Posted in World History

Russian Revolution and Socialist Movement

updated on March 13th, 2019

Russian Revolution and Socialist Movement

The Industrial Revolution had led to an unequal society. On the one hand were the workers who were poor, exploited and without any rights; and on the other were the capitalists who enjoyed all the privileges. At that time, some people began to think about the society that should be based on equality in social and economic terms. Ideas like equality, freedom of speech and democracy gave encouragement in this regard. The idea of socialism, which tries to establish equal society, began to take root. The most powerful and influential ideas of socialism was given by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. In the book Das Capital, Marx pointed out that history of all societies is the history of class struggle. According to him the capitalists always try to increase their profits by reducing the wages of the workers which leads to class conflict. He predicted that the struggle will be successful with the end of capitalism and the coming of socialism. This will result in the control of the ownership of the means of production in the hands of the state and the birth of an equal society.

The first practical example of this was the Russian revolution which resulted in the establishment of the first socialist government of the world. Russia was industrially backward and was based on an agrarian economy. Tsar was an autocratic and oppressive ruler; hence the workers and the peasants suffered a lot. The Revolution of 1905 led to the formation of a constitutional monarchy with the formation of the Duma; the members of whom were representatives of peasants, townsmen and gentry. Even after the Revolution of 1905 , the civil rights and democratic representation was limited and hence the unrest continued.

In 1917, occurred another revolution in Russia. It happened because the condition of the Russian workers and peasants, and non Russians living in Russia had become quite miserable under the autocratic rule of Tsar Nicholas II. Exploitation along with inhuman working conditions and huge amount of taxes had made the people rise against him. People were also denied any political rights. Russia had also entered World War I for imperialist gains. But she was unequipped to do so. Thousands of Russian soldiers were killed in World War I as they were ill equipped with no proper warm uniforms and arms to fight in the cold desert of Siberia. Many skilled workers were forced to enlist in the army and fight in the battlefields resulting in their deaths. The nobility were also dissatisfied with Tsar Nicholas II due to his autocratic ways. Famines further worsened the situation in the country. This resulted in labor riots and strikes. Striking crowds attacked courts, prisons and office premises. There was widespread unrest among all sections of society. The army lacked ammunition, the cities lacked food while the peasants failed to get proper return for their produce. The government in the meantime had printed millions of Rouble notes leading to inflation. The situation slipped out of Tsar’s hands.

This situation was further worsened by the writings of Marx and Tolstoy which influenced the people, especially the workers, and led to their political awakening. This led to the formation of the Council of Workers called the Soviets. In February 1917, Tsar was deposed and a Provisional Government was established under the control of the Menshevik Party. But the Government failed to fulfill the demands of the people. Another Party called the Bolshevik headed by Lenin organised the Soviets and replaced the Government in October 1917. This October Revolution was the final stage of the Russian Revolution. It brought to an end the rule of the Tsar and led to the formation of the USSR and a new world order.

In the next lesson you will read more about Industrialisation, Imperialism and the World Wars. You will be able to understand how the Industrial Revolution changed the face of the world and brought about tremendous changes in the life of the people. You will also read the impact it had on the non-industrialised countries of the world and how it led to conflicts which are till today considered to be some of the most horrible wars faced by the world.

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Posted in World History

Unification of Germany

updated on March 13th, 2019

Unification of Germany
After Napoleon’s defeat in 1815, many Germans wanted an independent Germany. Germany was a confederation of 39 small states, led by Austria and Prussia. These states were always at war with one another, deterring the economic progress of Germany. The King of Prussia, Kaiser William I, chose a Prime Minister Bismarck to unify Germany under the rule of Prussia, and excluding Austria and France completely. Bismarck was fearless and believed in the urgent need for unification in Germany. He started with the modernization of the army, defying the parliament in collecting taxes. His policy came to be known as ‘Blood and Iron’ policy and earned him the nickname of the ‘Iron Chancellor’.

With this improved army, Bismarck encouraged the German population of Schleswig and Holstein to revolt against their ruler Denmark. In 1864, Bismarck joined hands with Austria against Denmark. Bismarck’s next target was Austria. Prussia defeated Austria and formed the North German Confederation. Bismarck promised the province of Venice to Italy and kept her out of the war. Austria was forced to give Venice to Italy, ending the Austrian control in Italy. He also promised territorial compensation to Napoleon III of France and kept it out of the war. He had already secured Russia’s support by helping them in suppressing a revolt in Russian controlled Poland.

The only obstacles to Prussian dominance of Germany were four small German states in Southern Germany and the disapproval of Napoleon III of France. But a disagreement between the two countries led France to declare a war on Prussia. The Franco-Prussian War was quite short. Prussia invaded France in 1871 and defeated the French. Napoleon III abdicated the throne and France was forced to give up Alsace and Lorraine. The remainder of the German states, except Austria, were annexed and joined with Germany. The unification of Germany was complete under Kaiser William I. Soon Germany emerged as the leading power in Europe, building a colonial empire to further German economic interest and increase German influence in the world.

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Posted in World History

Unification of Italy

updated on March 13th, 2019

Unification of Italy

In the 18th century, Italy was a collection of states, each having its own monarch and traditions. Some of them were Venetia, two Sicilies, Papal States, Sardinia, Tuscany, etc. During the Middle Ages, the Pope increased their influence in both religious and political matters. The Pope established their own political rule in what were called the Papal States. Soon Italy began to grow in importance. They became centers of political life, banking and foreign trade. During the Renaissance, Italy became even more important than the other states, For many years, France and the Holy Roman Empire fought for the control of Italy. The French Revolution of 1789 played an important role in the history of Italy. The Italian rulers sensing danger in their own country drew closer to the European kings who opposed France. After France became a republic, secret clubs favoring an Italian Republic was formed throughout Italy. From 1796 till 1814, when Napoleon Bonaparte was defeated by the European powers many Italians had started seeing the possibility of a united Italy free from foreign control.

Many revolutionaries like Mazzini and Garibaldi along with some secret societies kept spreading the idea of an independent unified republic among the Italians. From 1849 onwards, the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia which was a monarchy under Victor Emmanuel took an active role in this unification. It was significant that the Italian unification was headed by a monarch. Under his leadership, Cavour the Prime Minister ousted the Austrians form Lombardy, Tuscany, Modena, etc. Garibaldi led the revolt and liberated Sicily and Naples. He handed over the charge of the two states to Emmanuel and declared him the King of Italy. Later, Rome and Venetia joined the Federation of Italian states. The process of unification of Italy began with the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and ended with the Franco-Prussian War in 1871.

This was the time when revolt of 1857 took place in India .

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Posted in World History

French Revolution

updated on March 13th, 2019

French Revolution
In the 18th century, French society was still feudal in character with the monarch exercising complete authority. It was divided into three classes or estates. The First Estate of Clergy or Church and the Second Estate of Nobility enjoyed all the luxuries and many privileges over religion and the governance of the country. The Third Estate of the Commoners such as peasantry, city workers and the middle class were heavily burdened with taxes.

The internal condition of France made it an ideal stage for a revolution to take place. Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette’s luxurious lifestyles had emptied the treasury and made the country bankrupt. Louis XVI was forced to call a meeting of representatives of the three estates- the clergy, the nobility and the commoners in 1789. He wanted to gain approval for new tax law. The third estate demanded equality in taxation and abolition of special privileges enjoyed by the first two estates. It declared itself a National Assembly and took over the sovereign power from the Emperor. The historic French document, ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen’ was adopted. It was later embodied as the preamble in the French Constitution of 1791. This was influenced by the U.S. Declaration of Independence, asserting the equality of all men, the sovereignty of the people and the rights to liberty, property, security, right to education, to free speech, to be informed, right of the poor to public assistance, a ban on torture and slavery, recognition of the right of the people to choose their government and the eligibility of all citizens for employment in public offices.

The French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars starting from 1789 and lasting for about 15 years resulted in the formation of the French Republic. The French Revolution tore down the medieval structures of Europe and brought in new ideas of liberalism and nationalism. France witnessed a complete change in the government, administration, military, society and culture. France became a republic under Napoleon Bonaparte. The guiding principles of the French Revolution were Liberty, Fraternity and Equality. The revolutionaries were inspired by the ideas of many Enlightenment thinkers and philosophers such as Voltaire, Montesquieu and Rousseau.

The American War of Independence and the French Revolution popularizsd the feeling of nationalism all over the world. The idea of nationalism from America, France and Britain influenced the Italians. The result was a revolution for a unified kingdom of Italy in 1861.

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Posted in World History

RENAISSANCE

updated on March 16th, 2019

RENAISSANCE

The modern period ushered the end of the Age of Faith and the beginning of the Age of Reason. It witnessed movements like the Renaissance and the Reformation. These movements brought many changes in cultural, intellectual, religious, social and political life of the people all over the world. This period is also characterised by urbanisation, faster means of transport and communication, democratic systems and uniform laws based on equality.

The literal meaning of Renaissance is ‘rebirth’. It started in Italy around 14th Century AD. Italy was divided into small city states at that time. Many of them were built on the ruins of ancient Roman buildings. The geographical position of Italian cities made them great trading and intellectual centers. Moreover, the position of Italian cities such as Venice made them centers of trade and intellectual crossroads. Many great ideas, along with wealth, were brought by merchants from far corners of the globe. The new form of political and social organization gave political freedom and a suitable atmosphere for academic, artistic and cultural advancement. People had more leisure time for study and other activities.

This was also a period of great economic expansion. Many commercial and financial techniques were developed for trade practices like book keeping, bills of exchange and public debt. This enabled Italy to become the centre of Renaissance. The major developments of this time were the revival of urban life, commerce based on private capital, banking, formation of nation states, explorations to find new routes and territories and the development of vernacular literature which was popularized by the printing press. This new mercantile society was less hierarchical and more concerned with secular objectives. It was in sharp contrast to the earlier rural, tradition bound society. The adventures and explorers played a significant role in opening a world economic system. Many new commodities were brought from America, Asia and Africa after the discovery of trade routes. These goods enriched the life of Europeans and inspired them to develop new ways of producing them in large numbers to make profit. The result was that merchants, entrepreneurs and bankers joined hands and ‘Capital’ came to enjoy an important position in the political life as well as in relations with other countries.
The new ideas that were generated in this period like humanism, rationalism and the spirit of inquiry brought a profound change in the thinking pattern of the people. There was a renewed interest in the cultural achievements of the Classical Greek and Roman Civilisations. Human beings became the central concern of the new scholars. They believed in the creative potential of the human beings and their right to seek joy and pleasures in this world itself. This was contrary to the belief of the Medieval Church which opposed worldly pleasures. This respect for human beings encouraged interest in art, history, language, literature, ethics, etc. Do you know that it was at this time
that the disciplines grouped under ‘humanities’ were born?

The spirit of Humanism also found expression in the field of art and literature. The greatest achievements of Renaissance artists were
in the field of paintings. Painters studied the anatomy and proportions of the human body. They wanted the human beings to be painted in realistic form and proportion. Some of the outstanding artists were Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli and Titian. Even in the field of sculpture, artists began to make free standing statues. These sculptures now stood apart from the building or background and were separate works of art. The first great Renaissance sculptor was Donatello who made the statue ‘David’.

The Renaissance spirit also marks the rise of Nationalism in Europe. People now began to free themselves of medieval religious restrictions and bonds. National identities grew stronger and this was reflected in the development of modern European languages such as Italian, Spanish, French, German, English etc. as the languages of literature. Now the writers used local languages in poetry, drama, prose, etc., instead of Latin. The works of Renaissance authors became accessible to a large number of people due to the use of vernacular languages and the introduction of printing press. The Bible was printed and read by a large number of people. Several works that were produced in Modern European languages were Dante’s Divine Comedy, Erasmus, In Praise of Folly; Machiavelli’s The Prince and Cervantes’ Don Quixote.

Two major developments took place in the history of Europe towards the later part of the Renaissance. The first was the Protestant Reformation which resulted in the split in Christianity. The second development concerned reforms within the Roman Catholic Church generally referred to as Catholic Reformation or Counter-Reformation. The reformation was a part of the socio-religious and political movement which led to the emergence of the modern world.

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