What was common to these revolutionary movements?

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Lecture ‘…in an Age of Atlantic Revolution’, Emmanuelle Chapin

Historiographical overview

1) account of the Revolution’s repercussions beyond France:

2) but also search for external causes:
Scholars have tried to connect rebellions and revolutionary movements.

What was common to these revolutionary movements?

Upheavals on a global scale; today, we will focus on the Atlantic world, looking at revolutions successively in North America, in the Caribbean, and in South America:

  1. The American Revolution

  2. The Revolution in Haiti

  3. Revolutions in the South Atlantic

  1. The American Revolution

The ‘radicalism of the American Revolution’ (Gordon Wood)
Limited impact of the American Revolution in the world

  1. The Revolution in Haiti

A small-scale affair
Yet, a prominent place in world history
Impact of the revolution

  1. Revolutions in the South Atlantic

Four remarks:

First, the revolutions in South America cannot be understood outside of international politics.

Second, none was preordained. Not the story of the decline of empire and the triumph of nation-states. Nationalism did not make independent states. Often times, nation and national identity would have to be created after independence.

Third, each involved divided loyalties and civil war. There was not always a clear-cut dichotomy between empire or independence, but many different positions between the two polarities.

Fourth, cross-class and multi-ethnic coalitions emerged in several instances. There is also some evidence that popular classes participated in the revolutions. However, the process of independence was led by an elite. Many social questions went unresolved.

Finally, the chief objective of revolutionary leaders was usually to create a sovereign state rather than a democratic society. The nature of post-revolutionary rule was usually authoritarian.


The revolutions in North America, France, Saint Domingue, and South America created sovereign states that rejected privilege and began to question black slavery.

The Age of Revolutions freed the genie of revolutionary republicanism.

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