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Nationalism & Political Revolutions

Unit 5: c. 1750-1900

Main Ideas:

  • Many people formed a sense of unity based on a common language, religion, or ethnicity (nationalism) → Movements of revolution & unification

  • The spread of Enlightenment ideals & nationalist sentiment → Colonial subjects in the Americas led independence movements


People United Themselves Based on Common Ethnicity, Rather than Political Boundaries

Key Ideas:

  • People started to unite themselves based on a common ethnicity → People used this nationalist sentiment to challenge imperial rule

    • The ethnic groups of the Balkan region (especially Greeks) sought independence from Ottoman Rule → Greece got independence in 1821


  • Spread of nationalist sentiment → Movements for unification of fragmented states of a common ethnic group

    • Italy was broken up into multiple regional states → Unified through a common sentiment of Italian nationalism in 1870

    • Germany (Holy Roman Empire) was broken into 300 states → Unified by Otto von Bismarck in 1871

Political Revolutions

Spread of Enlightenment Thought → Many People Sought to Rebel Against Oppression

Key Ideas:

  • Colonial subject in the Americas led a series of rebellions against European rule, inspired by Enlightenment ideals

    • American Revolution (1775-83) successfully established a republic (USA) → Influenced Haitian, French, and Latin American Revolutions

    • Haitian Revolution was a slave revolt inspired by Enlightenment ideals from the American & French Revolutions

    • The Latin American Revolutions were a series of rebellions against Spanish Rule in Latin America, largely inspired by US's success of creating a confederation of states in one republic

    • Led to the creation of new nations such as USA, Haiti, Mexico, Venezuela, etc.

  • The Ideas of Enlightenment philosophers are reflected in the views & documents of revolutionaries

    • The American Declaration of Independence restates John Locke's idea that all men have "natural rights" to "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness"

    • The French "Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen" also contains Enlightenment ideas

  • Spread of Enlightenment ideals & discontent with imperial/monarchical rule → Development of many liberal & democratic ideologies

    • The ideology of 19th century liberalism emerged

    • The French Revolution was a revolution by the French commoners against the French monarchy's absolutist power

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