The Age of Revolutions
On the first half to the 18th century, Britain had a very high level of political and social stability. This period didn't last for a long time because the American colonies declared independence. Thomas Jefferson wrote the “Declaration of independence” in 1776, that states the American independence. Its people can have a free life and the pursuit of happiness. With the declaration George Washington became the first president of the United States. A lot of American colonies were scared because the revolutionary ideas could spread to the British Society, so they keep on respecting British’s rules. This period his called “the Age of revolutions”, in the same time with Industrial and French Revolution. The first one modified the British social structure; the second one brought new ideas, both influencing the British culture and literature. After this two, the ideas of revolution change: people tried to fund better ways to organize the society becoming an uncorrupted state.
The Industrial Revolution
"The Industrial Revolution" refers to a period of massive economic, technological, social and cultural change which affected humans. This period started from 1760 and was characterized by developments in textiles, iron and steam led by Britain. Power and wealth passed to factories owners and to employers. Cities play a new important function: in fact many people moved to these in search of jobs. In this period, people who mainly worked the land, became people who mainly worked in the factories. Working conditions was extremely bad: people worked up to sixteen hours a day and wages was poor, especially for women and children. Meanwhile, in the countryside, even agriculture was gradually being transformed from industrial practices to increase efficiency and productivity. But only the rich farmers and landowners benefited, while the poor landless in order to sustain themselves were in a bad condition.
The French Revolution
The French Revolution (1789-91) influenced politically and socially most of Europe. It was supported by Romantic Poets as Blake, Coleridge and Wordsworth. Later, a part of these, was scared of the Revolution because it meant violence insurrection. The other part, for example Thomas Paine, responded that everybody had natural rights and diffused the idea of national unity. Emerged the Jacobins, who seized power from the moderate middle class Girondins in 1793. In particular by Maximilien Robespierre, they mobilized huge army and radicalized the French constitution, introducing the idea of liberty, equality and fraternity for all: this is the first democratic constitution of the modern states. Paradoxically, justice of all meant the execution of traitors of revolution, by the guillotine. Masses haven couldn't exercise their freedom.
The Napoleon Wars
In the end of French Revolution, the General Napoleon Bonaparte seize power and proclaiming himself Emperor of French in 1804. He made a huge army even composed by volunteers, conquering a big part of Europe: this period is called Napoleonic Wars. Although his success, Napoleon was defeated by Britain at Trafalgar in 1805 and at the Battle of Waterloo by Duke of Wellington. England, Austria, Prussia and Russia met at the Congress of Vienna (1814-15) to redefine the map of Europe.
Free trade and political Repression
During the reign of George III (1760-1820), William Pitt the “Younger” became prime minister twice. He was popular thanks to his financial ability and integrity in refusing the bribery. Pitt was strongly influenced by the idea of the economist Adam Smith. In 1786 he signed a commercial treaty lowered import duties. He made stronger his conservative ideas after the French Revolution: the Tory government repressed any form of protest. He introduced the “Act of Union” because he was worried about the Irish Rebellion.
The right to protest
Although in England it was less popular, the French Revolution influenced the English’s radicalism. During their government, the Tories were against freedom of speech, and therefore they prohibited the protest in public. Workers were so worried because the machines invented during the Industrial Revolution replaced their job. Ned Ludd has been the first to protest: in a protest he destroyed a machine. After, the ‘Luddite Riots’ was the most important event that symbolizing the protest: the name came from the same revolutionary. Many people, called “the Luddites”, destroyed machines in Nottingham, in fact this movement became successful in all the England. Unluckily, people who destroyed machines risked to be killed, because the movement has been soon suppressed. The “Peterloo” massacre has been another important event: 60000 people protested and the army killed eleven of these in 1923. The Whigs, after the last event, tried to reform the Parliament.
The road to reform
The “Regency” is a period between 1811 and 1820. During these years near the end of George III’s reign, prince Regent, his son, took all the power because the king was mentally ill. Prince Regent after his father’s death became George IV’s. He has been the king for ten years: he legalized trade Unions and he reforms the prisons. In 1830 William VI’s became the new king. He made important reforms, like the first “Reform Act”. It gave the right to vote to middle-class men. Thanks to William Wilberforce in 1833 slavery was made illegal. British and French colonies were scared because slaves began a revolt in Haiti. After 1791 slavery was restored because the sugar trade.