Chapter 24 Summary
Western society was dominated by two themes: political upheaval, and the spread of Western institutions and values to settler societies. By 1914, monarchies had been overthrown, and parliamentary democracy expanded. More individuals voted. European settler societies became important international players in an altered world balance of power. Western society experienced dramatic cultural changes. The transformation can be subdivided: from the late 18th century, a growing crisis caused a host of changes; experimentation with change occurred between 1775 and 1850; and from 1850 to 1914 a more mature stage was reached.
Context for Revolution. The placid politics of the eighteenth century were shattered by a series of revolutions that took shape in the 1770s and 1780s. The wave of revolutions caught up many social groups with diverse motives. The same changes that rocked politics helped establish a context for the first stages of industrialization.
Forces of Change. Three forces were threatening Europe’s calm by the mid-18th century. The first was cultural; Enlightenment thinking provided an ideological basis for change, while the previous accomplishments made in Western societies provided the essential foundations. Commercialization stirred the economy, with the resulting wealth and new production techniques affecting businessmen, artisans, and peasants. Finally, the population soared in western Europe. The capitalist system absorbed many, creating a propertyless class dependent upon wages. Significant social changes followed.
The Age of Revolution. A series of political revolutions began in 1775 with the American Revolution and continued with the deeply influential French Revolution of 1789, and later lesser revolutions. Progress of the Human Mind, written by the Marquis of Condorcet, was imbued with a belief in the perfectability of mankind. (This in spite of the fact that its author was at the time in hiding from the leaders of the French Revolution.) The age of revolution, beginning with the American and French Revolutions, was marked by both faith in change and a longing to restore the past.
The American Revolution. American colonists after 1763 resisted British attempts to impose new taxes and trade controls and to restrict free westward movement. They argued against being taxed without representation. Younger men seeking new opportunities turned against the older colonial leadership. Revolution followed in 1775. British strategic mistakes and French assistance helped Americans to win independence. In 1789, they created a new constitutional structure based upon Enlightenment principles. The revolution, by extending male voting rights, created one of the world’s most radical societies. Social change was more limited: slavery continued unaffected.
Crisis in France in 1789. In France, ideological fervor for change had been growing from the mid-18th century. Enlightenment thinkers called for limitations upon aristocratic and church power and for an increased voice for ordinary citizens. Middle-class people wanted a greater political role, while peasants desired freedom from landlord exactions. The government and ruling elite proved incapable of reform. Louis XVI called a meeting of the long-ignored traditional parliament but lost control of events to middle-class representatives during 1789. The proclamation of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen by the assembly and the storming of the Bastille were important events in the evolution of a new regime. After peasants acted on their own to redress grievances, the assembly abolished serfdom and established equality before the law. Aristocratic principles were undercut, and church privileges were attacked and its property seized. A parliament with male voting rights based on property limited royal authority.
The French Revolution: Radical and Authoritarian Phases. The initial reforms provoked aristocratic and church resistance, causing civil war in some regions. Foreign regimes opposed the new government. The pressures led to a takeover of the revolution by more radical groups. The monarchy was abolished and the king executed; internal enemies of the regime were purged during the Reign of Terror. The new rulers, led by Robespierre, wished to extend reforms, calling for universal male suffrage and broad social reform. The metric system was introduced, and all citizens became subject to military service. The invaders of France were driven out, and revolutionary fervor spread to other European nations. The radical leadership of the revolution fell in 1795, and more moderate government followed. The final phase of the revolution appeared when a leading general, Napoleon Bonaparte, converted the revolutionary republic into an authoritarian empire. Napoleon confirmed many of the revolution’s accomplishments, including religious liberty and equality under the law for men. Napoleon concentrated on foreign expansion; France, by 1812, dominated most of western Europe except for Britain. Popular resistance in Portugal and Spain, a disastrous invasion of Russia, and British intervention crushed Napoleon’s empire by 1815. The ideals of the revolution—equality under the law, the attack on privileged institutions, popular nationalism—survived the defeat.
A Conservative Settlement and the Revolutionary Legacy. The victorious allies worked to restore a balance of power at the Congress of Vienna of 1815. France was not punished severely, although its border states were strengthened. Europe remained fairly stable for half a century, but internal peace was not secured. Although conservative victors attempted to repress revolutionary radicalism, new movements arose to challenge them. Liberals sought to limit state interference in individual life and to secure representation of propertied classes in government. Radicals wanted more and pushed for extended voting rights. Socialists attacked private property and capitalist exploitation. Nationalists, allied with the other groups, stressed national unity. New revolutions with varying results occurred in the 1820s and 1830s in Greece, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Germany, and Belgium. Britain and the United States were part of the process, but without revolution, as they extended male suffrage. Most of the revolutions secured increased guarantees of liberal rights and religious freedom.
The Industrial Revolution: First Phases. The foundations of industrialization were laid in Britain, with the most important early steps taking place in the textile industry. The application of steam power to the production of textiles revolutionized the British economy. Early industrialization sparked urban growth, increased income inequality, and negative environmental impacts, particularly in cities. Industrialization soon found imitators in Europe and North America.
Industrialization and the Revolutions of 1848. Industrialization stimulated revolutionary ferment. Other Western nations quickly followed British models. Lower-class groups began to turn to political action to compensate for industrial change. Britain moved peacefully, but in other nations revolts occurred in 1848 and 1849 when governments proved unresponsive. A popular rising in France in 1848 overthrew the monarchy in favor of a brief democratic republic. Urban artisans pressed for social reform, and women agitated for equal rights. The revolution spread to Germany, Austria, and Hungary. Adherents sought liberal constitutions, social reforms restricting industrialization, and the termination of serfdom. Also present were ethnic demands for unity or increased autonomy. The 1848–1849 revolutions generally failed as conservatives and middle-class groups protected their interests. An authoritarian empire emerged in France. Peasants alone secured their aims, making them very conservative henceforth. The general failure taught potential revolutionaries that gradual methods had to be followed. By 1850, a new class structure was in place. The old alliances producing revolutions had dissolved. Aristocrats declined in power as social structure became based on wealth. Middle-class property owners now were pitted against a working class.
The Consolidation of the Industrial Order, 1850–1914. Industrial development continued after 1850, bringing new social changes. Political unification came to Germany and Italy, and governments elsewhere developed new functions. The rise of socialism changed political conditions. Urban growth continued, but at a slower pace; in the cities, the conditions of living ameliorated for all classes.
The Second Industrial Revolution. Industrialization accelerated in the decades after 1850. New technologies and new sources of power helped spread industrialization to new industries. The United States took the lead in the reorganization of work to achieve greater efficiency and productivity. Changes in the nature of industrial production slowed the growth of factory labor and spurred the growth of the white-collar class.
Adjustments to Industrial Life. Family life adjusted to the changes imposed by the industrial economy. Stable populations resulted from declining birth and death rates. Greater value was placed on childhood. Material conditions generally improved as individuals enjoyed better diets, housing, health, and leisure time. The development of corporations utilizing stockholder funds changed business life. Labor movements formed and provided strength for seeking better wages and working conditions. Peasant protests declined and rural isolation diminished. Peasants learned to use market conditions to improve their lives. They developed cooperatives, specialized in cash crops, and sent children to school to learn better techniques.
Political Trends and the Rise of New Nations. Western leaders worked to reduce the reasons for revolution after 1850. Liberals and Conservatives realized that cautious change was acceptable to their interests. British conservative Benjamin Disraeli granted the vote to working-class males in 1867. Camillo di Cavour in the Italian state of Piedmont supported industrialization and increased parliament’s powers. Otto von Bismarck of Prussia extended the vote to all adult males. Conservatives used the force of nationalism to win support for the existing social order. In Britain and the United Sates, they won support by identifying with imperial causes. Cavour stimulated nationalist rebellion to unite most of the Italian peninsula under the state of Piedmont. Bismarck fought wars in the 1860s and 1870s that led to German unity in 1871. Other nations also reduced key political issues. The American Civil War of the 1860s ended the dispute over regional rights and abolished slavery. France established a conservative republic based upon full adult male suffrage. Most Western nations by then had parliamentary systems in which basic liberties were protected and political parties contested peacefully for office.
The Social Question and New Government Functions. Government functions expanded after 1870. Civil service exams allowed individuals to win positions through their own talent. School systems generally became compulsive to the age of 12; literacy became almost universal. Wider welfare measures replaced or supplemented private agencies providing assistance for accidents, illness, and old age. A realignment of the political spectrum occurred. Social issues became the key criteria for partisanship. The rise of socialism depended upon working-class grievances and reflected Karl Marx’s theory that made socialism the final phase of historical development. Leaders in many countries translated his theories into political action. Socialist parties became major forces in Germany, Austria, and France by the 1880s. Some socialists—revisionists—became supporters of parliamentary democracy to achieve their goals. Feminist movements by 1900 also challenged the existing order, sometimes by violent action. Many Western countries extended the right to vote to women during the early decades of the 20th century.
Cultural Transformations. Western culture changed because of consumer emphasis and developments in science and the arts.
Emphasis on Consumption and Leisure. Higher wages and increased leisure time produced important alterations in popular culture. Many working-class males and females accepted middle-class values. The idea grew that pleasure was a legitimate part of life. The productive capacity of factories meant that consumption had to be encouraged. Product crazes occurred; the stimulated consumerism overcame older customs hindering pleasure seeking. Mass leisure culture emerged with popular newspapers, entertainment, and vacations. Leisure had become a commodity to be enjoyed regularly. The rise of disciplined team sports was one aspect of the change. All the popular interests demonstrated a growing secularism present in all aspects of life.
Advances in Scientific Knowledge. Science continued to gain ground, but many other intellectual movements attempted to explain reality. The size of the intellectual and artistic community expanded and found a growing market for its products. Most of the activity was secular. Western cultural activity had been built on rationalism, and the continuing advances in science kept the tradition alive. In biology, Darwin offered his evolutionary theory, and Einstein advanced the theory of physical relativity. The social sciences advanced as a means of gathering empirical knowledge concerning human affairs. Freud developed his theories of the workings of human unconsciousness.
New Directions in Artistic Expression. Rationalism was not the only intellectual current. Romanticism insisted that emotion and impression were the keys to understanding human experience. By 1900, the abandonment of conventional standards had expanded to painting, sculpture, and music. The split between romanticism and rationalism caused much debate; scientists were supporters of the industrial order, while artists followed experimental paths to finding the reality of modern life. At neither popular nor formal levels did Western culture produce a synthesis during the 19th century.
Western Settler Societies. The Industrial Revolution prompted a major expansion of the West’s power. New markets for manufactured goods and new sources of raw materials were needed. Transportation and communication networks intensified the impact of the Western-led world economy. Industrialization also allowed Europeans and their superior weapons to build empires. Massive European immigration created overseas Western societies.
Emerging Power of the United States. The Civil War, 1861–1865, was the most important event in the United States in the 19th century. The conflict was the first modern war; industrially produced weapons caused extensive casualties. The Civil War accelerated American industrialization and made the United States a major competitor of the leading industrial nations. New technology greatly elevated American agricultural production and exports. American cultural life was parochial, with little overseas influence.
European Settlements in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The three British colonies received many immigrants during the 19th century. They established parliamentary governments and vigorous commercial economies, and they followed European cultural patterns. Canada, after continuing friction between British rulers and French inhabitants, formed a federal system with the majority of the French residing in Quebec. The Australian colonies developed after 1788 amidst an indigenous hunting-and-gathering population. Agricultural development and the discovery of gold spurred population growth and the economy. A federal system of government emerged by 1900. In New Zealand, missionaries and settlers moved into Maori lands. The Maori were defeated by the 1860s. General good relations followed, and New Zealand developed a strong agricultural economy and a parliamentary system. The three territories remained part of the British Empire and were dependent on its economy. Basic European cultural forms prevailed.
Diplomatic Tensions and World War I. The power balance within Europe was altered by the rise of Germany. Bismarck realized this and created a complex alliance system to protect Germany. European nations expended their energies in an overseas expansion that, by 1900, covered most of the globe. Latin America remained independent, but was under extensive United States interest. Most of Africa was divided among European nations. China and the Middle East were the scenes of intense competition among the great powers. Imperial rivalries were a part of the tensions among Europeans. Britain worried about the growth of the German navy and Germany’s surging economy. France, to escape diplomatic isolation, drew closer to Britain and Russia.
The New Alliance System. By 1907, the great powers were divided into two alliance systems. Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy were in the Triple Alliance; Britain, Russia, and France formed the Triple Entente. All powers built up military strength. Each system was dependent upon an unstable partner. Russia suffered from revolution in 1905; Austria-Hungary was plagued by ethnic nationality disputes. Both nations were involved in Balkan disputes. Balkan nations had won independence from the Ottomans during the 19th century, but hostility persisted among them, while nationalism threatened Austria-Hungary and its Slav population. Continuing crises finally led to the assassination of an Austrian archduke by a Serbian nationalist. The response of the nations in the two European alliances resulted in World War I.
Diplomacy and Society. The West had long been characterized by political rivalries, and during the 19th century its nation-states system, free from serious challenge from other states, became unstable. Western society was strained by an industrialization that increased the destructive capacity of warfare. Political leaders, more worried about social protest among the masses, tried to distract them by diplomatic successes. Many among the masses, full of nationalistic pride, applauded such actions. The idea of violence appealed to the West’s increasingly disciplined society.