See H. Arendt, On Revolution (1963); J. B. Bell, On Revolt (1976); R. Blackey and C. Paynton, Revolution and the Revolutionary Ideal (1976); S. N. Eisenstadt, Revolution and the Transformation of Societies (1978); B. Turok, Revolutionary Thought in the Twentieth Century (1980); J. A. Goldstone, ed., Revolutions: Theoretical, Comparative, and Historical Studies (1986); A. Yarmolinsky, Road to Revolution (1986); J. B. Rule, Theories of Civil Violence (1988); M. S. Kimel, Revolution: A Sociological Interpretation (1990); L. Langley, The Americas in the Age of Revolution (1997); S. Dunn, Sister Revolutions (1999).
In politics, fundamental, rapid, and often irreversible change in the established order. Revolution involves a radical change in government, usually accomplished through violence, that may also result in changes to the economic system, social structure, and cultural values. The ancient Greeks viewed revolution as the undesirable result of societal breakdown; a strong value system, firmly adhered to, was thought to protect against it. During the Middle Ages, much attention was given to finding means of combating revolution and stifling societal change. With the advent of Renaissance humanism, there arose the belief that radical changes of government are sometimes necessary and good, and the idea of revolution took on more positive connotations. John Milton regarded it as a means of achieving freedom, Immanuel Kant believed it was a force for the advancement of mankind, and G.W.F. Hegel held it to be the fulfillment of human destiny. Hegel's philosophy in turn influenced Karl Marx. Seealso coup d'état.
Learn more about revolution with a free trial on Britannica.com.
(1830) Insurrection that brought Louis-Philippe to the throne of France. It was precipitated on July 26 by Charles X's publication of restrictive ordinances contrary to the spirit of the Charter of 1814. Demonstrations were followed by three days of fighting (July 27–29), Charles's abdication, and the proclamation of Louis-Philippe as king. The bourgeoisie secured a political and social ascendancy that was to characterize the subsequent July Monarchy.
Learn more about July Revolution with a free trial on Britannica.com.
Process of change from an agrarian, handicraft economy to one dominated by industry and machine manufacture. It began in England in the 18th century. Technological changes included the use of iron and steel, new energy sources, the invention of new machines that increased production (including the steam engine and the spinning jenny), the development of the factory system, and important developments in transportation and communication (including the railroad and the telegraph). The Industrial Revolution was largely confined to Britain from 1760 to 1830 and then spread to Belgium and France. Other nations lagged behind, but, once Germany, the U.S., and Japan achieved industrial power, they outstripped Britain's initial successes. Eastern European countries lagged into the 20th century, and not until the mid-20th century did the Industrial Revolution spread to such countries as China and India. Industrialization effected changes in economic, political, and social organization. These included a wider distribution of wealth and increased international trade; political changes resulting from the shift in economic power; sweeping social changes that included the rise of working-class movements, the development of managerial hierarchies to oversee the division of labour, and the emergence of new patterns of authority; and struggles against externalities such as industrial pollution and urban crowding.
Learn more about Industrial Revolution with a free trial on Britannica.com.
In English history, the events of 1688–89 that resulted in the deposition of James II and the accession of his daughter Mary II and her husband William III. James's overt Roman Catholicism, his suspension of the legal rights of dissenters, and the prospect of a Catholic heir to the throne brought discontent to a head, which caused opposition leaders to invite the Protestant William of Orange to bring an army to redress the nation's grievances. The support remaining for James dwindled, and he fled to France. The Convention Parliament asked William and Mary to rule jointly and set out the Bill of Rights.
Learn more about Glorious Revolution with a free trial on Britannica.com.
Movement that shook France between 1787 and 1799, reaching its first climax in 1789, and ended the ancien régime. Causes included the loss of peasant support for the feudal system, broad acceptance of the reformist writings of the philosophes, an expanding bourgeoisie that was excluded from political power, a fiscal crisis worsened by participation in the American Revolution, and crop failures in 1788. The efforts of the regime in 1787 to increase taxes levied on the privileged classes initiated a crisis. In response, Louis XVI convened the Estates-General, made up of clergy, nobility, and the Third Estate (commoners), in 1789. Trying to pass reforms, it swore the Tennis Court Oath not to disperse until France had a new constitution. The king grudgingly concurred in the formation of the National Assembly, but rumours of an “aristocratic conspiracy” led to the Great Fear of July 1789, and Parisians seized the Bastille on July 14. The assembly drafted a new constitution that introduced the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, proclaiming liberty, equality, and fraternity. The Constitution of 1791 also established a short-lived constitutional monarchy. The assembly nationalized church lands to pay off the public debt and reorganized the church (see Civil Constitution of the Clergy). The king tried to flee the country but was apprehended at Varennes. France, newly nationalistic, declared war on Austria and Prussia in 1792, beginning the French Revolutionary Wars. Revolutionaries imprisoned the royal family and massacred nobles and clergy at the Tuileries in 1792. A new assembly, the National Convention—divided between Girondins and the extremist Montagnards—abolished the monarchy and established the First Republic in September 1792. Louis XVI was judged by the National Convention and executed for treason on Jan. 21, 1793. The Montagnards seized power and adopted radical economic and social policies that provoked violent reactions, including the Wars of the Vendée and citizen revolts. Opposition was broken by the Reign of Terror. Military victories in 1794 brought a change in the public mood, and Maximilien Robespierre was overthrown in the Convention on 9 Thermidor, year II (in 1794 in the French republican calendar), and executed the next day (see Thermidorian Reaction). Royalists tried to seize power in Paris but were crushed by Napoleon on 13 Vendémaire, year IV (in 1795). A new constitution placed executive power in a Directory of five members. The war and schisms in the Directory led to disputes that were settled by coups d'état, chiefly those of 18 Fructidor, Year V (in 1797), and 18–19 Brumaire, Year VIII (in 1799), in which Napoleon abolished the Directory and declared himself leader of France. Seealso Committee of Public Safety; Constitution of 1795; Constitution of the Year VIII; Charlotte Corday; Cordeliers Club; Georges J. Danton; Feuillants Club; Jacobin Club; J.-P. Marat; Marie-Antoinette; Louis de Saint-Just; E.-J. Sieyès.
Learn more about French Revolution with a free trial on Britannica.com.
U.S. patriotic society for direct descendants of soldiers or others who aided the cause of independence. It was organized in 1890 and chartered by Congress in 1895. Its historical division stresses the study of U.S. history and preservation of Americana. Its educational division provides scholarships and loans, helps support schools for underprivileged youth and for Americanization training, sponsors prizes, and publishes manuals. Its patriotic division publishes the Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine and The National Defense News. It was long known for its conservatism; its refusal in 1939 to let the black singer Marian Anderson perform at Washington's Constitution Hall led to her famous concert at the Lincoln Memorial.
Learn more about Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) with a free trial on Britannica.com.
(1966–76) Upheaval launched by Mao Zedong to renew the spirit of revolution in China. Mao feared urban social stratification in a society as traditionally elitist as China and also believed that programs instituted to correct for the failed Great Leap Forward showed that his colleagues lacked commitment to the revolution. He organized China's urban youths into groups called the Red Guards, shut down China's schools, and encouraged the Red Guards to attack all traditional values and “bourgeois things.” They soon splintered into zealous rival groups, and in 1968 Mao sent millions of them to the rural hinterland, bringing some order to the cities. Within the government, a coalition of Mao's associates fought with more moderate elements, many of whom were purged, were verbally attacked, were physically abused, and subsequently died; leaders Liu Shaoqi and Lin Biao both died under mysterious circumstances. From 1973 to Mao's death in 1976, politics shifted between the hard-line Gang of Four and the moderates headed by Zhou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping. After Mao's death the Cultural Revolution was brought to a close. By that time, nearly three million party members and countless wrongfully purged citizens awaited reinstatement. The Cultural Revolution subsequently was repudiated in China. Seealso Jiang Qing.
Learn more about Cultural Revolution with a free trial on Britannica.com.
(1775–83) War that won political independence for 13 of Britain's North American colonies, which formed the United States of America. After the end of the costly French and Indian War (1763), Britain imposed new taxes (see Stamp Act; Sugar Act) and trade restrictions on the colonies, fueling growing resentment and strengthening the colonists' objection to their lack of representation in the British Parliament. Determined to achieve independence, the colonies formed the Continental Army, composed chiefly of minutemen, to challenge Britain's large, organized militia. The war began when Britain sent a force to destroy rebel military stores at Concord, Mass. After fighting broke out on April 19, 1775 (see Battles of Lexington and Concord), rebel forces began a siege of Boston that ended when American forces under Henry Knox forced out the British troops under William Howe on March 17, 1776 (see Battle of Bunker Hill). Britain's offer of pardon in exchange for surrender was refused by the Americans, who declared themselves independent on July 4, 1776 (see Declaration of Independence). British forces retaliated by driving the army of George Washington from New York to New Jersey. On December 25, Washington crossed the Delaware River and won the battles of Trenton and Princeton. The British army split to cover more territory, a fatal error. In engaging the Americans in Pennsylvania, notably in the Battle of the Brandywine, they left the troops in the north vulnerable. Despite a victory in the Battle of Ticonderoga, British troops under John Burgoyne were defeated by Horatio Gates and Benedict Arnold in the Battle of Saratoga (Oct. 17, 1777). Washington quartered his 11,000 troops through a bleak winter at Valley Forge, where they received training from Frederick Steuben that gave them victory in Monmouth, N.J., on June 28, 1778. British forces in the north thenceforth chiefly concentrated near New York. France, which had been secretly furnishing aid to the Americans since 1776, finally declared war on Britain in June 1778. French troops assisted American troops in the south, culminating in the successful Siege of Yorktown, where Charles Cornwallis surrendered his forces on Oct. 19, 1781, bringing an end to the war on land. War continued at sea, fought chiefly between Britain and the U.S.'s European allies. The navies of Spain and the Netherlands contained most of Britain's navy near Europe and away from the fighting in America. The last battle of the war was won by the American navy under John Barry in March 1783 in the Straits of Florida. With the Treaty of Paris (Sept. 3, 1783), Britain recognized the independence of the U.S. east of the Mississippi River and ceded Florida to Spain.
Learn more about American Revolution with a free trial on Britannica.com.
A revolution (from the Latin revolutio, "a turnaround") is a fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time. Aristotle described two types of political revolution:
Revolutions have occurred throughout human history and vary widely in terms of methods, duration, and motivating ideology. Their results include major changes in culture, economy, and socio-political institutions.
Scholarly debates about what does and does not constitute a revolution center around several issues. Early studies of revolutions primarily analyzed events in European history from a psychological perspective, but more modern examinations include global events and incorporate perspectives from several social sciences, including sociology and political science. Several generations of scholarly thought on revolutions have generated many competing theories and contributed much to the current understanding of this complex phenomenon.
Perhaps most often, the word 'revolution' is employed to denote a change in socio-political institutions. Jeff Goodwin gives two definitions of a revolution. A broad one, where revolution is "any and all instances in which a state or a political regime is overthrown and thereby transformed by a popular movement in an irregular, extraconstitutional and/or violent fashion"; and a narrow one, in which "revolutions entail not only mass mobilization and regime change, but also more or less rapid and fundamental social, economic and/or cultural change, during or soon after the struggle for state power." Jack Goldstone defines them as
an effort to transform the political institutions and the justifications for political authority in society, accompanied by formal or informal mass mobilization and noninstitutionalized actions that undermine authorities.
Political and socioeconomic revolutions have been studied in many social sciences, particularly sociology, political sciences and history. Among the leading scholars in that area have been or are Crane Brinton, Charles Brockett, Farideh Farhi, John Foran, John Mason Hart, Samuel Huntington, Jack Goldstone, Jeff Goodwin, Ted Roberts Gurr, Fred Halliday, Chalmers Johnson, Tim McDaniel, Barrington Moore, Jeffery Paige, Vilfredo Pareto, Terence Ranger, Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, Theda Skocpol, James Scott, Eric Selbin, Charles Tilly, Ellen Kay Trimbringer, Carlos Vistas, John Walton, Timothy Wickham-Crowley and Eric Wolf.
Jack Goldstone differentiates four 'generations' of scholarly research dealing with revolutions. The scholars of the first generation such as Gustave Le Bon, Charles A. Ellwood or Pitirim Sorokin, were mainly descriptive in their approach, and their explanations of the phenomena of revolutions was usually related to social psychology, such as Le Bon's crowd psychology theory.
Second generation theorists sought to develop detailed theories of why and when revolutions arise, grounded in more complex social behavior theories. They can be divided into three major approaches: psychological, sociological and political.
The works of Ted R. Gurr, Ivo K. Feierbrand, Rosalind L. Feierbrand, James A. Geschwender, David C. Schwartz and Denton E. Morrison fall into the first category. They followed theories of cognitive psychology and frustration-aggression theory and saw the cause of revolution in the state of mind of the masses, and while they varied in their approach as to what exactly caused the people to revolt (e.g. modernization, recession or discrimination), they agreed that the primary cause for revolution was the widespread frustration with socio-political situation.
The second group, composed of academics such as Chalmers Johnson, Neil Smelser, Bob Jessop, Mark Hart, Edward A. Tiryakian, Mark Hagopian, followed in the footsteps of Talcott Parsons and the structural-functionalist theory in sociology; they saw society as a system in equilibrium between various resources, demands and subsystems (political, cultural, etc.). As in the psychological school, they differed in their definitions of what causes disequilibrium, but agreed that it is a state of a severe disequilibrium that is responsible for revolutions.
Finally, the third group, which included writers such as Charles Tilly, Samuel P. Huntington, Peter Ammann and Arthur L. Stinchcombe followed the path of political sciences and looked at pluralist theory and interest group conflict theory. Those theories see events as outcomes of a power struggle between competing interest groups. In such a model, revolution happen when two or more groups cannot come to terms within a normal decision making process traditional for a given political system, and simultaneously have enough resources to employ force in pursuing their goals.
The second generation theorists saw the development of the revolutions as a two-step process; first, some change results in the present situation being different from the past; second, the new situation creates an opportunity for a revolution to occur. In that situation, an event that in the past would not be sufficient to cause a revolution (ex. a war, a riot, a bad harvest), now is sufficient – however if authorities are aware of the danger, they can still prevent a revolution (through reform or repression).
Many such early studies of revolutions tended to concentrate on four classic cases--famous and uncontroversial examples that fit virtually all definitions of revolutions, like the Glorious Revolution (1688), the French Revolution (1789–1799), the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Chinese Revolution (1927-1949). In his famous "The Anatomy of Revolution", however, the eminent Harvard historian, Crane Brinton, focused on the English Civil War, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the Russian Revolution. In time, scholars began to analyze hundreds of other events as revolutions (see list of revolutions and rebellions), and differences in definitions and approaches gave rise to new definitions and explanations. The theories of the second generation have been criticized for their limited geographical scope, difficulty in empirical verification, as well as that while they may explain some particular revolutions, they did not explain why revolutions did not occur in other societies in very similar situations.
The criticism of the second generation led to the rise of a third generation of theories, with writers such as Theda Skocpol, Barrington Moore, Jeffrey Paige and others expanding on the old Marxist class conflict approach, turning their attention to rural agrarian-state conflicts, state conflicts with autonomous elites and the impact of interstate economic and military competition on domestic political change. Particularly Skocpol's States and Social Revolutions became one of the most widely recognized works of the third generation; Skocpol defined revolution as "rapid, basic transformations of society's state and class structures...accompanied and in part carried through by class-based revolts from below", attributing revolutions to a conjunction of multiple conflicts involving state, elites and the lower classes.
From the late 1980s a new body of scholarly work began questioning the dominance of the third generation's theories. The old theories were also dealt a significant blow by new revolutionary events that could not be easily explain by them. The Iranian and Nicaraguan Revolutions of 1979, the 1986 People Power Revolution in the Philippines and the 1989 Autumn of Nations in Europe saw multi-class coalitions topple seemingly powerful regimes amidst popular demonstrations and mass strikes in nonviolent revolutions. Defining revolutions as mostly European violent state versus people and class struggles conflicts was no longer sufficient. The study of revolutions thus evolved in three directions. Firstly, some researchers were applying previous or updated structuralist theories of revolutions to events beyond the previously analyzed, mostly European conflicts. Secondly, scholars called for greater attention to conscious agency in the form of ideology and culture in shaping revolutionary mobilization and objectives. Third, analysts of both revolutions and social movements realized that those phenomena have much in common, and a new 'fourth generation' literature on contentious politics has developed that attempts to combine insights from the study of social movements and revolutions in hopes of understanding both phenomena.
While revolutions encompass events ranging from the relatively peaceful revolutions that overthrew communist regimes to the violent Islamic revolution in Afghanistan, they exclude coups d'états, civil wars, revolts and rebellions that make no effort to transform institutions or the justification for authority (such as Józef Piłsudski's May Coup of 1926 or the American Civil War), as well as peaceful transitions to democracy through institutional arrangements such as plebiscites and free elections, as in Spain after the death of Francisco Franco.
There are many different typologies of revolutions in social science and literature. For example, classical scholar Alexis de Tocqueville differentiated between 1) political revolutions 2) sudden and violent revolutions that seek not only to establish a new political system but to transform an entire society and 3) slow but sweeping transformations of the entire society that take several generations to bring about (ex. religion). One of several different Marxist typologies divides revolutions into pre-capitalist, early bourgeois, bourgeois, bourgeois-democratic, early proletarian, and socialist revolutions. Charles Tilly, a modern scholar of revolutions, differentiated between a coup, a top-down seizure of power, a civil war, a revolt and a "great revolution" (revolutions that transform economic and social structures as well as political institutions, such as the French Revolution of 1789, Russian Revolution of 1917, or Islamic revolution of Iran). Other types of revolution, created for other typologies, include the social revolutions; proletarian or communist revolutions inspired by the ideas of Marxism that aims to replace capitalism with communism); failed or abortive revolutions (revolutions that fail to secure power after temporary victories or large-scale mobilization) or violent vs. nonviolent revolutions.
The term revolution has also been used to denote great changes outside the political sphere. Such revolutions are usually recognized as having transformed in society, culture, philosophy and technology much more than political systems; they are often known as social revolutions. Some can be global, while others are limited to single countries. One of the classic examples of the usage of the word revolution in such context is the industrial revolution (note that such revolutions also fit the "slow revolution" definition of Tocqueville).
For a list of revolutions see: