake of developing the nation’s economy. Under Lenin and later Stalin, the Soviet Union became a massive power of the world. After the world war II, the Soviet Union became the most influential power in Asia and Europe. It became a superpower and amassed the highest number of the nuclear and chemical weapons.

Russia is estimated to have 15,750 nuclear warheads and over 40k tons of chemical weapons

Lenin as the head of government of Soviet Russia (1917 to 1924)
Lenin as the head of government of Soviet Russia (1917 to 1924)

2. The American Revolution

The American Revolution was the time when the British colonists in America rebelled against the rule of Great Britain. There were many battles fought for the freedom of the colonies. The American Wars lasted from 1775 to 1783. There were several British Colonies in America, but there were only 13 colonies which ended up rebelling. These colonies were Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Virginia.

One of the main reason for the rebellion against Great Britain was their absence in the British government. The British government was making new laws and taxes on the colonies, and the colonies had no say. They wanted to have authority in the British government if they were going to pay high taxes.

In 1774 each colony of the US elected an official to represent them at the First Continental Congress. It was one of the first efforts to unite and make a single government. In 1776 the Second Continental Congress declared the United States to be independent of Great Britain.

The new government of the United States was different than the government of Great Britain. The new government was a democratic government with leaders elected by the people and ensured that no one could become king.

Americans rejected the governments of aristocratic Europe and believed in the development of republicanism based on the understanding of liberalism. Among the significant results of the revolution was the creation Of a representative government responsible to the people. Many fundamental issues of national governance were settled with the ratification of the Constitution of the United States in 1788.

The American Revolution had a great significance which was far beyond the North American continent. It reinforced the concept of natural rights throughout the Western countries of the world and promoted the Enlightenment rationalist critique against an old order built around hereditary monarchy and an established church.

From being a colony of the mighty British empire, America became independent and liberal ideas about the democratic nation led it to become the most dominating country of the world in the next two hundred years.

John Trumbull's painting, the declaration of Independence
John Trumbull's painting, the declaration of Independence

The Young Founding Father's of America

The average age of the signers of the Declaration of Independence was 44 years, more than a dozen of them were 35 or younger.

1. The French Revolution

The French Revolution was the 10 year period from 1789 to 1799 during which France went from a monarchy ruled by King Louis XVI to a republic and then later to a dictatorship run by Napoleon. It was one of the bloodiest revolutions in Europe's history.

One of the main cause of the rebellion was the inability of the French King, Louis XVI, to deal with, the food shortages, the deteriorating financial condition, and the growing religious intolerance in the country. As the people became more discontented of the power of the few privileged people, they decided to take action to overthrow the monarchy and install a new government that would be based on a written constitution and in which representatives of the people will run the country.

The storming of Bastille Prison on 14th July 1789 is commonly seen as the first significant action of the revolution. This began as a result of King Louis, who had been feeling pressure from reformist groups, reorganizing the French Ministry, which the reformists took as the start of a royalist coup. Totally fed up with the monarchy, the French people took to open rebellion, and many insurgents seized control of the prison, killing the prison's governor and freeing several prisoners. The "Storming of the Bastille" became a symbol of the people rebelling against everything the monarchy represented, and "Bastille Day" is still celebrated in France today in the form of military parade in the morning of 14 July, on the Champs-Élysées in Paris in front of the President of France, along with other French officials and foreign guests.

The Revolution gave birth to the modern nation-state. The old ideas of hierarchy tradition surrendered to new enlightenment principles of democracy and citizenship. It ended the last traces of feudalism in Western and Central parts of Europe. It spread Enlightenment ideas across Europe. It reshaped the borders of Europe. It led to the rise of nationalism, which would unify Germany and break apart the Austrian Empire in the future.

Almost everything the west take for granted today (liberal democracy, the rule of law, government based on people's consent, the nature of civil rights and liberties) would not exist without the French Revolution. The growth of republics and liberal democracies, the spread of secularism, and the development of modern ideologies, all record their birth with the French Revolution.

A painting depictingThe Storming of Bastille Prison on 14th july 1789
A painting depictingThe Storming of Bastille Prison on 14th july 1789
Bastille Day Parade in Modern France
Bastille Day Parade in Modern France

Which Revolution according to you is the most significant in the history?

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© 2018 Abheek Jamwal

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