Major Revolutions Around the World in the 1800s

Instructor: Nate Sullivan

Nate Sullivan holds a M.A. in History and a M.Ed. He is an adjunct history professor, middle school history teacher, and freelance writer.

In this lesson we will examine some of the important revolutions that took place during the 19th century. We will highlight key developments and place these revolutions in historical context.

You Say You Want a Revolution?

What comes to mind when you hear the word 'revolution'? The American Revolution? The French Revolution? Maybe the Beatles's song? We're so used to hearing about the American and French Revolutions, that we often forget about some of the other revolutions that took place during the following century (the 19th). The Revolutions of 1848, for example, had a profound impact on the course of modern European history and helped pave the way for the emergence of nation-states like Italy and Germany. You say you want a revolution? Well, sit tight and let's dig in!

The Serbian Revolution

The first revolution we will look at is the Serbian Revolution Against Ottoman Rule, which took place between 1804 and the 1830s. The Ottoman Empire was a Middle Eastern Islamic empire whose rule went all the way back to 1299. Ottoman territory shifted over the years, reaching its zenith in the 17th century when it controlled sections of Southeastern Europe. One of the sections controlled by the Ottomans was Serbia. After a short-lived occupation by Austria, native Serbians decided the time was right to fight for independence.

This painting depicts a battle during the Serbian Revolution.
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The First Serbian Uprising took place between 1804-1813, and evolved into a war for Serbian independence. As with most revolutions, the lower classes were instrumental in the revolt. The revolt was temporarily halted, but a second mass uprising took place between 1815-1817. In the following years, negotiations were held, which resulted in Serbia first being an independent principality, and by the 1830s, a completely sovereign independent nation-state.

The Mexican War of Independence

The Mexican War for Independence took place between 1810-1821, and resulted in Mexican independence from Spain. The war was inspired by the ideals of the Enlightenment and the fact that revolutions around the world were being staged. Basically Mexicans looked around, and they saw revolutions everywhere: the American colonies had been successful in achieving independence from Great Britain, the French Revolution had succeeded (at least on a short-term basis), so why not them too? Led by Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, Mexico finally achieved independence in 1821 when it became the Mexican Empire.

Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, one of the leaders of the Mexican War of Independence.
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The Revolutions of 1848

The Revolutions of 1848 represent a critical moment in European history. The Revolutions of 1848 were a series of European nationalist and democratic revolutions taking place in numerous countries. In these revolutions, the masses rose up against their monarchs and demanded political liberalization. The revolutions began in France, and soon spread to countries like Italy, the German states, and the Danish states. In France, the revolution led to the creation of the Second French Republic under Louis Napoleon. However, this was short-lived, as Louis Napoleon declared the Second French Empire just four years later.

A scene from the French Revolution of 1848.
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