French Revolution was an eye-opener to the newly awakening nationalists of India



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French and imitation of them. In greatest part, no doubt, it was the result of growing antipathy to French aggression and Napoleonic dictatorship. Prior to the French Revolution, Great Britain was the European country where national patriotism was most highly developed and most broadly disseminated. It was this intense patriotism which kept the British nation superbly united during the protracted and difficult struggle which its Tory government waged with the French revolutionaries and Napoleon almost continuously from 1793 to 1815.

The new nationalism was the one revolutionary principle which became firmly implanted in Europe during the stormy era from 1789 to 1815. It tended to unite and consolidate each of the several peoples, at least of western and central Europe, and to popularise the idea that each should have a strong national state based on popular sovereignty.

The other revolutionary principles ---- those of individualism and secularism ---- were divisive, rather than unifying forces in the several countries. If all Frenchmen were now nationalistic, there remained a considerable number who were convinced that the leveling process of the Revolution, with its abolition of corporate rights and privileges, its subjugation of the Church, and its abrupt break with past tradition, was quite wrong. Henceforth, in these basic matters of government and society, France was split. There were two Frances, one anti-Revolution, and the other pro-Revolution. And likewise in every country where the revolutionary doctrines permeated, there emerged both opponents and advocates of the new individualism and the new secularism, of revolutionary “liberty” and “equality”.

The peasantry, who comprised the large majority of the continent’s population, were swayed between the contending parties: still respectful of authority in state and church, sincerely religious, and innately sceptical of the fine phrases which were on liberal lips, they could at times and in places be reckoned conservative. But there was one important respect in which many peasants doggedly opposed reaction, and that was their attachment to the social achievements of the Revolution ---- they would be done with feudalism and

serfdom, they would own their own lands. Geographically, it should be noted that on the Continent the farther west one went and the nearer to revolutionary France one came, the larger proportion of liberals one found, and that conversely, the farther east one went and the more remote from France, the larger proportion of conservatives one encountered.

Yet the advent of military dictatorship did not obscure the deep significance of the French Revolution. A present-day visitor in Paris may still observe on all sides the words ‘Liberte’, ‘Egalite’, ‘Fraternite’ ---- Liberty, Equality , Fraternity. These were the words which the revolutionaries spelled out on their public buildings, and which they thought embodied the basic meaning of the Revolution. These words Napoleon Bonaparte did not erase.

“Liberty” implied certain political ideals. The people, and not a despotic monarch, should be sovereign. The individual citizen should possess personal liberties of conscience, worship, speech, publication, and property.

“Equality” signified the abolition of privilege, the end of serfdom, the destruction of the feudal system. It meant that all men were equal before the law and that every man should have an equal chance with every other man in the pursuit of life and happiness.

“Fraternity” was the symbol of the idealistic brotherhood of those who sought to make the world better and happier and more just, and at the same time it became the watchword of a new nationalism.



Political liberty, social equality, national patriotism ---- these three remained the ideals of all those who down to our own day have looked for inspiration to the French Revolution.

Thus the above three important principles of the French Revolution, ‘liberty’, ‘equality’ and ‘fraternity’ inspired the leaders of Indian Renaissance and National movement. Indians also aspired for political liberty, social equality and national patriotism and thus in the end, I would like to say I have tended to prove my thesis topic right and correct that ‘The French Revolution and Revolutionary Era in Europe was he Precursor to

Indian National and Renaissance Movement’. It was an event of worldwide significance and inspiration and Indians were particularly inspired by it as it gave them the guiding principles on which to base their fight.

In the end I would also like to quote the sayings of some famous people in history who in their own words reiterate the topic of my thesis and thus lend credence to it. The renowned politician, scholar and intellectual Jyoti Basu in the article titled ‘People’s Democracy’, given in the Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), sub-titled ‘THE 1857 REVOLT IN INDIA: LESSONS FOR US’ (March 11, 2007), has said that, ‘The great Revolt of 1857 was a watershed in the history of modern India. It marked first national challenge to the English in India; it emboldened the growth of Indian nationalist politics; it presaged significant constitutional changes in British India. Today one hundred fifty years later as we commemorate the event, the rebellion provides us with a new source of inspiration to complete the nation-building project.’

Nineteenth century witnessed some anti-imperialist uprisings against imperialism, most notably in Latin America against Spanish colonialism under the leadership of Simon Bolivar and the revolutionary priest Hidalgo. But both in terms of social base and geographical distribution, the 1857 Revolt in India was much more powerful. The Revolt started with the mutiny of the Indian sepoys over the use of greased cartridges, but the sepoys were soon joined by broader sections of the civil society whose moral economy had been disrupted by the political system that had been imposed by the East India Company. The conjunction between the sepoy mutiny with the civil uprisings imparted the rebellion of 1857 the character of a national popular armed Revolt.

Now I will quote the saying of a most famous philosopher and thinker which supports the saying of my thesis. Writing shortly after the Indian 1857 outbreak in the New York Tribune of 28th July, 1857, Karl Marx had correctly described it as “not a not a military mutiny, but a national Revolt”. On 14 September 1857 in New York Tribune, Marx compared the 1857 Revolt with






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