Q8. What was the Impact of French Revolution on the World?
The French Revolution had been a world-shaking event. For years to come its direct influence was felt in many parts of the world. It inspired revolutionary movements in almost every country of Europe and in South and Central America. For a long time the French Revolution became the classic example of a revolution which people of many nations tried to emulate.
The impact of the French Revolution can be summed up, in the words of T. Kolokotrones, one of the revolutionary fighters in the Greek war of independence: “According to my judgment, the French Revolution and the doings of Napoleon opened the eyes of the world. The nations knew nothing before, and the people thought that kings were gods upon the earth and that they were bound to say that whatever they did was well done. Through this present change it is more difficult to rule the people.”
Even though the old ruling dynasty of France had been restored to power in 1815, and the autocratic governments of Europe found themselves safe for the time being, the rulers found it increasingly difficult to rule the people.
Some of the changes that took place in many parts of Europe and the Americas in the early 19th century were the immediate, direct consequences of the Revolution and the Napoleonic wars.
The wars in which France was engaged with other European powers had resulted in the French occupation of vast areas of Europe for some time. The French soldiers, wherever they went, carried with them ideas of liberty and equality shaking the old feudal order. They destroyed serfdom in areas which came under their occupation and modernized the systems of administration.
Under Napoleon, the French had become conquerors instead of liberators. The countries which organized popular resistance against the French occupation carried out reforms in their social and political system. The leading powers of Europe did not succeed in restoring the old order either in France or in the countries that the Revolution had reached.
The political and social systems of the 18th century had received a heavy blow. They were soon to die in most of Europe under the impact of the revolutionary movements that sprang up everywhere in Europe.
The impact of the Revolution was felt on the far away American continent. Revolutionary France had abolished slavery in her colonies. The former French colony of Haiti became a republic. This was the first republic established by the black people, formerly slaves, in the Americas.
Inspired by this example, revolutionary movements arose in the Americas to overthrow foreign rule, to abolish slavery and to establish independent republics. The chief European imperialist powers in Central and South America were Spain and Portugal. Spain had been occupied by France, and Portugal was involved in a conflict with France.
During the early 19th century, these two imperialist countries were cut off from their colonies, with the result that most of the Portuguese and Spanish colonies in Central and South America became independent.
The movements for independence in these countries had earlier been inspired by the successful War of American Independence. The French Revolution ensured their success.
By the third decade of the 19th century, almost entire Central and South America had been liberated from the Spanish and the Portuguese rule and a number of independent republics were established. In these republics slavery was abolished.
It, however, persisted in the United States for a few more decades where it was finally abolished following the Civil War. Simon Bolivar, Bernardo O’Higgins and San Martin were the great leaders in South America at this time.