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Michael D. Richards

Revolutions form one of the principle elements of European history after 1500. If they generally begin with issues of political power, they nearly always quickly come to include social, economic, and cultural issues, and have contributed in fundamental ways to the transformation of European politics and society.

Under the influence of Karl Marx, many social historians approached revolutions as examples of class struggle. Social classes were the major actors and the outcome of a revolution affected the composition of society, as well as distribution of economic and political power within it. In the 1960s historians challenged the use of class. Did all bourgeois, for example, see life the same way? What led some factory workers to join unions and support political parties and others to concentrate on personal interests? Also, social historians sometimes neglected the political entirely in their concern with describing and analyzing the way people lived.

Later scholarship emphasized an analysis of political culture, ideology, representation, symbols, and images. It often presented ideas about the origins and results of revolution in terms of social class, but in ways different from the Marxist analysis. Some of the revisionists stressed the futility of revolution and the danger that its attempts at reform would lead to a powerful and oppressive state. By the turn of the century, the state of the historiography of revolution was quite fluid. The Marxist position had been undermined but not eliminated. The revisionists, not a particularly united group to begin with, faced numerous different approaches, which had in common an interest in reconnecting the political and the social.

The impact of revolution on society, of course, varied from revolution to revolution. Challenges to the existing social order appear in each of the revolutions under consideration. As a generalization, it might be asserted that these challenges were unsuccessful in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and only partially successful in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. One result is that after the Revolutions of 1848, most members of the middle classes believed revolution was no longer a useful tool for reform or change. In the twentieth century, revolutionary challenges to the social status quo, beginning with the Russian Revolution of 1917, frequently resulted in a fundamental reordering of society. These massive attempts at social engineering, associated in nearly every case with Communism, without exception resulted in appalling social disasters.

Three European revolutions in particular stand out: the English in the seventeenth, the French in the eighteenth, and the Russian in the twentieth century. Each created a revolutionary tradition that heavily influenced revolutions that followed. The English Revolution furnished an example of the ways in which religious issues and political questions came together in explosive ways in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The French Revolution brought to the fore not only questions of political arrangements but also issues concerned with social structure. However, the ways in which people lived did not change much, although for women the Revolution was undoubtedly a step back. Perhaps the most important result of the Revolution was to unleash the force of nationalism, a force that did more to change how people lived over the following two centuries than any other. Finally, the Russian Revolution, as already noted, produced an expanded idea of revolution, which called for remaking every aspect of life. It is perhaps not accidental that the utopian tradition began at the same time as the revolutionary tradition. At the heart of revolution is an aspiration toward utopia.

There is no agreement on what a revolution is, but a minimal definition includes calls for substantive change in the political system. A change in personnel is not sufficient. A revolution can also entail changes in economic arrangements, social structures, or cultural assumptions. The use of force or at least the potential for the use of force is necessary but, again, not sufficient. Finally, a revolution need not involve innovation. Attempts to preserve what is in existence or what people believe once existed can have revolutionary repercussions. There are also failed revolutions or revolutionary situations that never develop further. And, finally, the line is often quite thin between revolution and many other phenomena that have characteristics in common with it.


In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, even though the concept of revolution as a radical way of doing politics did not exist, there were events that should be seen as revolutions. A combination of religious and political issues drove most of the revolutionary events of the sixteenth century. Religion and politics continued to be major factors in the seventeenth century. In addition, economic, social, and demographic issues added fuel to the revolutionary fires. While most of the events had limited results, the Netherlands Revolt and the British Revolution had important consequences for those two nations.

The Netherlands Revolt (1568–1609). Participants in the Netherlands Revolt against the Spanish crown did not begin with the intention of gaining independence. Like many other revolutionary movements in this period, the Netherlands Revolt developed mainly out of religious conflict and political disagreement. It resulted in the establishment of the Dutch Republic, which enjoyed world-power status in the seventeenth century.


  • Italian City-State Revolutions (1494–1534)
  • Spanish Comuneros Revolt (1520–1521)
  • German Peasant War (1524–1526)
  • Netherlands Revolt (1568–1609)
  • The Bohemian Revolt (1618–1648)
  • British Revolution (1638–1660)
  • The Catalan Revolt (Spain) (1640–1659)
  • The Fronde (France) (1648–1653)
  • Revolution of 1688 (Britain)
  • Dutch Patriot Revolution (1785–1787)
  • Brabant Revolution (Belgium) (1789–1790)
  • French Revolution (1789–1799)
  • Italian Risorgimento (1789–1870)
  • Polish Revolt (1794–1795)
  • Batavian Revolution (Netherlands) (1795–1798)
  • Revolutions of 1820
  • Revolutions of 1830
  • Revolutions of 1848
  • Greek War of Liberation (1821–1832)
  • Decembrist Revolt (Russia) (1825)
  • Belgian Revolution (1830–1833)
  • Polish Revolt (1863–1864)
  • Paris Commune (1871)
  • Revolution of 1905 (Russia)
  • Irish Revolution (1916–1923)
  • Russian Revolution of 1917
  • German Revolution (1918–1919)
  • Hungarian Revolutions (1918–1919)
  • Spanish Civil War (1936–1939)
  • Yugoslavian Communist Revolution (1941–1945)
  • Hungarian Revolution (1956)
  • "Prague Spring" (Czechoslovakia) (1968)
  • "Events of May" (France) (1968)
  • Irish Revolt (Northern Ireland) (1969–1998)
  • Portuguese Revolution (1974)
  • "Solidarity" (Poland) (1980–1989)
  • Bulgarian Revolution (1989)
  • "Velvet Revolution" (Czechoslovakia) (1989)
  • German Revolution of 1989 (German Democratic Republic)
  • Romanian Revolution (1989)
  • Albanian Anticommunist Revolution (1990–1992)
  • Implosion of the Soviet Union (1991)

The list does not include the extensive involvement of European countries in colonial liberation movements and revolutions outside Europe. Based on tables in Goldstone, ed., 1998, pp. xxxix and xl; and in Tilly, 1993, pp. 74, 82–83, 94–95, 114, 151, and 203.

Important Dutch leaders were appointed to the Council of State under the regent, Margaret of Parma, but they had little influence on the formation of policy. Instead Philip II of Spain reorganized the church to increase royal control and to continue attempts to stop the growth of Calvinism. The form of opposition varied according to the group involved. The Confederation of Nobles in 1565 was a protest against royal policies, while the sacking of Catholic churches by lower-class crowds the following year was directed against religious policies.

The duke of Alva, sent to repress the rebellion, was successful militarily, but he was not able to convince the States-General to grant new taxes. Attempts in 1571 to collect taxes by force led to revolt in 1572. By July 1572, the rebels had conquered many of the towns in Zeeland and Holland and others had joined the revolt voluntarily. The States of Holland offered William, prince of Orange, military command. William, the mainstay of the revolt, emphasized the rights of the provinces and the wrongs committed by the Spanish authorities. Where revolt in the south had largely ended, revolt in the north took positions on political and religious matters that made compromise difficult. Also, by this time the Netherlands Revolt had become part of international conflicts involving France, England, and Spain.

The Pacification of Ghent, approved by the States-General on 8 November 1576, attempted to assert the leading role of the States-General in the affairs of the Seventeen Provinces of the Netherlands and religious freedom for Protestantism. It was not possible, however, to hold all the provinces together. In the Union of Utrecht, January 1579, the Dutch-speaking areas of the north separated from the southern provinces. The latter reconciled with Philip II. In part this was in reaction to radical Calvinism among the lower classes. The northern provinces formed the United Provinces of the Netherlands.

William the Silent worked to keep the Netherlands together in the early 1580s. On 10 July 1584, however, he was assassinated. English intervention the following year proved crucial in preserving the United Provinces. Additionally, Spanish preoccupation with England and France helped the Dutch survive. In 1609 Spain agreed to the Twelve Years' Truce. Formal recognition of Dutch independence came only in 1648.

The Netherlands Revolt led to a society tolerant of religion and favorably disposed to commerce and manufacture. The large number of refugees from the south added greatly to the success of the Dutch Republic. Although urban elites continued to dominate politics, the bourgeoisie found ample scope for business. The lower classes also enjoyed some of the fruits of the seventeenth-century golden age.

The British Revolution (1638–1660). The British Revolution, as it is now called in recognition of the importance of the overall British context, also involved a mixture of political and religious issues. Unlike the continental revolutions it was not affected by external problems or by widespread peasant revolts.

By the twenty-first century, historians no longer saw the British Revolution as a long defense of English political rights against royal tyranny. Some profess to see little political conflict before 1638 and the emergency situation created by the Scottish uprising. Others see political opposition forming in the 1620s and coming to a head in the Petition of Right in 1628 and in the dissolution of Parliament by Charles I in 1629. Although no revolutionary group formed after these events, the policies of the crown were unpopular and widened the gap between the court and the country. The ship money tax (a special tax that had previously been levied only on coastal areas to help pay for defense) in 1638 was especially unpopular. Complicating the matter was the Scottish Revolution, which forced Charles I to call in 1640 first the "Short Parliament," which, however, refused to vote funds for war with Scotland, and then the "Long Parliament."


Drie Oktober (3 October), a municipal holiday in the university town of Leiden, celebrates the relief of the siege of the town in 1574. The relief of Leiden not only had considerable military significance but probably even more psychological impact in the struggle of the Dutch to regain political and religious freedoms.

The Spanish forces took up positions during the night of 25–26 May and sealed off the city from outside aid. They planned to starve Leiden out as they had done earlier with Haarlem. If successful, they would drive a wedge between supporters of the Dutch Revolt in the northern part of Holland and the main concentration of strength in Zeeland.

Most in Leiden were loyal to William the Silent and the Dutch cause, but the town had failed to reprovision after an earlier siege. Compounding this, town officials did little to ration provisions the first two months.

On 30 July, the States of Holland, meeting in Rotterdam, decided to flood two water control areas to the south of Leiden in the hope of eventually flooding the area around Leiden itself and drowning "la vermine Espagnole." There were many reasons why the plan would not work. Nevertheless, the slogan advanced was "Liever bedorven dan verloren land" (better a drowned than a lost land).

As preparations began for the fleet that was supposed to rescue Leiden, the town questioned its ability to hold out. It even sent messengers to William toward the end of August to ask him to release its citizens from their oath to him if he could not come to their aid. The messengers returned on 30 August with news that help was being readied and the town celebrated by parading musicians through the streets.

Reduced in September to a ration of 1,000 grams of meat (bones included) every four days, the citizens of Leiden seriously considered accepting Spanish offers of mercy and amnesty. The fleet was on its way, however, as people in Leiden learned on the 15th. Two weeks later, however, although the fleet was close, the water had not risen sufficiently for it to relieve Leiden.

The night of 29 September, a gale drove the North Sea into the mouth of the Maas River, sending it back in floods through the cuts in the dikes. By 1 October the water had risen high enough for the fleet to move toward Leiden. On the 2d there was only one more strong point to be taken. Early on the 3d a party of men left Leiden, determined to attack the strong point from their side. The story goes that an orphan went ahead to see what he could see and found the Spanish had abandoned the fort and even left behind a pot of Hutspot, an unbelievable feast for anyone who had not eaten well in weeks.

The fleet moved into Leiden and distributed food to the starving inhabitants. Afterwards all went to the Pieterskerk for prayers and hymns. The town had suffered greatly, with the death of some 6,000 of the 15,000 inhabitants, but it had endured. Observing the way in which nature itself seemed to have intervened, the God-fearing Dutch could hardly help but interpret it as a sign of favor for their cause.

The immediate goal of the parliamentarians was the end of measures associated with the Crown's eleven years of rule without the help of parliament. The parliamentarians benefited from the support of both merchants and the poor. By 1642 opposing sides had formed, each claiming to defend the true English political system and the Protestant religion. Both factions were similar in social composition: support from the gentry with leadership furnished by aristocrats. In the civil war between 1642 and 1647, the parliamentarians (or Roundheads) defeated the royalists (or Cavaliers) at Marston Moor and at Naseby.

The parliamentarians favored disbanding the army as soon as possible. Soldiers worried not only about pay but also about the religious and political settlement proposed by Parliament. The Putney debates in 1647 showed the influence of the Levellers, a middle-class group interested in popular sovereignty and social equality. This group, moving away from doctrines that looked to the past, looked toward universal ideals and revolutionary change.

Civil war broke out again in 1648, but this time the royalist cause was quickly crushed and a republic established. Charles was tried, sentenced, and then beheaded on 30 January 1649. In December of the previous year, the military command had carried out a purge of the House of Commons, leaving "The Rump" to carry on.

The new Commonwealth survived the popular unrest of the early 1650s and Oliver Cromwell reestablished control over Ireland and Scotland. In 1653 Cromwell forcibly removed "The Rump" from office. After the failure of the "Barebones" Parliament, he became lord protector. In effect a personal dictatorship, it collapsed soon after Cromwell's death in 1658. Following an interval of confusion and crisis, Charles II was invited to return.

The British Revolution was not a bourgeois revolution in the Marxist sense of a revolution produced by the growth of a capitalist economy. Nor can it be said it was caused by a "crisis of the aristocracy" or by rising or declining gentry. Cultural changes associated with Puritanism played a prominent role, but these cut across the lines of social division. Social discontent helped generate radical democratic movements during the Revolution, but these did not triumph. Late twentieth-century historians emphasized continuity and also argued against any decisive victory for constitutional monarchy. It is true, of course, that it took the Revolution of 1688 to make Parliament supreme. One can even argue that a process of political evolution continued into the nineteenth century. Nonetheless, the British Revolution of the mid-seventeenth century was an important step in the creation of a durable political system, a constitutional monarchy based on widespread participation and recognition of political and civil rights. It played an important role in establishing a political culture that many British took for granted by the beginning of the twentieth century.

The Revolution of 1688. Was the Revolution of 1688 actually a revolution? It may have been little more than a coup against the government of James II, but it did what the earlier British Revolution had been unable to do: establish the supremacy of Parliament and put Britain on the road to constitutional monarchy.

Although much of the political nation stood ready to support James II when he came to the throne in 1685, he squandered that support by engaging in what was perceived as a weak foreign policy, that is, a foreign policy that favored Louis XIV. He was also seen as conducting a domestic policy that did not appear to respect the law. Many distrusted his attempt to promote religious toleration, which was seen as threatening the Church of England. By 1688 many Whig and Tory politicians, ordinarily opponents, united behind the idea of inviting William, prince of Orange, stadhouder (chief executive) of the United Provinces of the Netherlands and also the son-in-law of James II, to invade England. According to some historians, this plan had widespread support among merchants, gentry, and aristocracy.

After James II and his family fled to France, a Convention was elected, and in February 1689 debated what should be done. It was agreed that James II had abdicated and that Mary and William had inherited the throne. The Convention further issued the "Declaration of Rights," essentially a restatement of English law. This document underlined a position that had not been fully accepted before, the concept that the nation, not the monarch, was sovereign. These were, as one historian has it, "reluctant revolutionaries." In fact, John Locke's Two Treatises of Government (1690) was largely ignored at the time as too radical.

The Fronde (1648–1653). Under the heading of "The Fronde" (from fronde, French for slingshot), historians have grouped protests by royal officials, aristocratic revolt, urban disorders, and rebellion in the countryside. Contemporaneous with the British Revolution, the Fronde lacked an institution such as Parliament to serve as a focus for opposition to the crown. Also, no leader of the same caliber as Cromwell or William the Silent emerged. The situation of the monarchy was precarious, with a regent, Anne of Austria, ruling for the boy king Louis XIV with the help of an unpopular first minister, Cardinal Mazarin. Nevertheless, the Fronde failed because of a lack of unity, purpose, and leadership.

The Fronde began in the summer of 1648, but it was the product of years of high taxes and attempts to establish an absolutist form of monarchy. Almost all groups in France, from the great nobles to peasants in the countryside had grievances. The breakthrough came when the regent and Mazarin attempted to end the ability of the Parlement of Paris (a judicial body, not to be confused with the English Parliament) to obstruct royal business by arresting two of its judges. This led to the "days of the barricades," 26–28 August, when officials, merchants, artisans, and other urban dwellers took to the streets.

The Treaty of Reuil in the spring of 1649 settled many of the issues with the Parlement of Paris and other bodies of officials, but not with the nobility, who wanted Mazarin dismissed and their right to participate in governmental affairs recognized. In the first part of the Fronde, the commander of the royal army had been Louis, prince of Condé, a royal cousin. In the civil war beginning in 1649 Condé switched to the side of the Frondeurs and became their main leader. Although a talented military leader, he lacked political skills. The Fronde became increasingly fragmented.

When Louis XIV declared his majority in 1651, this created a dilemma. Most of the protest had been directed against Mazarin, and not the king. Now that he was ruling directly, it was no longer possible to claim to be rebelling against the regent and Mazarin.

In fact, much of France did not rebel. Of ten parlements, only four rebelled. Many cities remained quiet. Nonetheless, the concessions the Parlement of Paris gained initially from the crown might easily have led to a very different style of monarchy in France. France after the Fronde took a path quite different from that of Britain or the Netherlands.


The French Revolution dwarfed the other events associated with it. It also inspired or made possible some of those events. Nonetheless, it is useful to consider the period from roughly 1770 to 1850 as an era of rebellion and revolution, a time of rapid change and dislocation. Whether one looks at demographic trends, price series, intellectual currents, political developments, or diplomatic events, change rather than continuity is the prevailing theme. The French Revolution introduced the main elements of modern politics, including the idea of constructing the political system from the ground up. It also raised many social issues. For some the revolution became an instrument for refashioning men and women into citizens.

In the decades after the Napoleonic Empire there were three successive waves of revolution. The first, in 1820, was relatively minor. The second, in 1830, had significant repercussions. The last, in 1848, involved most European nations and initially appeared to introduce fundamental changes to European politics. In the end, however, it led only to compromise and reaction.

In addition to the waves of revolution, there were individual revolutions of some note. These included, among others, the Decembrist Revolt of 1825 in Russia, the Greek liberation movement (1821–1832), an ensemble of events in Britain in the early 1830s, and the Risorgimento in Italy. Theorists as well as activists abounded. The most important theorists of the period were Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. The anarchists were also prominent in this period. By the end of the century, hundreds of thousands of Europeans were organized in revolutionary parties or groups, but, paradoxically, only a relatively small number actually looked forward to revolution.

The French Revolution. The beginnings of the French Revolution lie in the fiscal problems of the monarchy. Where the nation as a whole was prosperous, the government was deeply in debt because of its involvement in past wars. A reform of the tax system seemed the obvious solution.

The ministers of Louis XVI hoped an Assembly of Notables would agree to the new taxes, but this group deferred to the Estates General, an institution that had not met since 1614. As soon as it was decided the Estates General would meet, a controversy broke out that split those planning to use tax reform to widen the governing process. The group identified with the aristocracy appeared to want to monopolize political influence. The other, identified with a national or patriotic position, seemed to want broader participation in the political process. Voting in the Estates General had been by estate, the first being the clergy, the second the nobility, and the third everyone else. The "patriots," drawn from the liberal aristocracy and the bourgeoisie, wanted to double the third and vote by head. This opened the possibility of obtaining a majority. In the pamphlet war before the elections, Abbé Sieyès argued forcefully in "What Is the Third Estate?" that the third estate, as the backbone of the nation, deserved to be an important part of the political process.

During the elections, voters composed cahiers, lists of grievances. The cahiers, while noting many particular complaints, also expressed loyalty to the monarchy and satisfaction with the established church and hierarchical society. Delegates expected change, but within the confines of the established system.

A series of events in the summer of 1789 plunged France into revolution. When the crown failed to lead, the third estate declared itself on 17 June the National Assembly and invited members of the other estates to join it. It planned to write a constitution, which implied sovereign political power vested in the people. This was the first move toward revolution.

The next was mostly symbolic. On 14 July, a crowd composed mostly of the lower-middle class and lower classes, stormed the Bastille, long a symbol of royal tyranny. This action was part of a municipal revolt that overturned governing bodies in many cities around France. It may also have forestalled plans by the monarchy to disperse the National Assembly.

In response to peasant disorders in the countryside, the National Assembly abolished nearly all privileges on the night of 4–5 August, providing a new meaning for the word "Liberty" (which, not capitalized, had been a synonym for privilege) and also creating a situation of equality before the law. Finally, on 26 August, the National Assembly enshrined "Liberty" and "Equality" in the "Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen," a statement of principles meant to be attached to a constitution.

When a mob composed mostly of women forced the king and his family to move to Paris in October, the first part of the revolution was complete. The National or Constituent Assembly followed the monarchy to Paris and worked there on defining a constitutional monarchical system.

Attempts to construct a constitutional monarchy floundered because of two major problems. One was the place of the church in the new revolutionary system. The Civil Constitution of the Clergy (1790), which established a state church, divided the clergy into those who refused to take an oath of loyalty ("Refractors") and those who took the oath ("Constitutionals"). This created a dilemma for many French. How could they support the Revolution and remain Catholics?

The other major problem concerned the monarchy. Louis XVI, uncomfortable with the arrangement for constitutional monarchy, was under pressure from his wife, Marie Antoinette, and many nobles to bargain for more power. The attempt by the royal family to flee the country in June 1791 effectively ended the possibility of constructing a workable system.

By 1792 the major groups opposing the Revolution were the aristocracy, large numbers of clergy, and many peasants. The latter often took their cue from the local notables and the clergy and were naturally suspicious of anything originating in the towns. The main support for the Revolution came from the urban middle and lower-middle classes. Many belonged to revolutionary societies of which the Jacobin club was the best known and most powerful. The Jacobin club in Paris, which met in a former monastery, was connected to Jacobin clubs throughout France. The urban lower classes also supported the Revolution and intervened sporadically.

France went to war in April 1792 as both opponents and supporters of the Revolution maneuvered to gain advantage. On 10 August, the war going badly and the king's loyalty uncertain, a crowd stormed the royal residence in Paris and overthrew the monarchy. With the election of a new representative body, the Convention, the Revolution moved into a more radical phase. Initially, the main question was what to do about the king. Eventually he was placed on trial and by the narrowest of margins—one vote—sentenced, and later executed. The execution took place on 21 January 1793.

Although there were no political parties, factions developed in the Convention. The execution of the king eliminated any reason for monarchists to remain in the Convention. Among the supporters of the republic and democracy, almost all middle class, two groups stood out. The group associated with Jacques-Pierre Brissot, the Girondins (several came from the department of Gironde), had been reluctant to vote to execute the king. It also had difficulty meeting the demands of the lower-middle and lower class Parisians, the so-called sans-culottes (those who wore trousers and not the knee breeches favored by the aristocracy). The Mountain, which sat up high on the left in the Convention, favored property and order just as the Girondins, but found they could make those decisions the Revolution seemed to require. Most deputies were part of an unorganized mass known as the "Plain" or the "Belly." Even those identified as part of the Mountain or the Girondins by their opponents did not always see themselves as members of one or the other group.

By the middle of 1793, France was fighting a coalition of European powers and a civil war. Furthermore, the lower and lower-middle classes in Paris, now the driving force of the revolution, demanded a maximum on prices and a minimum on wages. In a tense atmosphere such as this, some saw the reluctance of the Girondins to take radical measures as traitorous. At the beginning of June, Girondins were driven from the Convention and arrested.

Over the next few months, the Committee of Public Safety, formed that April, became the main locus of power in France. Maximilien de Robespierre, who became a member of the committee in July, quickly became the leading figure, and was responsible for much of the Reign of Terror (1973). But a number of others, including Georges Danton, Lazare Carnot, and Louis-Antoine Saint-Just, also played important roles.

In the late summer and the fall, several extraordinary measures were passed. First, the nation was called to arms in August with the levée-en-masse. In September a maximum on prices was enacted. More draconian measures followed. Still, some historians argue that the Terror was mostly an effort to preserve France and the revolution. Much of the horror associated with the revolution actually took place in the civil war. Also, some of the representatives-on-mission went far beyond their orders, as was the case, for example, in the mass drownings at Nantes.

Robespierre and other revolutionaries wanted to use revolution to transform humanity and spent time discussing various architectural and educational schemes. Little came of this, however. The sansculottes, long in the habit of sending delegations and petitions to the Convention, were gradually cut out of political life. They still exerted considerable influence, however, on dress, behavior, language, and forms of entertainment, emphasizing the plain, the simple, the sentimental, and the moralistic.

Robespierre and his fellow revolutionaries were constantly on the alert politically in the first part of 1794. Robespierre turned first on Jacques-René Hébert and the Enragés, once hugely popular with the sans-culottes. He then ordered Danton put on trial. By the early summer everyone in the Convention worried about Robespierre's next move. Several representatives-on-mission, fearing prosecution for their crimes, helped organize an opposition. Robespierre, taken into custody on the 9th of Thermidor (27 July 1794), was guillotined the next day.


The sans-culottes saw themselves as simple and hardworking, loyal to the revolution and ready to defend it with their last drops of blood. In political terms they might be considered the victors of the great revolutionary journées, the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789, the overthrow of the monarchy on 10 August 1792, and the removal of the Girondins from the Convention on 31 May 1793. For historians influenced by Marx, they were the forerunner of the working class, who were playing their role in the classic bourgeois revolution.

In social terms, the sans-culottes were broadly representative of the Parisian lower-middle and lower classes. They were likely to be shopkeepers or artisans, less likely to be wage-earners or domestics. They were certainly not marginal figures, although often portrayed as such in nineteenth-century accounts of the revolution, not people without sources of income or fixed residences.

The sans-culottes were, above all, social animals. Fraternity was the watchword and they customarily presented themselves as part of a group or committee or as speaking for their section. They despised those who wanted to set themselves apart, whether through manner of speaking, dressing, or behaving. One dressed as everyone dressed, in pantaloons, sabots (wooden shoes), a red cap, and a tricolor cockade. The opposite of the sansculottes were the aristocrats, by definition proud and selfish and not fully human.

In economic terms, the sans-culottes did not believe in absolute equality but rather in social justice. Everyone should have enough on which to live. Prices of the most necessary items as well as wages and profits should be fixed.

The sans-culottes were most prominent in the Year II (1793). In part, this was due to the radicalization of the revolution. But it must also reflect the increasing political involvement of some of the sans-culottes. The overthrow of the monarchy in August 1792 and the new circumstances this created resulted in more continuity in political involvement than before. The execution of the king in January 1793, an economic crisis that spring, and the division between the Girondins and the Mountain increased the significance of popular militancy. By the fall of 1793, the sans-culottes had gained two important goals: the maximum, or price controls; and the revolutionary armies, a people's militia. Many sansculottes could read and write or were in any case influenced by revolutionary publicists and even by some of the philosophes, especially Jean-Jacques Rousseau. They saw themselves more and more as playing a historical role.

It has been estimated that only five to ten percent of those eligible to participate in the political life of the forty-eight sections of Paris actually did so. A small minority of this group, perhaps 3,000 to 4,000, made up the functionaries of the sections. It was this small group that worked with the Mountain to channel the political energy of the sans-culottes, to make that energy more regular, formal, and predictable. By the time Robespierre was executed on the 10th of Thermidor (July 1794), the sans-culottes had lost much of their revolutionary power. Or perhaps they were only exhausted from their revolutionary labors. In any case, they had lost the power to push the revolution forward. For the time being, they stepped back out of politics.

The Revolution ended with the death of Robespierre. No one had the energy after years of intense political activity to restart the machinery of the Terror. The Thermidorian Reaction, a gaudy reaction to the puritanism of the Revolution, replaced the Terror. The Convention gave way to the Directory, a complicated system that, over the next four years, worked mostly through occasional coups. Finally, Napoleon carried out one last coup on the eighteenth Brumaire (November 1799). The Directory began the work of consolidating the revolution; Napoleon finished it in brilliant style in the first years of his rule. While there is dispute over how much social tensions, as opposed to political and ideological issues, generated the French Revolution, there is little doubt about some key social results. While revolutionary chaos disrupted economic development, revolutionary legislation—for example the abolition of the guilds—favored a more capitalist economy in the long run. The end to manorialism and the establishment of equality under the law undermined the position of the aristocracy. The legal context of peasant life also changed substantially.


For much of the twentieth century, historians viewed the French Revolution from a marxist perspective. They saw it as the classic example of a bourgeois revolution clearing the way for the development of capitalism. The high-water mark of the marxist approach came with Georges Lefebvre's study of 1789, published in 1939, the sesquicentennial of the French Revolution.

The first important challenges to the marxist view came in the 1960s. Historians focused on the early leaders of the revolution, the definition of the word bourgeois, and the extent to which the revolution cleared the way for the development of capitalism. Alfred Cobban was one of the most prominent revisionists. He and other historians showed that many of the early leaders were aristocrats, that many bourgeois identified with and aspired to become aristocrats, and that the revolution actually retarded the growth of capitalism.

Although no longer a marxist interpretation, the revisionist position remained a social interpretation. It now featured a crisis of social mobility. More people within the ranks of an elite of aristocrats and bourgeois sought to improve their social positions. The elite split, creating the opportunity for revolution, but later reappeared as notables after having learned the high price of revolution.

Revisionists concentrated on learning more about political culture. This ranged from festivals and images to the use of language. The new concentration on the political recognized that political activities shaped social relations and identified the development of a new political culture as the most important result of the revolution. Even if society seemed much the same after the revolution, the new political culture was not forgotten and continued to influence social development.

The person most prominently associated with the revisionist interpretation in the latter part of the twentieth century, François Furet, believed the French Revolution led unavoidably to the Terror. Politics in the revolution was, according to him, simply a means for reshaping society. Many revisionists, however, do not take that view.

The bicentennial marked the peak of the revisionist interpretation. Observers in the 1990s saw a fluid situation in which neither the revisionist position nor the marxist position was dominant. By 2000, much of the work being done focused on connections between the political and the social. For example, one approach emphasized the idea of apprenticeship or political acculturation. What kinds of networks, previous associations, and local circumstances helped to draw one into revolutionary politics? What is involved in the actual practice of politics? The result is a political interpretation informed by an extensive knowledge of social history.

It may be that these approaches seek to extend the work on ideology, representation, imagery, and symbolism of the revisionists. Or it is possibly a more pragmatic, local approach to politics that makes reference to social history. It is no longer possible to interpret the revolution in terms of large social categories. By the same token, the revolution cannot be understood in political terms alone. Social conditions place certain parameters on political action. In turn, political action and the development of a political culture change social conditions. How these interactions work will likely be the focus of much historical scholarship in the near future.

Attacks on the church created new social and cultural divisions. The revolution's impact on family life was less dramatic, though divorce was briefly tolerated. Disparities between revolutionary ideas and a rather conservative approach to gender had important consequences in the nineteenth century.

Revolution had spread to other parts of Europe even before Napoleon began his string of conquests. In some instances revolution took place either before or at the same time as the French Revolution. Even countries such as Prussia, opposed to Napoleon and the tenets of the Revolution, changed considerably in order to preserve its independence. Modifications of guild and manorial systems spread throughout Europe.

Dutch Revolutions (1780–1800). The Dutch Revolutions at the end of the eighteenth century provide a good example of the other revolutionary events occurring around the time of the French Revolution. The initial Dutch Revolution, the Patriot Revolution from 1786 to 1787, grew out of involvement in the American Revolution. This led to war with England and criticism of the government for its handling of the war. A Patriot group formed in opposition to Prince William V, the stadhouder of the Netherlands. The Orangists organized to defend the prince. In 1781, J. D. van der Capellen, one of the Patriot leaders, called on the Dutch to imitate the Americans in seizing control of their affairs. In 1783 the Patriots organized citizens' committees and militias. Even the regents, powerful figures on the municipal level, joined the anti-Orangist popular movement.

By 1787 the Patriots had succeeded in gaining power on the municipal level in Utrecht. Then the movement, radically democratic and revolutionary, took control of the provinces of Overijssel and Holland. Just at the point of success, however, artisans and shopkeepers, worried about new regulations passed by municipal councils dominated by the Patriots, switched allegiance to the Orangists. The Orangists also imitated the Patriot organizational efforts. Prussian intervention in 1787 sealed the fate of the revolution and restored William V to power.

If the first Dutch Revolution anticipated the French Revolution, the second came largely as a direct result of the French Revolution. Popular forces had remained concentrated in the voluntary associations and militias. With the help of French forces, the Patriots came to power again in the mid-1790s. The Batavian Republic, however, experienced increasing problems with the French, especially after Napoleon came to power. Finally, in 1813 the Patriots were driven from power and William I, son of the last stadhouder, became king.

The Revolutions of 1830. Of the several revolutions in 1830, by far the most important took place in France. The origins of the revolution owe something to the effects of the economic crisis of 1826–1827, but it was largely a product of the provocative policies of Charles X and his reactionary aristocratic allies, the "Ultras." The liberal opposition disliked what it viewed as an alliance between "throne and altar." It also believed the electoral franchise was too narrow. The July Ordinances of 1830, which dissolved the newly elected and liberal Chamber of Deputies, disenfranchised three-quarters of the electorate and provided for new elections, was meant to produce a pliable Chamber. It also called for a harsh policy of press censorship. This brought apprentices and journeymen from the print shops out into the streets of Paris. The demonstrations on 26 July 1830 escalated the following day to barricades and battles with troops. Charles abdicated 2 August and Louis-Philippe, duc d'Orléans, became "king of the French." The tricolor again became the national flag and in April 1831 the franchise was doubled. A variety of groups, peasants, artisans, workers, and socialists, viewed the revolution as permission to voice grievances. The first few years after the revolution were marked by disorder and repression and in the 1830s and 1840s republicanism and socialism developed rapidly.

The July monarchy was considered liberal and more favorably disposed to business than Charles X's government had been. Land, however, was still the main basis for wealth and the bourgeoisie, if more prominent than before, were divided into groups with differing interests.

Elsewhere, the Belgian revolution was successful in defeating the Dutch and creating an independent state. Great power interest in the strategic importance of Belgium played an important role. The reverse was true in Poland. An uprising in November in Warsaw created popular support among artisans at first. The Polish nobility, however, hesitated to ally with the peasantry, the only real chance for the revolution to succeed, and it collapsed in August. In this case, some great powers, namely France and Great Britain, had no particular reason to intervene, while others, Prussia, Russian, and Austria, had every reason to suppress the revolution. There was also some activity in Italy, which the Austrians dealt with easily, and in Germany.

The Revolutions of 1848. The Revolutions of 1848 formed the major instance of revolution in Europe between the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution. They began in France, where for several reasons they took on a character different from revolutions elsewhere. Eventually, most of the continent was involved in revolution.

Three factors helped create the possibility of revolution in 1848. First, economic crises in 1846–1847, stemming from bad harvests and leading to high prices and unemployment, produced tensions in much of Europe. Next, the transition to an industrial economy brought problems for many, particularly among artisans, priming a large number of people for protest. Finally, the legacy of the French Revolution and unfinished business from the Revolution of 1830 created a particular situation. Political banquets meant to press for the expansion of the franchise easily spilled over into violent confrontation.

In Paris the government decided in February 1848 to ban a demonstration supporting electoral reform but could not control the protest that followed. Louis-Philippe and his prime minister quickly lost support. A provisional government formed after the collapse of the government and established a democratic republic. Almost immediately a gulf appeared between the moderate republicans making up the government, mostly drawn from middle-class professional men, and those who had supported it on the street, drawn largely from the artisans and skilled workers and from the lower-middle class. The latter groups often wanted simply to return to the old ways of living and working, ways that economic change was destroying.

The Second Republic's major response to the needs of the lower classes was the National Workshops, basically relief measures for the unemployed. This was not what Louis Blanc, an important French socialist and member of the government, wanted. He favored something closer to producers' cooperatives.

Since France was already an independent nation, the social question appeared almost immediately. For their part, the moderate republicans feared the electoral power of urban artisans and workers under the new arrangements for universal manhood suffrage. The situation finally came to a head in June when the government ruthlessly used the army, the National Guard, and the Mobile Guard to suppress protests against the dismantling of the National Workshops.

The social question existed in Germany as well, but the more pressing question was national unity. When Frederick William IV refused the Frankfurt Parliament's offer to head a new German Empire, this ended the major thrust of revolution in Germany. Frederick William, having recovered his confidence and reestablished support in Prussia, easily defeated the revolution in Prussia and in several other German states as well. By 1849, the Austrians, too, had regained the initiative in Vienna and had crushed Czech revolutionaries in Prague and Hungarian revolutionaries in Budapest, the latter with the aid of the Russian Empire. They had also prevailed in the Italian peninsula, where Italian revolutionaries had been temporarily successful.

The most important results from the Revolutions of 1848 were negative. France failed once again to find a workable political system, either in the Second Republic or in the Second Empire of Napoleon III that followed. The direction that Italian unification took over the next two decades, however, owed much to experiences in 1848–1849. Finally, while the movement toward German unification owed little to 1848, it may be argued that many German liberals responded to unification as they did because of their perceived failure in 1848.

After 1848 the middle classes ended their interest in revolution, even in a moderate political revolution for a constitution and representative government. Already fearful of the urban lower classes, the lesson they learned from 1848 was that revolution was too unpredictable a phenomenon to be safely used. The urban lower classes, especially the emerging proletariat, were now wary of allying with the middle classes in a revolutionary movement. Some were attracted to the idea of proletarian revolution that Marx and Engels put forward after 1848 or the ideas of the anarchists, but many others preferred reform and trade-union work. As for the countryside, in Germany, Austria, and Italy, the end of manorialism tended to reduce peasant discontent.

The Paris Commune (1871). The Paris Commune was the last major revolutionary event of the century and an isolated one at that. It ended the tradition of the French Revolution. It was mainly a product of municipal pride, the bitter experience of the siege of Paris by the Prussians between September 1870 and January 1871, and the possibility that the royalist National Assembly elected in February 1871 would attempt to restore the French monarchy. The catalyst was the attempt by the French government to disarm the Parisian National Guard on 18 March 1871.

The Paris Commune was meant to recall directly the revolutionary Paris Commune of 1792. It even adopted the revolutionary calendar, which meant it was now Year LXXIX. Those who made up the Commune were largely socialists and neo-Jacobin radicals drawn from the middle classes and white-collar and skilled workers. The main ideas were to defend the republic against the return of the monarchy and to protect the autonomy of Paris. The Commune was also against the church, the army, police, and bureaucracy. Relatively few social changes were made, however, since the overwhelming reality was the civil war.

On 21 May, French troops broke through the defenses and began a week of street fighting. Many prisoners were slaughtered or executed after a perfunctory court-martial. Estimates are that 20,000 Communards died. Marx and Engels hailed it as the dawn of an age of proletarian revolution. Late twentieth-century historians saw it more as the end of an era of revolution and the product of a particular location and circumstances.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Once the French Revolution established the idea of revolution as another way of doing politics, many sought to develop theories of revolution. The two most prominent nineteenth-century theorists were Karl Marx (1818–1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820–1895). They developed a theory of scientific socialism to distinguish their ideas from those of the Utopian Socialists. History, they stated in the Communist Manifesto (1848), consisted of class struggles. At mid-century, they saw economic life dominated by the bourgeoisie. As the bourgeoisie changed all aspects of European life, it created the class—the proletariat—destined to destroy it, according to Marx and Engels.

Underlying the class struggle was economic life itself, which involved the means for carrying on economic life, that is, the forces of production, and the ways in which economic life was organized, that is, the relations of production. All else was superstructure, a reflection of economic life. Invariably, the forces of production developed to the point where the relations of production constricted them. Marx and Engels thought this would soon result in conflict between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Eventually, the proletarian revolution would usher in a new historical situation, a classless society in which there was no longer a conflict between the means of production and the relations of production.

Marx and Engels played a role both in the founding of the First International, a grouping of socialist parties and trade unions, and in its destruction, rather than see it controlled by the anarchists. They also oversaw the founding of the German Social Democratic Party (the SPD). After Marx's death in 1883, Engels played a prominent role in SPD politics for more than a decade.

Although Marx and Engels believed in the historical inevitability of their ideas, they continued to emphasize organization of the working class. Historical conditions had to be ripe for a revolution to take place, but, in the meantime, workers achieved class-consciousness through activism and prepared for the new era after the revolution. They speculated that revolutionary change might come through peaceful means. Engels, in his introduction to Class Struggles in France, wrote about the possibility of achieving power through the ballot box and the difficulties of mounting the barricades. Even so, he was unsure the bourgeoisie would surrender power peacefully and warned social democrats to be prepared if necessary to defend the revolution.

Marx and Engels strongly influenced revolutionaries in Europe and beyond in the last part of the nineteenth century and throughout the twentieth century. Their understanding of revolution had a powerful, even fateful, impact.

Anarchism. Anarchism, a major rival to Marxism in the second half of the nineteenth century, advocated abolition of the state and formation of cooperative institutions. Anarchists, however, differed over means. The major current thought in terms of peaceful change through the power of the example of cooperatives. The person most closely associated with this tendency was the Russian, Pyotr Kropotkin (1842–1921). Another important current stressed the need to use violence to destroy the state and found its most important advocate in another Russian, Mikhail Bakunin (1814–1876). A wave of terrorist violence at the end of the nineteenth century led to the stereotype of the anarchist as a bomb-throwing, heavily bearded madman.

Anarchism found a good reception in France, Switzerland, Italy, and Spain, particularly among peasants in large-estate regimes, as in Andalusia, and among artisans. In the twentieth century it was briefly prominent in the Russian Revolution and Civil War. It also had many supporters in the Spanish Civil War. Finally, it enjoyed something of a revival in the 1960s among student radicals.


There is no comparison between the Russian Revolution and similar events in twentieth-century Europe. The German Revolution of 1918 and other revolutionary events in central Europe after World War I were minor events. Italian Fascism and German National Socialism proved to be major factors in twentieth-century history, but it is difficult to consider either a genuine revolution. Each contained revolutionary elements, but it would be more accurate to see the two phenomena as parasitical. German National Socialism challenged the established order in Europe because it controlled the resources of the German nation.

The Russian Revolution, although measuring itself against the French Revolution, set the new standard for revolution in the twentieth century. Especially in the form of the Stalinist Revolution of the 1930s it appeared to offer a blueprint for independence, freedom, urbanization, and industrialization. Its influence continued nearly to the end of the century and declined only with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The Russian Revolutions of 1917. The February Revolution ended the Romanov dynasty. Over the next few months, the Provisional Government struggled to solve Russian problems. Its failure led to the October or Bolshevik Revolution that brought V. I. Lenin and his party to power.

The February Revolution was more a collapse of the Russian Empire than an organized effort to seize power. Russia, battered by defeats in World War I, was close to economic disintegration early in 1917. For a variety of reasons, large numbers of people thronged the streets of Petrograd (St. Petersburg) on 23 February o.s. (8 March). Over the next few days, the crowds grew larger. Eventually the soldiers, sent to control the crowds, made common cause with them.

A Provisional Government was organized at the end of February to deal with the political vacuum caused by the government's disintegration. Its most influential members were Alexander Guchkov, an Octobrist and minister of war, and Paul Miliukov, a Constitutional Democrat (Kadet) and foreign minister. At the same time, the Petrograd Soviet of Soldiers and Workers appeared. People spoke of "dual power," the idea that the Soviet represented public opinion and therefore had considerable leverage on the Provisional Government.

The Provisional Government overestimated the patience of average Russians and insisted on continuing the war effort. To do this, it was necessary to postpone decisions on the form of government and land reform. Eventually, the government's failure to end Russia's participation in the war and to take action on major questions doomed it.

For several months, however, the Provisional Government maintained power in Russia. Alexander Kerensky, a moderate socialist, quickly became the most powerful figure in the government, becoming prime minister in the summer of 1917. Kerensky seemingly had no rivals by the summer of 1917.

Lenin returned to Russia in April and set out in the April Theses a position that distinguished his party, the Bolsheviks, from all others in Russia. He called boldly for a peace without annexations or indemnities, land to the peasants, and all power to the Soviets. The Bolsheviks at this point were a very small party.

By the fall of 1917 Lenin believed Russia was ripe for revolution. The Central Committee (CC) of the Bolsheviks was reluctant to take action, but Lenin persuaded them to put the idea of revolution on the agenda. Leon Trotsky, a major figure in the Bolshevik Party and also an influential figure in the Petrograd Soviet, made preparations to protect the revolution. Red Guard units, workers' militias, and soldiers and sailors in the area overthrew the Provisional Government in October when it appeared it was beginning a counter-revolution. The Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets, meeting then in Petrograd, approved a Bolshevik government. The seizure of power was accomplished with relatively little bloodshed, but the civil war that followed was bloody and cruel. For many historians, the civil war period shaped the party and its leaders in important ways. Institutions such as the Cheka (the secret police), state control of the economy, and political dictatorship were products of the civil war. Communist leaders also dealt with intervention by several great powers.

Socially, the Russian revolution depended heavily on discontent among factory workers and urban artisans, heightened by the pressures of early industrialization and rapid urbanization, and among peasants angered by the existence of large estates. Marxist leaders meshed readily with worker groups, but ultimately bypassed some of the main peasant demands. With regard to social structure, however, the revolution affected countryside and city alike, with the expropriation of foreign owners, the abolition of the aristocracy, and a host of new educational and political opportunities for members of the former lower classes.

The Stalinist Revolution (1928–1938). A little more than ten years after the October Revolution, Stalin took the Soviet Union through what was, in effect, a revolutionary experience. The first two Five-Year Plans (the third was interrupted by war) were heroic efforts to industrialize the Soviet Union. The plans, which emphasized heavy industry and centralized economic planning, were intended to create the economic basis for socialism. Stalin also wanted to prepare the Soviet Union for the possibility of war.

The First Five-Year Plan, officially dated from the latter part of 1928, called originally for difficult but not impossible goals. Stalin insisted on raising the already high targets. He emphasized large-scale projects and speed. Magnitogorsk, a new metallurgical complex near the southern end of the Ural Mountains, is a good example of the Stalinist approach to industrialization in that its goals were raised repeatedly.

The Soviet Union became a major industrial power in the 1930s. The labor force more than doubled, from about eleven and a half million to nearly twenty-three million. A large number of peasants left the new collective farms to work in factories in the cities. One of the main features of the Stalinist Revolution was rapid social mobility. Consumer goods were scarce and housing crowded, but many Soviet citizens took great pride the new Soviet Union.

Collectivization, which began in 1928, resulted in approximately fifty percent of peasant families joining collective farms by early 1930. Many had been forced to join. The level of resistance was so high Stalin was forced to retreat. His article in March 1930, "Dizzy with Success," blamed problems on overzealous subordinates and reassured peasants they would not be forced to join. Many left at that point, but continuous pressure meant that by 1933 over ninety percent of peasant families had joined collective farms or state farms. One feature of collectivization was the hunt for kulaks, so-called rich peasants. Often these were simply the most independent peasants in a village. They were sometimes summarily shot, or they might be shipped to some desolate spot.

Collectivization was a failure as an economic policy. In 1932 there was a massive famine in the Ukraine and the northern Caucasus region. About seven million peasants died. Intended to mechanize agriculture and to increase productivity, collectivization became the Achilles heel of the Soviet economy.

The Stalinist Revolution also included the great purges, a series of show trials and purges of various institutions. It is conventionally dated from the assassination of Sergei Kirov in December 1934. The purges are the most controversial part of the Stalinist Revolution. The heart of the purges, the Yezhovshchina (after Nikolai Yezhov, the head of the NKVD, the secret police) was in 1937 and 1938 when the army was purged and two of the three main show trials took place. The issues in dispute concern, first, who was responsible and what were their motives, and, second, how many died in the process. Stalin and some of his associates clearly played major roles, but there is also evidence that many subordinates went beyond orders either because they were zealous, fearful, or simply opportunistic. The numbers are difficult to sort out, but it appears the NKVD executed less than a million prisoners during the purges. Labor camps in the Gulag (the acronym for the NKVD prison system), while harsh, were not comparable to the Nazi death camps during World War II.

Finally, the Stalinist Revolution has also been seen as a "Soviet Thermidor" (Leon Trotsky). The Stalinist Revolution industrialized the Soviet Union, but it also created a group of privileged bureaucrats who adopted many aspects of life from the tsarist period. This may be seen most strikingly in the educational system, where experimentation was dropped in favor of rote learning, school uniforms, and other trappings of the tsarist educational system. Workers, while far less privileged, did have access to free education and health care and low-cost housing and food. Those who remained in the countryside were the major losers.

The postwar fear of the Soviet Union and the development of the cold war encouraged the acceptance among social scientists of the concept of totalitarianism. Supposedly, the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, and Fascist Italy were comparable in the desire of each to control all aspects of life. The Soviet Union had done far more than Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy to change the way its citizens lived, but even it did not succeed in creating a totalitarian society. Although there was some political value in emphasizing the similarities of the three regimes, comparison invariably broke down on close examination of actual conditions and practices. Totalitarianism eventually came to be seen as a social science construct of limited explanatory value.

Post-war Revolutions. The German Revolution was the most important of the postwar revolutions. It began in November 1918 with the refusal of sailors at the naval base in Kiel to take part in a last engagement against the British navy. In Kiel and several other cities in northwestern Germany, sailors, soldiers, and workers formed the equivalent of the Russian soviets in 1917, Workers' and Soldiers' Councils. A second center of revolution appeared in Munich when social democrats formed the Bavarian Republic on 8 November. The following day the Kaiser left Berlin for exile in the Netherlands and social democrats formed a coalition government.


In 1898, Rosa Luxemburg moved to Berlin to seek her fortune in the German Social Democratic Party (SPD). New to the SPD, she was, however, no novice. The year before she had earned a doctor of law degree from the University of Zurich with a thesis on the development of capitalism in Poland. She was also one of the founders and leaders of the Polish Social Democratic Party (SDKPiL).

The SPD wanted Luxemburg to work in the Polish areas controlled by the German Empire, but she almost immediately began playing a prominent role in the Revisionist controversy. Revisionists, particularly Eduard Bernstein, stressed the importance of bringing Marx up to date. Luxemburg defended marxist orthodoxy, particularly in her pamphlet Social Reform or Revolution? A brief quotation may sum up her argument:

The legislative process and revolution are . . . not various methods of historical progress that one can choose at the buffet of history like hot or cold sausages according to inclination, but various factors in the development of class society that qualify and complement one another.

Virtually an overnight success in the SPD, Luxemburg spent the next several years writing articles and giving speeches on the necessity of working toward the eventual outbreak of revolution. At the same time, she worked to create a personal life, with a comfortable apartment, a few close friends, and, most important, the companionship of her lover and coleader of the SDKPiL, Leo Jogiches.

The Russian Revolution of 1905 seemed to offer a new political direction. She succeeded in traveling to Warsaw, in the Russian part of Poland, only in December 1905, when the main part of the revolution was over. Nevertheless, for a few months, she lived the life of a full-time revolutionary. In March 1906, she and Jogiches were arrested. Her health deteriorated alarmingly in prison and friends and family worked to secure her release on bail. In August she was allowed to leave the country.

She wrote a pamphlet, The Mass Strike, setting out her ideas on revolution, but by the time it appeared the SPD and most other European social democratic parties had lost interest in the possibilities for revolution. The SPD showed little interest in Luxemburg's idea that the working class would gain class consciousness through historical experience in mass strikes. Luxemburg found the period between the Russian Revolution of 1905 and the outbreak of World War I very difficult in personal terms as well. She broke with Jogiches after hearing he had had an affair with another woman.

Rosa Luxemburg spent most of the war in prison. From there she hailed the Russian Revolution as "the mightiest event of the World War," but she believed its fate depended on what the countries of the West did.

Luxemburg was released from prison on 9 November 1918, the day the German Revolution began. She and her friends had little influence on German politics over the next two months. She participated in the formation of the German Communist Party (KPD), but this changed little more than the name. In January 1919 she became involved in the so-called Spartacist Rebellion. Arrested on 15 January, Rosa Luxemburg was beaten, shot to death, and tossed in the Landwehr Canal in Berlin. Her body was recovered in the spring. And so ended the life of a brilliant, orthodox marxist revolutionary, someone who likely would have made an important difference in the interwar period had she lived.

When the Congress of Workers' and Soldiers' Councils met in mid-December, it supported government efforts to provide food and oversee the demobilization of the army. Radical elements formed the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) late in December of 1918. Early in January 1919 some members of the KPD tried unsuccessfully to overthrow the government. The main result was the arrest and murder of two prominent leaders of the KPD, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht. Sporadic attempts from the left and the right to overthrow the government characterized the period from 1919 to 1923, but the Weimar Republic survived and seemed to take on new life by the mid-1920s.

Elsewhere, a radical center of revolution emerged in Hungary, now an independent state. In March 1919 a coalition of left socialists and communists proclaimed a Soviet Republic. The most prominent figure in the regime, Béla Kun, immediately began establishing socialism in Hungary. The regime lasted only until 1 August 1919, however. Beyond Germany and Hungary, there were few echoes of 1917 in Europe.

The Hungarian Revolution (1956). Most of the revolutionary activity after World War II took place in the Soviet bloc. As was the case with the Hungarian Revolution, it provided clear indications of how deeply unpopular the Soviet-style regimes were. In 1956 Hungary, like Poland, questioned the failure to address consumer needs, the practice of police terror, and the reasons for the show trials of the early 1950s. Unlike Poland, however, Hungary could not find a path that would provide it autonomy without provoking the Soviet Union.

On 23 October 1956, Imre Nagy, a popular, reform-minded communist leader, was again appointed prime minister. His appointment led to a surge of popular enthusiasm. In the next several days, Hungary moved toward a more democratic political system, a mixed economy, and neutrality. The Soviet Union, particularly once the Suez Canal crisis began to preoccupy the United States and its allies, decided to send in troops. Despite weeks of resistance, it crushed the Hungarian Revolution. Some 2,700 died fighting or were executed. More than 200,000 fled the country. The Soviet Union demonstrated the narrow limits of experimentation it would accept. The United States and NATO showed their unwillingness to risk nuclear war in order to help the Hungarians.

Student Revolts in Europe (1965–1968). In the last half of the 1960s, students and intellectuals questioned every aspect of the established system in what appeared to be a new wave of revolutions. They accused governments of ruling in an authoritarian style at home and aiding counterrevolution abroad. Some saw themselves as part of a worldwide revolutionary movement. Others had more limited aims, the reform of elitist educational systems. The impact varied. Britain and the Netherlands had important movements, but limited results. Germany and Italy contended with larger movements, but escaped major crises. Only in France did student radicalism lead to the possibility of revolution.

May 1968 in France occurred because of dissatisfaction with the authoritarian style of government and uneasiness with rapid and uneven change, but mostly because of complaints about conditions at the new University of Nanterre. It began almost accidentally. On 22 March a meeting to protest the arrests of students for protesting the involvement of the United States in Vietnam produced the 22 March movement. On 2 May, members of the movement, locked out of Nanterrre, went to the Sorbonne, part of the University of Paris. The next day, police broke tradition by coming into the Sorbonne and arresting hundreds of students. This began a series of demonstrations between students and police in the Latin Quarter. By the 13th, in support of the students, hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated in Paris against the government. The next day workers seized the Sud-Aviation plant. Eventually ten million workers all over France went on strike. The French government seemed in serious trouble.

Toward the end of May, the French government finally took hold, dissolving the National Assembly and setting a date for new elections. Charles de Gaulle, president of France, appealed for "civic action" against a "totalitarian plot." The possibility of a communist takeover frightened many. Parisians, initially sympathetic to the students, had tired of disruptions. Workers generally only wanted modest changes. Student radicals themselves were divided as to goals. Faced with a choice between stability and revolution, most voters opted for the former.

The "events of May" were never close to succeeding. The "system" was the enemy, but no one could agree on what to put in its place. Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a German studying in Paris, caught the imagination of many, but most radicals distrusted leaders. Operating mostly on the level of tactics, the students were lost once the government seized the initiative. In addition, labor organizations impeded potential links between students and factory workers.

Radicalism continued in the 1970s and led to the formation of terrorist organizations in Germany and in Italy. These groups were the source of much drama in the 1970s, but the fulcrum of politics moved back toward the right-center in the 1980s.

The Prague Spring (1968). The Prague Spring encompassed efforts to create a "socialism with a human face" in Czechoslovakia. Although crushed by the August invasion of troops from the Warsaw Treaty Organization (WTO), it left a legacy that was revived in the revolutions of 1989.

By the mid-1960s, Czechoslovakia was ripe for change. Reformers in the Czechoslovak Communist Party called for reform in the neo-Stalinist party and for new economic policies. Writers, filmmakers, and people working in theater had already begun daring artistic experiments.

In January 1968, Alexander Dubček replaced Antonín Novotný as first secretary of the party. Dubček represented the moderate reform element in the party and also spoke for Slovak interests. Reforms began cautiously. An "Action Program," announced in April, called for concentration on consumer-goods production and the expansion of political freedom.

The pace of events was too rapid for many in the party. Quasi-political clubs appeared and the Social Democratic Party was revived. A radical declaration, "2,000 words," signed by many intellectuals and cultural figures, appeared in June. By then, not only students and intellectuals but also the working class supported the reforms. Conservative elements in the Czechoslovak Communist Party, however, began to wonder if the party could maintain its political monopoly.

The WTO also grew nervous. Czech leaders met with their counterparts from the WTO in July and again in August. Dubček believed he had successfully convinced the WTO the Czechoslovak Communist Party had the situation under control. On the night of 20–21 August, WTO troops and tanks crossed into Czechoslovakia. The Czechs followed a policy of nonviolent protest, but this did not stop the invasion. Over the next few years the "normalization" of Czechoslovakia took place. Some half million members of the Czech Communist Party were thrown out of the party. People who had been officials or doctors now worked as janitors, construction workers, or window washers.

In the west the invasion was seen by many as one more example of counterrevolution destroying the hopes of reformers and revolutionaries in a year filled with disappointments. The Prague Spring was also presented as a lost opportunity for Communism to show what it could do. Leonid Brezhnev, head of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, asserted in the "Brezhnev Doctrine" that the USSR had an obligation to intervene in Czechoslovakia to preserve the continued existence of socialism.

The East European Revolutions of 1989. By 1989 the "Brezhnev Doctrine" was a dead letter and the Soviet bloc faced a period of change and reform. Mikhail Gorbachev, secretary-general of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, was largely responsible for the new situation. Gorbachev had begun a process of reform in the Soviet Union that, while unsuccessful, influenced reformers and dissidents throughout the Soviet bloc. He had stated pointedly that the Soviet Union would no longer intervene in domestic affairs of other Soviet bloc nations. Finally, Gorbachev opened a new era in the cold war, resulting in much better relations between the Soviet Union and the United States.

The reemergence of Solidarity, the trade union movement begun in 1980, as a major factor in Polish politics in 1989 added to the new situation. In the elections in the summer of that year, Solidarity won a stunning victory. The first non-Communist premier in more than forty years headed the new coalition government. In Hungary, too, there were important changes in 1989. That summer Hungarians candidly discussed the Revolution of 1956, and in a moving ceremony they reburied martyrs from that event.

In each of the countries that experienced revolution in 1989, domestic factors played important roles. The German Democratic Republic (GDR) began to collapse first simply from a hemorrhage of people. Thousands of East Germans crossed the border between Hungary and Austria, which Hungary opened in mid-summer. East Germans also crowded into the West German embassies in Prague and Warsaw and eventually traveled to West Germany on special trains. Finally, the uncontested march on the ring road around Leipzig on 9 October began a process in which the government responded to events rather than initiated them. Each week demonstrations in Leipzig, Berlin, Dresden, and other cities grew larger and bolder. The attempt by the government to regain its footing by dumping party leader Erich Honecker was insufficient. The more-or-less accidental opening of the Berlin Wall, long the symbol of the standoff between communism and democracy, doomed the government. By this time, thousands of ordinary East Germans had decided they no longer were interested in reforming the socialist system. To the dismay of the activists in the civic movements, they embraced the appealing idea of entering the social market economy of the Federal Republic of Germany. The elections of 18 March 1990 made it clear that most East Germans wanted unification with West Germany.

In Czechoslovakia, demonstrators in Prague filled Wenceslaus Square in November. At first, police tried to break up the demonstrations, but over the next few days the crowds swelled to overwhelming numbers. The Czech government remained always a step behind. The center of political gravity shifted to the Magic Lantern Theater, where Václav Havel and others worked to direct the revolution. In December, the old government resigned and a new government headed by Havel formed. Alexander Dubček, hero of the "Prague Spring," returned from years of obscurity to take part in the "Velvet Revolution."


On Monday, 9 October 1989, rumors abounded in Leipzig, the "Second City" of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). The authorities were stockpiling medical supplies. Police and militia groups were taking up positions near the Nikolaikirche in the city center. All signs pointed to a showdown between the government and the demonstrators, who planned to march around the city after the weekly peace prayer services that evening. Now that the official ceremonies marking the fortieth anniversary of the founding of the GDR had taken place, the government had no reason to avoid a confrontation.

For many years, there had been a weekly prayer service at the Nikolaikirche. In the fall of 1989, when the services started up again after a summer recess, a new element appeared. After the service, people met outside the church to talk about current events, including the large number of East Germans who had crossed the Hungarian border to Austria and, subsequently, to West Germany. Many people talking outside the church after the service had not attended it, but knew they could find people to talk with after the service. In September and the first Monday in October there had been demonstrations. The weekend before the 9th, during the celebrations of the fortieth anniversary of the founding of the GDR, people had been arrested. Everyone expected that this Monday there would be some kind of confrontation between demonstrators and the authorities.

On Monday, 9 October, in addition to the usual peace prayer service at the Nikolaikirche, several other services were scheduled to accommodate the expected crowds. At each service someone read an appeal from six prominent citizens of Leipzig. The appeal noted the need for discussion of the serious questions now facing the nation and called for all in attendance to refrain from provocative behavior.

After the services, the demonstrators began walking the ring road that encloses the center of the city. Unlike the week before, the police, the militia, and the Stasi (the political police) merely watched. The crowd chanted Wir sind das Volk (we are the people, that is, the people for whose benefit the government was supposed to be ruling) as it walked around the city center. And also, very important for that particular moment, it chanted Keine Gewalt! (no violence).

It is still not clear why the government chose not to confront the demonstrators that evening. Probably the decision was made on the local level to avoid violence. On whatever level the decision was made, it was of tremendous importance. The peaceful demonstration by thousands of ordinary people that Monday evening marked the beginning of the German Revolution of 1989. From then on, no matter how quickly and radically the government responded to a particular initiative of the crowds of demonstrators in Leipzig, Berlin, Dresden, and other cities of the GDR, it always found itself one step behind. Exactly one month after the successful demonstration in Leipzig, the Berlin Wall opened on November 9th. Over the next few months, the revolutionaries moved from a desire to reform the GDR to the idea of merging the GDR and the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). Negotiations for unification moved rapidly and in 1990 the GDR and the FRG came together as a united Germany.

The revolutionary wave swept away the Communist government in Bulgaria without violence. In Romania, however, Nicolae Ceauşescu, who had ruled in an increasingly arbitrary way since the 1960s, tried to stay in power. Captured by revolutionary forces, he and his wife were tried, declared guilty, and shot. Television pictures of the dead couple flashed around the world.

In a few short months, the unthinkable had happened. The "Iron Curtain" was no more. New governments began experiments with market economies and democratic political systems.


The dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 marked the end of the long Russian Revolution. Gorbachev's attempts to reform the system had inadvertently caused its demise. It was not likely it would have survived much longer in any case. It was ironic that Gorbachev, a true believer in the communist system, was the prime mover in its dissolution. It was also fortunate in that he ended the system in a way that caused little damage.

Five hundred years of revolutions did much to shape European political, economic, and social systems. Paradoxically, one major conclusion may be that failure leads to success. Those revolutions that eventually resulted in enduring systems—for example, the Dutch, the British, and the French—each involved a series of revolutionary efforts to achieve a consensus durable and flexible enough to sustain itself into the future. The Russian Revolution of 1917, however, turned into a system that, while hardly ideal, worked well enough for a time, but lacked any capacity for dealing with new circumstances.

In politics, systems capable of responding to changing circumstances have the best chance to endure. Revolutions seem prone to create systems that resist moderation and compromise. Nonetheless, in the future change may still come through revolution. Almost no one foresaw the Revolutions of 1989. That series of events also calls into question any easy connection between revolution and the desire for utopia. The temptation in revolutionary situations has been to want to change human nature dramatically, but there are examples of revolutions where the moderates have not moved in the direction of large-scale social engineering. So much depends on circumstances and the weight of the past. In the end there are no iron laws of revolution.

See also other articles in this section.



Billington, James H. Fire in the Minds of Men: Origins of the Revolutionary Faith. New York, 1980. An intellectual history of the concept of revolution from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century. Wide-ranging and authoritative.

Brinton, Crane. The Anatomy of Revolution. Rev. and expanded ed. New York, 1965. First published in 1938. A highly influential comparative study of revolution.

Brinton, an expert on the French Revolution, used it as the basis for his paradigm of revolution. Cohn, Norman. The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages. Rev. and expanded ed. New York, 1970. The classic study of millenarianism. It covers sixteenth-century millenarianism and the medieval background as well.

Forster, Robert, and Jack P. Greene, eds. Preconditions of Revolution in Early ModernEurope. Baltimore, 1970. Very useful essays by experts on the Netherlands Revolt, the English Revolution, and the Fronde.

Goldstone, Jack A., ed. The Encyclopedia of Political Revolutions. Washington, D.C., 1998. A well-organized resource with contributions from leading experts in the field.

Goldstone, Jack A. Revolution and Rebellion in the Early Modern World. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and Oxford, 1991. A wide-ranging study of revolution that suggests demographic pressures on limited resources as the primary cause of revolution.

Moore, Barrington Jr. Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World. Boston, 1966. A highly original and influential study that focuses on reactions by aristocracy and peasantry to changing economic and social circumstances as a means for explaining the transition to a modern political and economic system.

Skocpol, Theda. States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France,Russia, and China. Cambridge, U.K., 1979. The most important comparative study since Brinton. Skocpol stresses the central role of the state and the importance of the international context.

Tilly, Charles. European Revolutions, 1492–1992. Oxford, 1993. A study of revolution over the long term, primarily in the Netherlands, Britain, France, and Russia. Highly recommended.

Todd, Allan. Revolutions 1789–1917. Cambridge, U.K., 1998. An introduction to various aspects of revolution including origins, ideology, and personnel. Includes brief excerpts from relevant documents.

Van Creveld, Martin, ed. The Encyclopedia of Revolutions and Revolutionaries: FromAnarchism to Zhou Enlai. New York, 1996. Comprehensive coverage chronologically and geographically.

Zagorin, Perez. Rebels and Rulers, 1500–1660. 2 vols. Cambridge, U.K., 1982. A comparative discussion of the Netherlands Revolt, the British Revolution, and the Fronde, among others, by a scholar thoroughly familiar with the era.

Studies of Particular Revolutionary Periods

Agulhon, Maurice. The Republican Experiment, 1848–1852. Translated by Janet Lloyd. Cambridge, U.K., 1983. A thorough study by one of the leading experts on the period.

Banac, Ivo, ed. Eastern Europe in Revolution. Ithaca, N.Y., 1992. Scholarly studies of the various revolutions.

Berlin, Isaiah. Karl Marx: His Life and Environment. 3d ed. Oxford, 1963. The best biography of Marx.

Carsten, Francis L. Revolution in Central Europe, 1918–1919. Berkeley, Calif., 1972. A good introduction to the topic.

Chartier, Roger. The Cultural History of the French Revolution. Durham, N.C., 1991. Chartier stresses the importance of cultural practices in shaping the ideas of the participants in the French Revolution.

Conquest, Robert. The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine. New York and Oxford, 1986. A careful study of the famine of 1932 and collectivization policies.

Cust, Richard, and Ann Hughes, eds. Conflict in Early Stuart England: Studies inReligion and Politics, 1603–1642. London, 1989. An important series of studies intended to revise the revisionists without, however, returning to a class-based analysis of the English Revolution.

Doyle, William. The Oxford History of the French Revolution. Oxford, 1989. A knowledgeable synthesis of the history of the French Revolution.

Ferro, Marc. October 1917: A Social History of the Russian Revolution. London and Boston, 1980. A readable and solid history by a leading French scholar.

Fink, Carole, Philipp Gassert, and Detlef Junker, eds. 1968: The World Transformed. Cambridge, U.K., and New York, 1998. Wide-ranging and excellent scholarly essays on 1968.

Fitzpatrick, Sheila. Stalin's Peasants: Resistance and Survival in the Russian Village after Collectivization. Oxford, 1994. An examination of peasant response to collectivization based on new archival material.

Furet, François and Mona Ozouf, eds. A Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution. Translated by Arthur Goldhammer. Cambridge, Mass., 1989. A very useful and authoritative reference work, the book is divided into sections on "Events," "Actors," "Institutions and Creations," "Ideas," and "Historians and Commentators."

Garrioch, David. The Formation of the Parisian Bourgeoisie, 1690–1830. Cambridge, Mass., 1996. An ambitious study that indicates the Parisian bourgeoisie may have been in some sense ready to support an event like the French Revolution and were further shaped by their experience in the Revolution.

Gati, Charles. Hungary and the Soviet Bloc. Durham, N.C., 1986. Places the Hungarian Revolution in the context of the experience of the Soviet bloc.

Gelderen, Martin van. The Political Thought of the Dutch Revolt, 1555–1590. Cambridge and New York, 1992. A thorough study of an important topic.

Hill, Christopher. Century of Revolution, 1603–1714. Wokingham, U.K., 1980. Although Hill's marxist interpretation of the seventeenth century is no longer widely accepted, his study of the period is nevertheless interesting and highly readable.

Hunt, Lynn. The Family Romance of the French Revolution. Berkeley, Calif., 1992. An original study dealing with ways in which the French understood the Revolution by references to family dynamics and images of mothers and fathers.

Israel, Jonathan, The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall, 1477–1806. Oxford, 1995. A massive and indispensable survey of the history of the Dutch Republic.

Jones, J. R. The Revolution of 1688 in England. New York, A useful overview of the revolution.

Keep, John L. H. The Russian Revolution: A Study in Mass Mobilization. New York, 1976. One of the few books that looks at 1917 outside of Petrograd and Moscow.

Kotkin, Stephen. Magnetic Mountain: Stalinism as a Civilization. Berkeley, Calif., 1995. An important study of Magnitogorsk, on of the show projects of the First Five-Year Plan.

Kusin, Vladimir. The Intellectual Origins of the Prague Spring: The Development ofReformist Ideas in Czechoslovakia, 1956–1967. Cambridge, U.K., 1971. An excellent source for tracing the roots of the reform movement.

Landes, Joan B. Women and the Public Sphere in the Age of the French Revolution. Ithaca, N.Y., 1988. An important study that demonstrated that the French Revolution actually provided less room for women in the public sphere than the Old Regime had.

Maier, Charles S. Dissolution: The Crisis of Communism and the End of East Germany. Princeton, N.J., 1997. The best single book on the topic.

Parker, Geoffrey. The Dutch Revolt. Rev. ed. New York, 1988. A recent survey by an expert in the period.

Pilbeam, Pamela. The 1830 Revolution in France. London, 1991. A recent scholarly study of 1830 in France.

Price, Roger. The French Second Republic: A Social History. Ithaca, N.Y., 1972. An excellent book on French society in the Second Republic.

Ranum, Orest. The Fronde: A French Revolution, 1648–1652. New York, 1993. A useful overview of the Fronde.

Rosenberg, W. G. and L. H. Siegelbaum, eds. Social Dimensions of Soviet Industrialization. Bloomington, Ind., 1993. Scholarly essays on workers and workplaces in the 1930s.

Rudé, George. The Crowd in the French Revolution. Oxford, 1960. A careful and fascinating study of who made up the crowd in the various revolutionary journées.

Russell, Conrad. The Fall of the British Monarchies, 1637–1642. Oxford, 1991. Russell, in addition to downplaying political conflict and restricting the revolutionary period to the late 1630s and early 1640s, stresses the extent to which the English Revolution was a British problem.

Schama, Simon. Patriots and Liberators: Revolution in the Netherlands, 1780–1813. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1977. The best study of the Dutch Revolutions at the end of the eighteenth century.

Siegelbaum, L. H. Stakhanovism and the Politics of Productivity in the USSR, 1935–1941. Cambridge, U.K., 1988. An interesting study of the Stakhanovite movement in particular and labor relations more generally.

Sonn, Richard David. Anarchism and Cultural Politics in Fin-de-Siècle France. Lincoln, Neb., 1989. A scholarly study of anarchism at the peak of its influence.

Tackett, Timothy. Becoming a Revolutionary: The Deputies of the French NationalAssembly and the Emergence of a Revolutionary Culture (1789–1790). Princeton, 1996. A very useful study of how the movement for change and reform became a revolution.

Tilly, Charles. Popular Contention in Great Britain, 1758–1834. Cambridge, Mass. and London, 1995. The best book available on this controversial topic.

Tilly, Charles, Richard Tilly, and Louise Tilly. The Rebellious Century 1830–1930. Cambridge, Mass., 1975. A wide-ranging study that provides useful perspectives on political violence in the nineteenth century.

Tombs, Robert. The Paris Commune 1871. New York, 1999. A recent survey.

Tucker, Robert. The Marx-Engels Reader. 2d ed. New York, 1978. A convenient collection of the most important works by Marx and Engels.

Williams, Kieran. The Prague Spring and Its Aftermath: Czechoslovak Politics, 1968–1970. Cambridge, U.K., 1997. An analysis of the reform movement and its suppression by the Soviet Union using archival sources available since the events of 1989.

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