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The American and French Revolutions are two of the most significant and crucial events of the eighteenth century. They were caused by a number of similar factors and they had a huge impact on the social, political, and economic development of the world. These revolutions have changed the basic ways and methods of social performance and structure, thus beginning the modernization and democratization of the whole world. This essay will explore the similarities and connections in causes and repercussions of these revolutions and focus on the changes they made to European and American societies.
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The American and French Revolutions owed their philosophical and theoretical background to the Enlightenment that defined the development of Europe at the first half of the eighteenth century. These principles originated in France, but their impact spread all over the civilized world. The philosophers and statesmen who supported the ideas of the Enlightenment believed that the individual should use his own mind to choose his future and avoid blind reliance on the existing traditions. The theories of Descartes, Rousseau, Diderot and many others promoted the ideas that the society should be based on the “reason”, so the people should choose the form of government that would fit their needs and aspirations. The Enlightenment gave birth to many new political ideas that empowered the individuals to take control of their lives. The Enlightenment was also accompanied by a variety of important scientific discoveries that made people believe into the powers of the human mind. Therefore, the ideas of the Enlightenment created the basis for both revolutions, making people believe that they were able to introduce the changes they wanted.
Both revolutions happened in the societies governed by the tyrannical monarchs. American society was dependant on the British Empire ruled y George III who believed that the purpose of the colonies, such as America, was, first of all, to ensure the development of wealth for the metropolis. The king of Great Britain did not put the interests of the people who lived in America at the first place by treating them only as mechanisms of enriching England and the crown. The similar situation was in France ruled by Louis XV and his wife queen Marie Antoinette. Both countries felt great pressure from the monarchy. To a certain extent, the events preceding these revolutions were interconnected as the ideologists of monarchy elimination in both countries developed the same ideas and these ideologists were often inspired by the works of their counterparts on other continent. The aristocrats and governing elite who were associated with the royal ruling were also subjects of the radical revolutionists who tried to free society of all “outdated” customs, traditions, and lifestyles. Both in America and France, the revolutions led to the formation of new ruling classes appeared in the countries exhausted by the turmoil of the revolutionary periods, so it was necessary to offer new ways of stabilizing the states.
The economic factors also played an important role in both revolutions. Although the peculiarities of the financial conditions in America and France were slightly different as the countries had different trade partners and the patterns of manufacturing, the basic situation was the same. The monarchy had to collect as much taxes from the population as possible as it was absolutely necessary for maintaining the power of the crown. The American Revolution was not at first aimed at gaining independence for the nation, but it rather set the tax liberalization as its major purpose. Although France took an active part in the American Revolution trying to decrease the powers of the British Empire, its long-term rival, the reasons were not only political, but also ecconomic, as American independence was treated as a heavy blow to England who had lost its most profitable colony. Another economic factor that contributed to these revolutions was the extremely low living standards of the common population who did not manage to pay all the taxes imposed by the metropolis or the monarch and maintain at least relative financial stability.
The most important element that connects the American and French Revolutions into a global ideological movement is the impact that these events had on society. These revolutions had similar goals that were primarily connected with liberation of people and their freedom from the oppressive ruling of the upper classes and monarchy. It is debatable whether they managed to completely achieve their goals, but it is obvious that the world order was significantly changed. The effects of the American and French Revolutions quickly disseminated around the globe, and absolute monarchies in many other states were replaced with limited constitutional monarchies, republics, and other democratic regimes. The French Revolution also had a huge impact on the foreign and domestic policies of the United States. Although many Americans sympathized with the ideas of the French Revolution, the public did not want the Terror to be repeated in America and theyinsisted on a more peaceful solution to the problems. The USA began to promote the politics of neutrality towards all foreign conflicts.
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To conclude, the American and French Revolutions had many significant similarities. Both caused by the Enlightenment ideas, and people who took part in these revolutions wanted to eliminate the tyranny of the monarchy and its economic pressure. These revolutions were deeply connected by the impact they had on American and European societies. They catalyzed the democratization processes on both continents and resulted in crucial social and economic changes.
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