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Revolutions of 1848

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Revolutions of 1848, series of republican revolts against European monarchies, beginning in Sicily and spreading to France, Germany, Italy, and the Austrian Empire. They all ended in failure and repression and were followed by widespread disillusionment among liberals.

The revolutionary movement began in Italy with a local revolution in Sicily in January 1848, and, after the revolution of February 24 in France, the movement extended throughout the whole of Europe, with the exception of Russia, Spain, and the Scandinavian countries. In the United Kingdom it amounted to little more than a Chartist demonstration and a republican agitation in Ireland. In Belgium, the Netherlands, and Denmark it manifested itself in peaceful reforms of existing institutions, but democratic insurrections broke out in the capitals of the three great monarchies, Paris, Vienna, and Berlin, where the governments, rendered powerless by their fear of “the revolution,” did little to defend themselves. The revolution was successful in France alone the Second Republic and universal manhood suffrage were established, but the quarrel between the supporters of the république démocratique and the partisans of république démocratique et sociale culminated in a workers’ insurrection in June 1848.

In Austria, where the new ministers promised to grant constitutions, the monarchy withstood the storm, and in Prussia King Frederick William IV, who led the movement for the unification of Germany, hoisted the black, red, and gold flag that had become the symbol of German unity. The German governments agreed to the convocation of three constituent assemblies at Berlin, Vienna, and Frankfurt by which democratic constitutions were to be drafted for Prussia, Austria, and Germany.

In Italy, at first, the revolution only took the form of a nationalist rising against Austria led by the king of Sardinia under the Italian tricolour, the “white, red, and green.” The republic was proclaimed in 1849, and then only in Rome and Tuscany. Within the Austrian Empire the nationalities subjected to the German Government of Vienna agitated for a national government, and Hungary succeeded in organizing itself on an autonomous basis.

This upheaval seemed to indicate a redistribution of the territories of Europe. In the name of the Provisional Government in France, Alphonse de Lamartine declared that the treaties of 1815 were no longer valid in the eyes of the French Republic, but he added that he accepted the territorial delimitations effected by those treaties. France did not lend its support to the revolutionaries in Europe.

The restoration had commenced even before the revolution was over, and it was accomplished by the armies that had remained faithful to their respective governments. Military repression was first employed in Paris by Louis-Eugène Cavaignac against the insurgents in June and by Alfred, prince von Windischgrätz, on June 17 against the Czechs in Prague and later by the Austrian army in Lombardy and in Vienna then in Berlin in December, and in 1849 by the Prussian army in Saxony and Baden. Order was restored in Rome only by French intervention and in Hungary with the help of the Russian army. The king of Prussia, having refused the title of emperor offered to him by the Frankfurt Assembly, sought to achieve the unity of Germany by a union between the German princes. Austria and Russia, however, compelled him to abandon his design by the Convention of Olmütz in 1850. The immediate result of the reaction became manifest in the withdrawal of liberal democratic or nationalist concessions which had been made during the revolution: universal manhood suffrage and liberty of the press and of assembly. Absolute monarchy was reestablished in Germany, Austria, and Italy and the governments, in alliance with the middle classes and the clergy, who were terrified by the socialist proposals, strengthened the police forces and organized a persecution of the popular press and associations that paralyzed political life. In France the reaction led to the coup d’état against the assembly on the part of Prince Louis-Napoléon on December 2, 1851, and the reestablishment of the hereditary empire under Napoleon III in 1852.

The restoration, however, was not complete, for universal manhood suffrage was not abolished in France in Prussia the Constitution of January 1850, which established an elective assembly, and in Sardinia the Constitution of March 1848 were retained and the signorial rights were not restored in Austria.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Jeff Wallenfeldt, Manager, Geography and History.

POP Culture: 1850 The September 18, 1850, Fugitive Slave Act provides for the return of slaves brought to free states. Millard Fillmore is sworn into office as the 13th President of the United States, following Zachary Taylor’s death on July 9, 1850. “America” wins the first America’s Cup yacht race on August 22, 1851.

Dishwasher – The first dishwasher was patented in the US in 1850 by Joel Houghton. It was a wooden machine with a hand-powered wheel that splashed water on dishes. It barely cleaned anything but it was a starting point for the design of the electric dishwasher.


President Ferdinand E. Marcos was elected president in 1965, defeating incumbent President Diosdado Macapagal by a margin of 52 to 43 percent. During this time, Marcos was very active in the initiation of public works projects and the intensification of tax collections. Marcos and his government claimed that they "built more roads than all his predecessors combined and more schools than any previous administration". [14] Amidst charges from the opposition party of vote-buying and a fraudulent election, President Marcos was reelected in the 1969 Philippine presidential election, this time defeating Sergio Osmeña, Jr. by 61 to 39 percent.

President Marcos' second term for the presidency was marred by allegations by the opposition Liberal Party of widespread graft and corruption. According to leftists who rioted during the First Quarter Storm, the increasing disparity of wealth between the very wealthy and the very poor that made up the majority of the Philippines' population led to a rise in crime and civil unrest around the country.

In March 1969, the New People's Army (NPA) was formed as the military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, initiating the still-ongoing CPP–NPA–NDF rebellion. Marcos quickly denounced the movement, hoping to gain monetary and political support from anti-Communist administrators in the United States. [15]

In 1972 the Moro National Liberation Front, a militant Muslim separatist group, formed in the southern island of Mindanao. [12]

Marcos soon used the rise of militant and civil unrest as justification for declaring martial law.

Proclamation of Martial Law Edit

Barred from running for a third term as president in 1973, Marcos announced Proclamation No. 1081 on September 23, 1972, declaring martial law with rising civil disobedience as a justification. Through this decree and after obtaining voters consent through the plebiscite, President Marcos seized emergency powers giving him full control of the Philippines' military and the authority to suppress and abolish the freedom of speech, the freedom of the press, and many other civil liberties. President Marcos also dissolved the Philippine Congress and shut down media establishments critical of the Marcos Administration. [16]

President Marcos also ordered the immediate arrest of his political opponents and critics. Among those arrested were Senate President Jovito Salonga, Senator Jose Diokno, and Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., whom Marcos linked with the Communists [17] and the man who was groomed by the opposition to succeed President Marcos after the 1973 elections. [16] On November 25, 1977, the Military Commission charged Aquino along with his two co-accused, NPA leaders Bernabe Buscayno (Commander Dante) and Lt. Victor Corpuz, guilty of all charges and sentenced them to death by firing squad. [18]

A constitutional convention, which had been called for in 1970 to replace the Commonwealth-era 1935 Constitution, continued the work of framing a new constitution after the declaration of martial law. The new constitution went into effect in early 1973, changing the form of government from presidential to parliamentary and allowing President Marcos to stay in power beyond 1973. The constitution was approved by 95% of the voters in the Philippine constitutional plebiscite.

In 1978, while still in prison, Aquino founded his political party, Lakas ng Bayan (abbreviated "LABAN" English: People's Power) to run for office in the Interim Batasang Pambansa (Parliament). All LABAN candidates lost, including Ninoy himself.

With practically all of his political opponents were arrested and in exile, President Marcos' pre-emptive declaration of martial law in 1972 and the ratification of his new constitution by more than 95% of voters enabled Marcos to effectively legitimize his government and hold on to power for another 14 years beyond his first two terms as president. In a Cold War context, Marcos retained the support of the United States through Marcos' promise to stamp out communism in the Philippines and by assuring the United States of its continued use of military and naval bases in the Philippines. [16]

1980s economic collapse Edit

Because the Marcos administration's spending had relied so heavily on debt since Marcos' first term in the 60s, [19] the Philippines was left vulnerable when the US economy went into recession in the third quarter of 1981, forcing the Reagan administration to increase interest rates. [20] The Philippine economy began going into decline in 1981, continuing to do so by the time the Benigno Aquino Jr. assassination in 1983. The economic and political instability combined to produce the worst recession in Philippine history in 1984 and 1985, with the economy contracting by 7.3% for two successive years. [20] [19] [21] [22] [23]

Assassination of Ninoy Aquino Edit

Despite warnings from the military and First Lady Imelda R. Marcos, Ninoy Aquino was determined to return to the Philippines. Asked what he thought of the death threats, Ninoy Aquino responded, "The Filipino is worth dying for." [24]

At that time, Ninoy's passport had expired and the renewal had been denied. Ninoy, therefore, acquired a plan to acquire a fake passport with the help of Rashid Lucman, [25] [26] The passport carried the alias Marcial Bonifacio (Marcial for martial law and Bonifacio for Fort Bonifacio, his erstwhile prison). [27]

On August 21, 1983, after a three-year exile in the United States, Aquino was assassinated by Rolando Galman as he disembarked from a Taiwanese commercial flight at the Manila International Airport (which was later renamed in Aquino's honor). [28] His assassination shocked and outraged many Filipinos, most of whom had lost confidence in the Marcos administration. The event led to more suspicions about the government, triggering non-cooperation among Filipinos that eventually led to outright civil disobedience. [29] It also shook the Marcos Administration, which was by then deteriorating due in part to Marcos' worsening health and ultimately fatal illness (lupus erythematosus). [ citation needed ]

The assassination of Ninoy Aquino caused the Philippines economy to deteriorate even further, and the government plunged further into debt. By the end of 1983, the Philippines was in an economic recession, with the economy contracting by 6.8%. [30]

In 1984, Marcos appointed a commission, led by Chief Justice Enrique Fernando, to launch an investigation into Aquino's assassination. Despite the commission's conclusions, Cardinal Jaime Sin, the Archbishop of Manila, declined an offer to join the commission and rejected the government's views on the assassination.

Calls for election Edit

On November 3, 1985, after pressure from the US government, [31] Marcos suddenly announced that a snap presidential election would take place the following year, one year ahead of the regular presidential election schedule, to legitimize his control over the country. [32] The snap election was legalized with the passage of Batas Pambansa Blg. 883 (National Law No. 883) by the Marcos-controlled unicameral congress called the Regular Batasang Pambansa. [33]

The growing opposition movement encouraged Ninoy Aquino's widow, Corazon Aquino, to run for the presidency. United Opposition (UNIDO) leader, Salvador Laurel, who earlier filed his candidacy as an official UNIDO candidate for the presidency, gave way to Cory after a political deal which was later reneged by Cory after the election. Salvador Laurel eventually ran as Cory Aquino's running mate for vice-president under the United Opposition (UNIDO) party. Marcos ran for re-election, with Arturo Tolentino as his running mate under the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL) party. [33]

1986 election Edit

The election was held on February 7, 1986. [32] The official election canvasser, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC), declared that Marcos was the winner. The final tally of the COMELEC had Marcos winning with 10,807,197 votes against Aquino's 9,291,761 votes. On the other hand, based on returns of 70% of the precincts [34] of the National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL), an accredited poll watcher, had Aquino winning with 7,835,070 votes against Marcos' 7,053,068 votes. [35]

This electoral exercise was marred by widespread reports of violence and tampering of election results, culminating in the walkout of 30 COMELEC computer technicians to protest the deliberate manipulation of the official election results to favor Ferdinand Marcos. The walkout was considered as one of the early "sparks" of the People Power Revolution. The walkout also served as an affirmation to allegations of vote-buying, fraud, and tampering of election results by the KBL. [36] [37]

Because of reports of alleged fraud, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) through Cardinal Ricardo Vidal issued a statement condemning the elections. The United States Senate also passed a resolution stating the same condemnation. [32] US president Ronald Reagan issued a statement calling the fraud reports as "disturbing" but he said that there was fraud "on both sides" of the Philippine election. [38] [39] In response to the protests, COMELEC claimed that Marcos with 53 percent won over Aquino. However, NAMFREL countered that the latter won over Marcos with 52 percent of votes. [40]

On February 15, Marcos was proclaimed by COMELEC and Batasang Pambansa as the winner amidst the controversy. All 50 opposition members of the Parliament walked out in protest. The Filipino people repudiated the results, asserting that Aquino was the real victor. Both "winners" took their oath of office in two different places, with Aquino gaining greater mass support. Aquino also called for coordinated strikes and mass boycott of the media and businesses owned by Marcos' cronies. As a result, the crony banks, corporations, and media were hit hard, and their shares in the stock market plummeted to record levels. [ citation needed ]

Vidal's declaration Edit

Cardinal Vidal, after the result of the snap election, issued a declaration in lieu of the Philippine Church hierarchy stating that when "a government does not of itself freely correct the evil it has inflicted on the people then it is our serious moral obligation as a people to make it do so." The declaration also asked "every loyal member of the Church, every community of the faithful, to form their judgment about the February 7 polls" and told all the Filipinos, "Now is the time to speak up. Now is the time to repair the wrong. The wrong was systematically organized. So must its correction be. But as in the election itself, that depends fully on the people on what they are willing and ready to do." [41]

Civil disobedience and boycott campaign launch Edit

On February 16, 1986, Corazon Aquino held the "Tagumpay ng Bayan" (People's Victory) rally at Luneta Park, announcing a civil disobedience campaign and calling for her supporters to boycott publications and companies which were associated with Marcos or any of his cronies. [42] The event was attended by a crowd of about two million people. [43] Aquino's camp began making preparations for more rallies, and Aquino herself went to Cebu to rally more people to their cause. [44]

Aborted military coup Edit

Appalled by the bold and apparent election irregularities, the Reform the Armed Forces Movement set into motion a coup attempt against Marcos. The initial plan was for a team to assault Malacañan Palace and arrest Ferdinand Marcos. Other military units would take over key strategic facilities, such as the airport, military bases, the GHQAFP in Camp Aguinaldo, and major highway junctions to restrict counteroffensive by Marcos-loyal troops.

However, after Marcos learned about the plot, he ordered their leaders' arrest, [45] and presented to the international and local press some of the captured plotters, Maj. Saulito Aromin and Maj. Edgardo Doromal. [46]

Threatened with their impending imprisonment, Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and his fellow coup plotters decided to ask for help from then-AFP Vice Chief of Staff Lt. Gen Fidel Ramos, who was also the chief of the Philippine Constabulary (now the Philippine National Police). Ramos agreed to resign from his position and support the plotters. Enrile also contacted the highly influential Cardinal Archbishop of Manila Jaime Sin for his support.

At about 6:30 p.m. on February 22, Enrile and Ramos held a press conference at the Ministry of National Defense building in Camp Aguinaldo, where they announced that they had resigned from their positions in Marcos' cabinet and were withdrawing support from his government. Marcos himself later conducted a news conference calling on Enrile and Ramos to surrender, urging them to "stop this stupidity". [47]

Sin's appeal Edit

After Cardinal Vidal's condemnation of the snap election's fraudulent result, a message was aired over Radio Veritas at around 9 p.m., Cardinal Sin exhorted Filipinos in the capital to aid rebel leaders by going to the section of EDSA between Camp Crame and Aguinaldo and giving emotional support, food and other supplies. For many, this seemed an unwise decision since civilians would not stand a chance against a dispersal by government troops. Many people, especially priests and nuns, still trooped to EDSA. [47]

My Dear People, I wish you to pray, because it's only through prayer that we may solve this problem. This is Cardinal Sin speaking to the people, especially in Metro Manila. I am indeed concerned about the situation of Minister Enrile and General Ramos, I am calling our people to support our two good friends at the camp. If any of you could be around at Camp Aguinaldo to show your solidarity and your support in this very crucial period, when our two good friends have shown their idealism, I would be very happy if you support them now. I would only wish that violence and bloodshed be avoided. Let us pray to our blessed lady to help us in order that we can solve this problem peacefully

Radio Veritas played a critical role during the mass uprising. Former University of the Philippines president Francisco Nemenzo stated that: "Without Radio Veritas, it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to mobilize millions of people in a matter of hours." Similarly, a certain account in the event said that: "Radio Veritas, in fact, was our umbilical cord to whatever else was going on." [48]

Rising mass support Edit

At dawn, Sunday, government troops arrived to knock down the main 50-kilowatt transmitter of Radio Veritas, cutting off broadcasts to people in the provinces. The station switched to a 10-kilowatt standby transmitter with a limited range of broadcast. [48] The station was targeted because it had proven to be a valuable communications tool for the people supporting the rebels, keeping them informed of government troop movements and relaying requests for food, medicine, and supplies. [47]

Still, people came to EDSA until it swelled to hundreds of thousands of unarmed civilians. The mood in the street was very festive, with many bringing whole families. Performers entertained the crowds, nuns and priests led prayer vigils, and people set up barricades and makeshift sandbags, trees, and vehicles in several places along EDSA and intersecting streets such as Santolan and Ortigas Avenue. Everywhere, people listened to Radio Veritas on their radios. A photo taken by Pete Reyes of Srs. Porferia Ocariza and Teresita Burias leading the rosary in front of soldiers has since become an iconic picture of the revolution. [49] Several groups sang Bayan Ko (My Homeland), [50] which, since 1980, had become a patriotic anthem of the opposition. People frequently flashed the 'LABAN' sign, [51] which is an "L" formed with their thumb and index finger. 'laban' is the Filipino word for 'fight', but also the abbreviation of Lakas ng Bayan, Ninoy Aquino's party.

After lunch on February 23, Enrile and Ramos decided to consolidate their positions. Enrile crossed EDSA from Camp Aguinaldo to Camp Crame amidst cheers from the crowd. [47]

In the mid-afternoon, Radio Veritas relayed reports of Marines massing near the camps in the east and LVT-5 tanks approaching from the north and south. A contingent of Marines with tanks and armored vans, led by Brigadier General Artemio Tadiar, was stopped along Ortigas Avenue, about two kilometers from the camps, by tens of thousands of people. [52] Nuns holding rosaries knelt in front of the tanks and men and women linked arms together to block the troops. [53] Tadiar asked the crowds to make a clearing for them, but they did not budge. In the end, the troops retreated with no shots fired. [47]

By evening, the standby transmitter of Radio Veritas failed. Shortly after midnight, the staff was able to go to another station to begin broadcasting from a secret location under the moniker "Radyo Bandido" (Outlaw Radio, which is now known as DZRJ-AM). June Keithley, with her husband Angelo Castro, Jr., was the radio broadcaster who continued Radio Veritas' program throughout the night and in the remaining days. [47]

More military defections Edit

At dawn on Monday, February 24, the first serious encounter with government troops occurred. Marines marching from Libis, in the east, lobbed tear gas at the demonstrators, who quickly dispersed. Some 3,000 Marines then entered and held the east side of Camp Aguinaldo. [47]

Later, helicopters manned by the 15th Strike Wing of the Philippine Air Force, led by Colonel Antonio Sotelo, were ordered from Sangley Point in Cavite (South of Manila) to head to Camp Crame. [54] Secretly, the squadron had already defected and instead of attacking Camp Crame, landed in it, with the crowds cheering and hugging the pilots and crew members. [47]

A Bell 214 helicopter piloted by Major Deo Cruz of the 205th Helicopter Wing and Sikorsky S-76 gunships piloted by Colonel Charles Hotchkiss of the 20th Air Commando Squadron joined the rebel squadron earlier in the air. The presence of the helicopters boosted the morale of Enrile and Ramos who had been continually encouraging their fellow soldiers to join the opposition movement. [47] In the afternoon, Aquino arrived at the base where Enrile, Ramos, Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) officers, and a throng were waiting. [54]

The capture of MBS-4 Edit

At around that time, June Keithley received reports that Marcos had left Malacañang Palace and broadcast this to the people at EDSA. The crowd celebrated and even Ramos and Enrile came out from Crame to appear to the crowds. The jubilation was however short-lived as Marcos later appeared on television on the government-controlled MBS-4, [55] (using the foreclosed ABS-CBN facilities, transmitter, and compound in Broadcast Plaza) declaring that he would not step down. It was thereafter speculated that the false report was a calculated move against Marcos to encourage more defections. [47]

During this broadcast, MBS-4 suddenly went off the air. A contingent of rebels, under Colonel Mariano Santiago, had captured the station. MBS-4 was put back on the air shortly after noon, with Orly Punzalan announcing on live television, "Channel 4 is on the air again to serve the people." By this time, the crowds at EDSA had grown to over a million. (Some estimates placed them at two million.) [47]

On September 14, 1986, this broadcast was considered the "return" of ABS-CBN on air because this was the time when former employees of the network were inside the complex on after 14 years of closure since Marcos took it over during the Martial Law of 1972. "Radyo Bandido" ended broadcasting that afternoon, while Radio Veritas resumed transmissions, this time from the Broadcast Plaza's radio studios.

In the late afternoon, rebel helicopters attacked Villamor Airbase, destroying presidential air assets. Another helicopter went to Malacañang, fired a rocket, and caused minor damage. Later, most of the officers who had graduated from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) defected. The majority of the Armed Forces had already changed sides. [47]

Marcos orders not to shoot Edit

Prior dialogues to stop the revolution had not succeeded with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which was led by General Fabian Ver. AFP was ready to mount an airstrike on the day but Marcos ordered them to halt. [56] [57]

The actual dialogue on TV between Marcos and then AFP Chief of Staff General Fabian Ver went as follows:

Fabian Ver: The Ambush there is aiming to mount there in the top. Very quickly, you must immediately leave to conquer them, immediately, Mr. President.

Ferdinand Marcos: Just wait, come here.
Ver: Please, Your Honor, so we can immediately strike them. We have to immobilize the helicopters that they've got. We have two fighter planes flying now to strike at any time, sir.
Marcos: My order is not to attack. No, no, no! Hold on. My order is not to attack.
Ver: They are massing civilians near our troops and we cannot keep on withdrawing. You asked me to withdraw yesterday–
Marcos (interrupting): Uh yes, but ah. My order is to disperse without shooting them.
Ver: We cannot withdraw all the time.

Marcos: No! No! No! Hold on! You disperse the crowd without shooting them.

Two inaugurations Edit

On the morning of Tuesday, February 25, at around 7 a.m., a minor clash occurred between loyal government troops and the reformists. Snipers stationed atop the crony-owned RPN-9 transmitter in Panay Avenue, near MBS-4, began shooting at the reformists. Many rebel soldiers surged to the station, [47] and a rebel S-76 helicopter later shot the snipers at the broadcast tower. The troops later left after a V-150 was blocked by the crowd assembled.

Later in the morning, Corazon Aquino was inaugurated as President of the Philippines in a simple ceremony at Club Filipino [58] in Greenhills, about a kilometer from Camp Crame. She was sworn in as president by Senior Associate Justice Claudio Teehankee, and Laurel as vice-president by Justice Vicente Abad Santos. The Bible on which Aquino swore her oath was held by her mother-in-law Aurora Aquino, the mother of Ninoy Aquino. Attending the ceremonies were Ramos, who was then promoted to General, Enrile, and many politicians. [47]

Outside Club Filipino, all the way to EDSA, hundreds of people cheered and celebrated. Bayan Ko (My Country, a popular folk song and the unofficial National Anthem of protest) was sung after Aquino's oath-taking. Many people wore yellow, the color of Aquino's presidential campaign.

An hour later, Marcos held the inauguration at Malacañang Palace. Loyalist civilians attended the ceremony, shouting "Marcos, Marcos, Marcos pa rin! (Marcos, Marcos, still Marcos!)". On the Palace balcony, Marcos took the Oath of Office, aired on IBC-13 and RPN-9 (RPN-9 was going off-the-air during the broadcast of the inauguration, as its transmitter was captured by reformist soldiers). [47] None of the invited foreign dignitaries attended the ceremony, for security reasons. The couple finally emerged on the balcony of the Palace before 3,000 KBL loyalists who were shouting, "Capture the snakes!" [59] Rather tearfully, [59] First Lady Imelda Marcos gave a farewell rendition of the couple's theme song – the 1938 kundiman "Dahil Sa Iyo" (Because of You) – chanting the song's entreaties in Tagalog:

Because of you, I became happy
Loving I shall offer you
If it is true I shall be enslaved by you
All of this because of you. [59]

The broadcast of the event was interrupted as rebel troops successfully captured the other stations. [47]

By this time, hundreds of people had amassed at the barricades along Mendiola, only a hundred meters away from Malacañang. They were prevented from storming the Palace by loyal government troops securing the area. The angry demonstrators were pacified by priests who warned them not to be violent. [47]

Marcos' departure Edit

Despite holding an inauguration, Marcos and his family were already preparing to flee the country. At 5:00 a.m. on the Tuesday morning, Marcos phoned United States Senator Paul Laxalt, asking for advice from the White House. [59] Laxalt advised him to "cut and cut clean", to which Marcos expressed his disappointment after a short pause. In the afternoon, Marcos talked to Minister Enrile, asking for safe passage for him, his family, and close allies such as General Ver. [60]

Around midnight, the Marcos family boarded a United States Air Force HH-3E Rescue helicopter [61] and flew to Clark Air Base in Angeles 83 kilometers north of Manila. At Clark Air Base, Marcos asked to spend a couple of days with his family in Ilocos Norte, his native province. Aquino vetoed the request. President Reagan privately derided Cory Aquino for denying Marcos a last look at his home province. [62]

The deposed First Family and their servants then rode US Air Force DC-9 Medivac and C-141B planes to Andersen Air Force Base in the north of the United States territory of Guam, then flying to Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii where Marcos finally arrived on February 26. The United States Government documented that they entered the United States with millions of dollars in jewelry, gold, stocks, and cash. [9] [47]

When news of the Marcos family's departure reached civilians, many rejoiced and danced in the streets. Over at Mendiola, the demonstrators stormed the Palace, which was closed to ordinary people for around a decade. Despite looting by some angry protesters, the majority wandered about inside through rooms where national history was shaped, looking at objects extravagant and mundane that the Marcos clan and its court had abandoned in their flight. [ citation needed ]

In other countries, people also rejoiced and congratulated Filipinos they knew. CBS anchorman Bob Simon reported: "We Americans like to think we taught the Filipinos democracy. Well, tonight they are teaching the world." [47]

Immediately after her accession, Aquino issued Proclamation No. 3, a provisional constitution which established a revolutionary government. The edict promulgated the 1986 Freedom Constitution, which retained or superseded various provisions of the 1973 Constitution that were in force up to that point. This allowed Aquino to wield both executive and legislative powers among her first acts was to unilaterally abolish the Batasang Pambansa (the unicameral legislature duly elected in 1984), pending a plebiscite for a more permanent Constitution and the establishment of a new Congress by 1987. [63]

Despite the return of democracy, President Aquino faced coup d'état attempts by RAM members or Marcos loyalists.

The revolution had an effect on democratization movements in such countries as Taiwan and South Korea other effects include the restoration of the freedom of the press, abolition of repressive laws enforced by the previous regime, the adoption of the 1987 Constitution, and the subordination of the military to civilian rule, despite several coup attempts during Aquino's rule. [64]

The revolution provided for the restoration of democratic institutions after 13 years of totalitarian rule and these institutions has been used by various groups to challenge the entrenched political families and to strengthen Philippine democracy. [65]

The People Power Revolution has inspired a call for a change of government through peaceful protests rather than bloodshed. Many similar revolutions have followed since then, taking the Philippine example of nonviolent regime change, such as that in East Germany and many other former Soviet Bloc countries. [66] It also helped inspire the Arab Spring in 2011. [67]

The EDSA Revolution Anniversary is a special public holiday in the Philippines. Since 2002, the holiday has been a special non-working holiday. [68] [69]

Rampant corruption during the term of President Joseph Estrada led to the similar 2001 EDSA Revolution leading to his resignation from the presidency.

In 2003, the Radio Broadcast of the Philippine People Power Revolution was inscribed in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register, the official documentary heritage list of the United Nations' educational and scientific body. [70]

In spite of the revolution's repudiation of Marcos' dictatorial regime, the Marcos family slowly regained a political presence in the Philippines, [71] with Imelda and her children Bongbong and Imee reacquiring positions in government by the 1990s. Bongbong himself was narrowly defeated by Leni Robredo as candidate for the Philippine vice presidency during the 2016 presidential elections.

What Are Some Common Causes of Revolution in History?

Revolutions are major turning points in history and regardless of where they occur, some common factors are present. These causes include a great divide between the social classes, a crisis which negatively impacts the masses, increasing unhappiness or loss of faith in the government or ruling power and the desire for equality and ideals and philosophies which provide a common rallying ground for the unhappy class.

When the population decides to revolt, they are looking for a dramatic political, social and economic change. In America, the revolution was spurred by the decision of the 13 American Colonies to break away from the British Empire in part due to a social and intellectual transformation and in part because they felt they were poorly represented in Parliament. So in 1776 they grouped together and declared their independence. The war ended in 1783 and the U.S. Constitution was signed in 1787.

In the case of the French Revolution, the population was divided into three estates the clergy, the nobility and the general population. The country was embroiled in a severe financial crisis due to France’s involvement in the Seven Years War and the American Revolution, leading to widespread hunger among peasants and a growing dissatisfaction with living under an absolute monarchy. The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was published in 1789. Peasant women marched to Versailles demanding that their needs be heard. Soon after, the royal family was moved to Paris by the National Assembly. With these changes, the revolution was underway resulting in the dissolution of the ancient regime which paved the way for a new era.

The past was a lot messier than we tend to imagine, and the future does not look promising.

Few people have done more to make history interesting and accessible to the layperson as Mike Duncan. A wildly successful podcaster and New York Times-bestselling author, he’s tackled topics ranging across space and time. Current Affairs was lucky enough to get him on our podcast for an interview with editors Lyta Gold and Sparky Abraham. If you missed it the first time around, here’s the perfect opportunity to see what Duncan has to say about how history can help us understand the present—and perhaps what comes next, as well.

The following transcript of their conversation has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Lyta Gold

Hey Bird Feed, this is Lyta Gold, your amusements and managing editor. I’m joined by Sparky Abraham, our finance editor.

Sparky Abraham


Today we have an extremely special guest. We’re super excited about this guest because Sparky and I are huge geeks, and we’ve been fans of this guy for a long time. It’s Mike Duncan who’s joining us.

Mike Duncan


You may know Mike from a couple of podcasts. There was one called The History of Rome, which is finished up and is excellent and really, really worth getting back to. There’s one going on right now called Revolutions, which is thrilling. It’s amazing. It starts from the English Revolution, and has gotten as far as the Russian Revolution—but we did the French one on the way, Haitian, Mexican, the whole thing. It’s incredible. There’s also a book out called The Storm Before the Storm, which is about the Roman Republic. And it’s fantastic. Thanks, Mike, for joining us.



So, we wanted to talk mostly about the Revolutions podcast, because it’s the one that we’re both really, really obsessed with right now.



Haha, I can tell. This is great. I mean, it’s such a deep dive into these very specific details, these specific chunks of history, but it’s really easy to follow, and it’s just a really incredible work of popular history. The first question I want to start with is: why did you pick revolutions as a topic?


It goes back to my first loves in history. When I was a teenager, I got really into the American Revolution. This is in, let us say, the mid ‘90s. I also got really into the Russian Revolution, and it was one of the first time periods that I really honed in on and fell in love with. I did a lot of reading when I was 16, 17, 18 years old about the Russian Revolution. So, it’s cool that I’m finally able to talk about the Russian Revolution in the capacity that I’m talking about it now, because it’s one of my first loves.

But then I wound up moving on to ancient history. I spent so much time doing The History of Rome and so much time studying the ancient Mediterranean world, that when I finished up The History of Rome, I didn’t want to be typecast as just an ancient historian or just able to do one particular set of time. So, I wanted to move into the modern world, and I wanted to move into some different topics.

I was kicking around ideas that I might possibly have, and eventually landed on this notion of covering different revolutions in discrete seasons, to move through them. And the idea too was that it would be a shorter project than The History of Rome, because each one of these would be 12 or 15 episodes long, and then it would be about three years is how long I had mapped it out now. Of course it wound up being longer than The History of Rome was—this is how I run my career, apparently. And whatever next project I do, I will no doubt say I want it to be shorter than Revolutions, and then it will actually be probably twice as long, and it will take me 20 years to do. But that is what it is.


And your background—you’re not an academic, really. You don’t have a PhD in history, right?


Correct. I’m a grad school dropout.


That’s very cool. We’re very much in favor of that.


So my degree was political science with a minor in philosophy. And then my concentration for political science was political theory. What I was actually studying in school was a lot of political theory. And that necessitated all of this study of political events and political history. I mean, if you’re going to learn Plato and Aristotle, you have to learn about the Greek city-states. And if you’re going to study Cicero and Seneca, you have got to learn about the Roman Empire. If you’re going to study Machiavelli, you have got to study the Roman Empire. It’s all of the piece.

So, when I came out of school, what turned out being the thing that I most wanted to keep going with was the history part of it. I kept wanting to teach myself about the who, what, and when of history because I had spent so much on the theory part of it. I wanted to get re-grounded on what actually happened, what these people were actually talking about. And so that is how I wound up carrying it forward.


One of the reasons that we’re so cranky about academic history is that it tends to be very siloed. It’s not universally true, but it’s often very siloed from popular education, and it’s these very little JSTOR articles about a very specific topic and that kind of thing. I mean, you’re playing a really important role in popular education. Do you see that as being part of a trend?

There are other history podcasts, I know—like the History of Byzantium, which started up after you stopped The History of Rome, and it’s a really fun podcast too. This does seem like it’s becoming a bit of a trend. It’s a really fun way to teach history and a really fun way to absorb it for people at home who are just interested amateurs, who aren’t in school studying and don’t have JSTOR access.


There are two aspects of this. The first is the relationship between the academy—the universities—and the academics, who are, most of the time, just talking to each other. That’s part of what they want to be doing: talking to each other about very specialized things. And then there has always been a place for popularizers. Even though podcasting didn’t exist 50 years ago, there’s always been a popularizing tradition. There have always been people out there who want to fill in that role between what is going on in the universities, and what the general public is actually able to learn.

And I think that’s my job—to facilitate the transfer of information from often-dry sources, like those JSTOR articles, which I read because I enjoy them. I actually enjoy reading those articles. But the general public isn’t going to enjoy reading those articles, and they aren’t written for the general public. So what I can do is take all of that information that I’m really interested in and convey it to the people, and that’s a part of a longstanding tradition. I believe that it’s a good thing for society, for people, for citizens, to know as much history as possible. I think it makes us better, more well-rounded people.

I mean, people should also learn music, and people should also learn about art, and there are many things people should learn about. But I do think that history is one of those things that people should really have inside of them. To have a sense of how long humans have been at this. To have an idea of the kinds of events and personalities and trends that have happened before us. Why our society is actually running the way it is. It didn’t just appear like this, unless you want to get into really deep philosophy and say, “The entire universe was invented five minutes ago and we all just arrived here,” which I do not think is true. I actually do think that there was some kind of history that backs all of this up.

But if you study the history, you’ll understand your own present society much better. So, I think all of that is good, and I think I’m in that tradition of popularizing it. And then the podcasting part of it: it’s a new medium. It’s a new technology. It’s a great way for people to access this information because reading a book does take your whole physical body, in a way. You can’t walk around reading—you see people walking around reading books, I don’t quite know how they do it—and then if you are going to watch a TV show, if you’re going to watch a documentary, you have to sit and watch the screen. But you can listen to a podcast when you’re crammed into a subway. You can listen to a podcast while you’re driving your car. You can listen to it while you’re doing chores. There are many different places that you can take audio-only content. And if you are the kind of person who’s sitting there saying, “Gosh, I don’t know a lot about history,” I can go, “Find these podcasts.”

And during these mundane, often terrible parts of our days—like when you’re doing chores, and commuting, or exercise, nobody likes doing any of these things—we can turn those periods of time into learning opportunities. And so, podcasting as a medium, I think, has served the popularization of history and the popularization of many different more academic fields in general. I think it’s been a great addition to how we interact with each other.


I listen to you when I’m cooking.

Perfect. I listen to podcasts when I do dishes.


There’s this interesting thing in the Revolutions podcast, especially, but also in The History of Rome: what you’re talking about is really the apex of politicalness. Right? You’re talking about revolutions. It doesn’t get much more political, divisive, whatever. This is not some kind of dry, neutral history.

But one of the features, I think, of your podcast that is really interesting is that you have a lot of fans across the political spectrum. I imagine that takes some work to try to present this stuff in a way that is not… I mean, I don’t know how do you do that? Is this an intentional thing that you are doing? And I also want to ask if you’re willing to talk about your personal politics, although I know that every side of Twitter has a project of projecting their own politics on to you. How do you deal with this?


I will probably be cagey about my own political beliefs.



I will say, however, that when the MAGA people find me, they are profoundly disappointed. Especially coming out of The History of Rome, because there are lots of people that do listen to The History of Rome, and ancient history, classical history, is something that is often appropriated. There’s a colonization project amongst, let us say, proto-, crypto-, and out-and-out fascists, to use the Roman Empire to their own political advantage in the modern world. And so they’ll listen to The History of Rome and they’ll be like, “This is great, this guy must be one of us.”

And they find my Twitter feed, and they’re like, “Oh my god, he is one of them.” So, at a minimum, if you were talking to a MAGA person, I am one of them, not one of us. Now, when it comes to actually presenting this material, my focus has been to focus on the who, and the what, and the when. Point being, that as long as I focus on the actual concrete events, I’m on pretty safe ground in being able to present it in something resembling an objective way.

What I think has often been lacking, and this goes back to what I feel like my role is here in the popularization of history, is that people often lack a kind of barebones narrative of what happened. People know a lot about the French Revolution, or they think they know a lot about the French Revolution, or they have an interpretation of how the French Revolution dips into world history, or how it should be interpreted. But then if you actually start poking them a little bit about the details of what actually happened during the French Revolution, who did what when, that is a part that starts to get real fuzzy for people.

So what I’m hoping to provide here is that narrative of who and what and when. Like when you see, for example, guillotine memes going around on Twitter, this is often because people have a basic understanding of the French Revolution. You have these revolutionaries who rose up, and they rounded up the aristocrats, the bad people who had done all the bad things during the ancien régime, and they chopped their heads off, and this must be a good thing. But when you actually get into what the Reign of Terror was, and who the victims of the Reign of Terror wound up being, it is not usually the case that it is some hateful aristocrat who had the crimes of history, the blood of history, on their hands. Those people all fled to the Netherlands, and then to England, or to Germany, or to Austria, most of those people actually survived the French Revolution.

The people who were killed were mostly peasants in the June Days uprising, it was federalists who had risen up in revolt against Paris because they simply disagreed with the course of revolution after the Committee of Public Safety took over. These are just facts. And as long as I’m presenting what happened, I think I can pretty much walk the line. Having said that, I’m never going to be able to avoid my own bias, and it’s clear who I can be sympathetic to and who I am not—I am not sympathetic to Metternich, for example.


I do want to, as much as possible, empathize with whoever it is that I’m talking about so I can try to understand their perspective on the world. Why is this person behaving the way that they are behaving? What is their motivation? What are they trying to get out of this particular moment?

And one other thing that I think I have done well on this front, and I’m doing this with the Russian Revolution—I’m forcing myself to do this—is when we know how the revolution turned out, then we start to back up and write a straight-line history of the event knowing how it is going to end.

But let’s just stay in the French Revolution, people were banging into each other in 1790, 1791— they don’t know that 1793 is going to be what it was. They don’t know about Thermidor, they don’t know about Bonaparte. History is usually a mess of people whose motivations are running into each other. And as long as you can stick to trying to explain each person’s motivations from their own perspective, then I think you can listen to it without being like, “Oh, this just Marxist analysis,” or, “He’s just some reactionary scumbag who is trying to say that Robespierre was the devil.”


So, I think you started to answer this, but I think one response to what you are saying is: well, yes, but that’s what every historian thinks that they are doing. Right? I guess that is not true, some historians think they are doing a political project. But I think that a lot of what you see when you are talking about history as a political project is that it’s all about which people you choose as being important and which events you choose and whose motivations you get into and whose motivations you do not. Is there a particular way that you deal with that? I mean, one possibility is that you just do as many people and things as you possibly can, and that’s why you have such long and excellent and in-depth seasons.


Sure. I do acknowledge that I’m coming from some kind of liberal bias here, because if we’re talking about liberal civil rights, I am going to be on the side of the liberal civil rights as opposed to the perpetuation of feudal ignorance and despotism, for example. Because I’m coming out of this, I’m a white guy from Seattle, Washington in the 21 st century, so the society that I grew up with is going to inform my worldview on all those fronts. And I do agree that there are probably people out there that just listened to that last answer that I gave about trying to present something resembling an objective chronology of information and just rolling their eyes and saying, “Well, this guy is absolutely full of shit because nobody can actually do that.” And I actually agree with that.

But, and as you just said, as long as you keep moving around and talking about it from the perspective of Louis XVI and then from the perspective of Robespierre, and from the perspective of Lafayette, you can cover most of your bases. Or look at what I’m doing right with the Russian Revolution. As we go through it, I’m going to be constantly hopping between the perspectives of the anarchists, of the socialist revolutionaries, of the SRs, and then the left SRs, and the right SRs. Then I’m going to be talking about it from the perspective of the Bolsheviks, and the Mensheviks, and I’m going to be talking about it from the perspective of Nicholas and the czars. Then, the nationalities are going to come into it, like what Polish nationalists think about all this.

So again, I think that it’s not a matter of ever believing that you can step away from yourself or step away from history to create something that’s objective, but you can bounce around enough. And if you empathize enough with the various actors, then, as you have noticed, I have fans from many different political backgrounds who can listen to the show and not be turned off about it, or think that I’m just advancing one particular point of view.


Yeah. And I did not mean that as a criticism, I think you do it really well. I mean, probably my favorite season so far is the Mexican Revolution season, and one of my favorite parts of that is that I had the sense, “Oh, I know about the Mexican Revolution.” I have the people who I understand as being important and who I agree with or disagree with. And you just blew that up—the Mexican Revolution season just blew up that universe and introduced me to so many new people and perspectives and situations that I had no idea about. And it made me think about the events from their viewpoint, instead of working backwards.


That is one thing that I do think—because I do keep this in the forefront of my mind—the people in history don’t know how it’s going to turn out. Actually, one of my favorite episodes that I ever wrote was in the Haitian Revolution… I am now, of course, blanking on the title of this episode even though I’m saying it is one of my favorite episodes.


There have been a lot of episodes, to be fair to you.


I think it was 1794 or 1795, when there was this pause in the middle of this conflagration that was the Haitian Revolution, and there were five different ways that it could have gone. It could have gone to some of Louverture’s way, it could have gone André Redouté’s way, it could have been that the British actually wound up conquering San Doming and reimposing slavery and San Doming becomes a British colony, or it could have re-fallen to the French and gone back to being French, but then it’s going to be under Napoleon’s rule.

So, I just spent an entire episode talking through the different ways that this could have actually gone. And yes, it went this one way where Toussaint Louverture winds up victorious, but there was nothing that said that it was going to have to be that way. And certainly nobody knew it at the time. You know, it’s not like Toussaint Louverture is going around with a magical “W” over his head that stands for “winner.” Nobody knows that he’s going to be the winner in the end. So, always keeping that in the forefront of my mind does help keep things grounded, I think, in a really healthy way.


I mean it also makes it, I do not know, maybe Lyta you can weigh in on this too. And also, I find it very–


It’s relatable because we, in the present day, also don’t know what’s going to happen, and taking this approach makes it clear that the position that we are often in is really similar to the position of people at previous points in history. It makes this stuff feel less like disconnected history that leads inexorably to this moment and more like, “Holy shit, it’s always been a mess, and things can kind of happen at any time.”


Right, that is 100 percent true. Anything could happen at any time, and we have no ability to predict it. I mean, one of the things that is very noticeable about studying all of these revolutions is that nobody has ever successfully predicted a revolution. There have been a few times where a coup or some kind of uprising has worked, but was the French revolution planned? No, it was just a huge, unfolding series of accidents that people then were able to hop on board with and steer certain ways for a certain amount of time. But that has really been one of the themes of all of these episodes about revolutions: nobody sees them coming, and then they erupt, and then they unfold. There is no guiding hand here, it does not exist.


And when I’m listening, I tend to oscillate really widely between hope and despair, because there are all of these different groups of people who. A lot of them have good intentions and they’re working toward good things, and then here’s the way that all of these things just go wrong and don’t work out, and people end up killing each other over extremely silly differences of opinion.


Right. Or that you start hoping to accomplish something, and then it’s a bit by bit thing, where everyday you do a small course correction and a small course correction and you do something in that day for that moment that you feel like you have to do. And then the next thing you know, you’re completely turned upside down, and the opposite of where you even wanted to start. I think that is going to happen with Lenin quite a bit. What those guys thought they were up to in the 1890s is not where they wound up in 1920.


It’s really relatable, which I think is how you know that’s right. Because as you’re describing this process or this experience, it’s like, “Oh yeah, that is kind of what my work life felt like this week.” You have a project and you have got to just make adjustments as you go to correct things, and then suddenly you end up somewhere completely different. I feel like this is just a universal fact of life.


It is very much just the human condition.


You mean the people in history are people? That’s crazy.

Yeah, you really do a great job of avoiding the great man of history thing. And you also do a great job of avoiding seeing people as these masses that just move with these—I guess it would be kind of a Marxist perspective—very specific interests, and then this group of people does this thing because they have these interests. That’s something that you’ve really done a good job of avoiding, and I really appreciate that.


Well I appreciate that. That’s something that popped up with The History of Rome when I got started. When you’re dealing with the Roman Empire, and you’re dealing with the sources from the Roman Empire, I’m constantly talking about history about kings, emperors, and popes. That sort of vein. And I’m talking about Aurelian did this, and Aurelian did that, and Diocletian did this, and Diocletian did that, and it can appear, at times, to be great man history.

I hoped that it did not, because I think that it’s not so much great men do great things that change the world, so much as these are human beings who are close to the levers of power, and the decisions that they make do in fact have a rather large impact on the societies within which they live.

One of the formative books that I ever read was the March of Folly. The basic thesis of that is four case studies about how mistakes lead to history unfolding the way that it does, far more than just some brilliant work of a genius. I mean, even a lot of Napoleon’s career is built around mistakes and luck far more than him having some genius plan and pulling it off. So, I do believe that there is human agency inside of the unfolding of history. I do like what Marx said: that history is made by men, but they do not decide—I botched the quote—but they do not decide the circumstances within which they make their history. I think when you come into the world, all of human history has happened before you, so you can’t just go off and do whatever you want. But I do believe that human agency does play a role in history.


I think we wanted to ask you about some broader lessons or commonalities that you’ve drawn out between revolutions. I think that one of the ones in particular that I wanted to ask about is: it seemed like, at least in the earlier seasons, sovereign debt was a large driver of a lot of this stuff–



I mean, I’m a personal debt guy, not a sovereign debt guy.


But you’re a guy who cares about debt.


I do care about debt, that is true. I guess I wanted to get your view on that. And also, it plays interestingly into this modern monetary theory debate that are going on right—which, of course, is about what it means for the United States to have debt as a sovereign, which is of course a very different situation from what it meant for the king of France to have debt as sovereign. But I wondered, have you thought about that at all? How does this connect?


My answer to that is: having done Revolutions, it makes me want to go back and get a master’s degree in finance with a particular interest in the history of banking. I am truly not 100 percent qualified to answer some of these questions. But what I do know is that it has far less to do with out-and-out debt or the size of the debt or what kind of deficits you are running, as it does with confidence in the regime. There’s a very famous thing where the debt load that Louis XIV left upon his death was greater than the debt load that was facing Louis XVI in 1786, when they said, “Sir, the monarchy is broke. We cannot get any more money.” And the reason they could not get any more money is because the bankers in Paris would not lend them any more money.

The regime, back in the early 1700s, was able to continue to draw loans and pay its debt and get back on its feet, in a way that Louis XV couldn’t—even though, in objective nominal terms, it was a lower debt load than Louis XIV had left. And so it comes down to both: how confident people are in the regime’s future ability to pay back these debts, and then also, is there a clique of bankers who think that they can use this to their advantage? What was going on with Louis XVI—and also what was going on, for example, with Charles I in England when he went off and started the Bishops’ War—is that the guys who had the money realized that they could use this to leverage the monarchy to their own personal, political advantage.

So, I think a lot of the debt crisis, as such in 1786 and 1787, was not just some act of God or some objective fact of finance or economics so much as a group of people, possibly surrounding the Duc d’Orléans and Jacques Necker, who said to themselves, “Hey, we’ve actually got ourselves a way to maybe leverage the Bourbons out of power and bring in the Orléans. And if we can get the Duc d’Orléans in on the throne, then he’s going to want to bring in a British-style constitutional monarchy, which is going to elevate landowning and banking class into some kind of parliament where now we’re going to be able to call the shots.” And the Duc d’Orléans is happy with that because he just wants to go watch racing and gamble.

So, I do think that there is a connection between debt and the finances of an empire or a kingdom or a republic. But there are political aspects to it, and political motivations to how that objective financial situation then leads to a revolution. Because there are plenty of times where these same sorts of problems pertain, but there’s nobody out there who is looking for it to be something that they can play to their political advantage.


That sounds like a very MMT type answer to me, which is that sovereign debt is basically a question of power and confidence. But somebody who knows more can correct me on Twitter, I’m sure.


What I will say to these people—especially when it comes to current events and modern financing of modern states—that is well, not just above my paygrade, but somewhere on another planet. It’s not an issue of where I am in the org chart, it’s a completely different set of people. But I can analyze it from a historical, political perspective, and everything I said I do believe in. So, if that puts me on some side of some debate that I don’t know anything about, hi friends and hi new enemies that I’ve just made, I guess. Apparently, I’ve just made a lot of friends and enemies at the same time trying to answer why it is that Louis XVI went down when he did.



And Charles I, and soon to be Nicholas. And you know, you get into 1848, and it’s exactly the same scene. After the “hungry ‘40s,” there were a variety of debt crises in all of these little German kingdoms. It happened in Prussia, it happened in France, it happened down in Italy. What the banking class is saying to the sovereigns is, “If you don’t call the parliament, we’re not going to give you any more money.”

Why do you want parliament involved? Partly you want a parliament involved because they tax themselves at a higher rate than just the despotic regime often does. When the British started taxing themselves in the latter 1600s, suddenly their tax tripled after they came out of the Stuart dynasty. So, the resources that they were going to be able to marshal with the parliament in place was far greater than just with some rickety autocrat, which is another observation I can make and has probably just made me enemies and friends simultaneously.


You have to look out for those guys. It’s interesting to talk about debt because we just had, in 2008, a large, sudden debt crisis. And it’s looming, it could happen again at any time. Even predicting the Silicon Valley bubble is going to burst at any point, and then it could be this huge problem.

So, that’s the question. Have things changed so much since the Russian Revolution? I mean, we still have a lot of the same trends. That’s something that I really notice when I’m listening to these various revolutions—some issues are passe now, but a lot of things are really familiar.

There’s a silly debate going on right now about whether the professional managerial class has revolutionary class consciousness. Like, not even joking, that is a real debate that leftists are having. And so, what I’m trying to figure out, is time a flat circle? Are there going to be more revolutions? Or have larger social structures changed too much to really have them anymore? Or will we just have revolutions in a different style?


Wait, are you asking if it’s the end of history, Lyta?


Yeah, I’m asking if we’re going to see these patterns of the revolutions that Mike has talked so much about, or are they going to just be different?


No, I think that is a fair question. My answer, of course, to “have we reached the end of history?” is no.



But that was not actually the question, and I do understand that. For the record, history has not ended. Probably the greatest meme that I have seen going around in the last year or two is Moe throwing Barney out of the bar. It’s Francis Fukuyama throwing history out of the bar, and then he turns around, and history is back at the bar.

But it’s a worthwhile question: are revolutions in the future going to look like revolutions in the past? Especially if you say that what we understand as “revolution,” the archetypical picture that you have in your head of what a revolution looks like, really gets going after what we would consider to be the Renaissance. You have the Dutch overthrowing the Spanish rule, and then you move very quickly into the English Civil Wars as a revolution. I consider those to be a revolutionary event, and I find it odd that revisionists managed to talk themselves into the English Civil Wars as not being a revolutionary event. That was a weird thing that happened in the ‘80s.

But they now do play out in a very certain way. And that has been going on for, let’s say, 500 years. Five hundred years is not that grand a chunk of human history. It’s a chunk, but not an enormous amount. And if you talk to geologists or you talk to physicists, it’s like no time at all, it’s a little sliver of a fingernail. I do believe that there will continue to be revolutionary upheavals for the foreseeable future, for the next couple hundred years. I don’t think that things have changed so much that we will not continue to get the same kind of recurrent challenges from below to various existing regimes.

I think that we’re watching it happen right now. I mean, you just flip on… well, do not flip on the TV, I don’t know why I told anybody to turn on the TV to try to get news. You guys don’t work in TV, right?



Okay. Alright. So we’re not offended. Do not turn on the TV to get news, guys. Stick to Facebook.



Oh man, we’re doomed. No, the point being is that in Hong Kong, in Chile—I’m here in Paris, and we have the gilets jaunes thing that just came through—there are mass protests, there are people staging revolutionary challenges, there are disaffected elites who would like to see various regimes overthrown and are happy to finance and underwrite various challenges to various regimes. I think, unfortunately, what is actually driving a lot of this is not “liberty and justice for all” kinds of movements.

What we are seeing right now is the return of ethnonationalist populism. It’s one of the major drivers if you’re talking about groups of individuals who are ready to steamroll over what we would consider to be the legitimate state apparatus of any given state—the people who are looking to just throw it all overboard to install their own vision of what a state ought to look like. A lot of that is being driven from the populist right rather than the working class left. Especially in the United States of America, which is why I would be skeptical to the point of being pessimistic about any kind of left-wing revolution ever succeeding in the U.S. I do not think that the country is primed for it in any way. It is far more primed for authoritarian fascism than it is for left-wing communism.


Great. Our listeners are going to love that.


I’m Mr. Happy Fun Guy over here. But there are some people who will say that because of technology, the state now has weapons and technological abilities at their disposal that would make what we use to think of as a revolution impossible. I don’t think that is the case.

Most of the time, when you’re talking about if a revolution from below succeeds or doesn’t succeed, it has very little to do with whether or not the sovereign can bring full force to bear. Like Charles X or Louis Philippe I or Napoleon III could have rolled out cannon after cannon, after cannon of grapeshot. Right? They could’ve just blasted these people into submission. They did with the commune.

But the difference here isn’t “do you have the technological ability to murder tons and tons of people in order to suppress a revolution,” but do you have the will to do it? Many, many people do not. I mean, this is Auschwitz stuff, this is On War stuff. The object is not to necessarily just destroy your enemy’s forces, it’s to destroy the will of your enemy to mobilize those forces.

Because you can blow up every single tank, and every single plane, and take out every single gun, but if you’ve left your enemy with the will to keep fighting, they’ll figure out a way to pick up sticks and rocks and rebuild themselves and come back at you.

Ah, see American foreign policy.


Yes. So, it’s not so much about removing your opponent’s ability—and this is true in war and in revolution—it’s not so much about the sovereign that is going to be overthrown or not overthrown, it’s not about whether or not they can marshal forces to napalm an entire city, it’s whether or not they are going to do it.

Another aspect of this is the period of time in which these events are happening is relatively short in terms of human history. There are these particular dynamics. But there’s also the case that these revolutions take a long time. Right? There is something that you really need in terms of historical perspective. If you were to try to do a season on the French Revolution in the 1860s, it wouldn’t have worked. The Paris Commune really seems like a continuation of the French Revolution in a way that we just don’t know what is going to happen yet. Plus, you just have to talk about the CIA a lot for anything after Russia.


Right. That’s true, speaking of history being driven by mistakes rather than out-and-out genius. One of the things getting back to what I think my purpose here is, what my role is as a popularizer of history, is if you take the French Revolution, people say, “Oh, yeah. I know the French Revolution. The monarchy went broke, so they called the Estates General, then the Bastille came down. Then they chopped the king’s head off, and then Napoleon. And that took some amount of time. Maybe a couple of years to get from one end of that to the other.”

I mean, there are probably people out there that don’t even realize that Louis XVI was not beheaded at the end of 1789. You just think that it all must have taken place, as you said, in some very short amount of time. That a revolution is a very discrete, quick, violent event. When, in point of fact, the French Revolution was something that went on for 10 or 15 years, depending on where you want to mark the beginning and the end. And if you’re sitting around in 1790 and 1791 (let’s say you are, for example, Marquis de Lafayette—you can look for my book Hero of Two Worlds coming out in August 2021) there was every single reason to think that in 1790 and 1791 that the French Revolution, as such, was six months in the past. It was eight months in the past, nine months in the past, now a year ago.

As it turns out, they were practically still in the beginning of the revolution, far from it being in the rearview mirror. So, to your point, I think when we look around at what is happening these days, it is impossible to ever plant your flag on something and say, “Oh, well that was the end of that,” or “This is the beginning of that.” I think that we, in our own times—I speak even as a historian who has some experience with looking for places to plant flags and divide—say, “Oh, this is when it started, and this is when it ended, and this epoch divides from this epoch.” Even in the modern world, we have no ability to figure that stuff out.

I remember when Barack Obama was elected president, that was basically the end of racial divisiveness in the United States, and we were now launching a new ship of a multiracial democracy that was going to sail into the sunny waters. That is it, we’re in post-racial America. We did it! We came out of World War II, we had the Civil Rights Movement, and this is the end of all of that. And it turns out that that was not the end of anything. It just restarted something that has been an ongoing conflict in American history since the very beginning.


Not again to be accused of saying the “end of history,” but it does seem like one of the big differences now is this factor of climate change, and that that does seem to put a time limit on everything. How do you think that it’s going to affect revolutionary movements?


So, when I talk about this stuff, I often talk about what future historians are going to say about such and such an event. This is like a game that I like to play. It’s a fun experiment more than anything else. And I, just in conversations with my wife and with friends, you always have to talk about, “OK, are we talking about climate change division or non-climate change division?”

Because you can talk about non-climate change division history unfolding as it does. But yes, it is becoming increasingly pointless, really, to talk about what the next 50 to 100 years are going to look like unless you are talking about climate change. And I am somebody who believes that climate change is real. I would like to say for the record that I think it is happening, and that I think that humans did it. I know that I am really going out on a limb here. I have made some more enemies here today.


Yeah, all of our extremely right-wing climate change-denying Current Affairs listeners. The ones who love to listen to the libertarian socialists.


So, I think it’s happening, I think it’s going on. I have two kids, they’re seven and four. I’m not thrilled with the world that they are about to have to live through. I think that what we are going to see is much closer to Rome’s “Crisis of the Third Century” period, which was a huge moment of state breakdown.

I do actually think there was a climate shift aspect to what happened in the third century. I do have some suspicion, though I have not actually investigated this fully, that there was some kind of climate shift event that happened around 200 A.D. Because the Han Chinese, the Parthian Empire—which was running Persia at the time, which gave way then to the Sassanid Empire—and the Roman Empire, as it had existed before the Crisis of the Third Century, all dealt with very similar state collapses, and much of it was brought on by shifting of people. The shifts happened because, “We used to be able to grow wheat here, and we can’t grow wheat here anymore.” There are diseases that start getting introduced into this.

I think that one of the other great fears, which is entirely legitimate on top of climate change, is that we’ve been pumping ourselves full of antibiotics for the last 50 years. We already know that there are drug-resistant super viruses out there and bacteria out there that can race through the population. We’re basically talking about The Stand. So, those things can and do happen in human history. Looking forward, I am not entirely optimistic about what this is going to mean for us.

I think that there are two ways that we can approach this as human beings. One of them you can already see manifesting itself, and it is this right-wing xenophobic populist nationalism that is going to try to say, “Nobody can come here. Wherever we are, we are going to be a people.” This is happening in France, this is happening everywhere. “We have to lock it down. We have to build walls. We have to keep people out. We have to say, ‘No, we are going to protect this historical culture that we have. Whatever our identity is, our imagined national identity, we have to protect it at all costs.’” And if everybody goes rigid, then I think that that is going to lead to a lot of conflict and violence. I think that is a very natural progression.

The other thing that we could do is if we loosened up a little bit and said, “Ok, things are going to change. Things are going to move around. People are going to have to live in different areas.” We can accuse the people who are mass migrating out of Florida. We can call them the new Okies, right? The people from Florida are going to be in settlement zones in 50 years. We know this. Do we accept them and reconstitute our societies to build something and keep building something to protect people from climate change and disease? Or do we try to go rigid and maintain what we have, and build the equivalent of sea walls around everything?

I would hope that we would lighten up a little bit, but again, I’m not very optimistic about it. Especially when you can already see how much panic is sparked by just little, teeny changes—they’re talking about refugees from Honduras and Central America being like the Goths. They are not the Goths.


Different outfits. They don’t wear black.


They don’t even speak the same language. So how can they be the Goths? But truly, when you look at how much people from a different area can be demonized so easily for the smallest things, that when this shit actually gets real, I think that is only going to blow up even further. But I do think that there is an alternative. I do think there is an alternative strategy for dealing with all of this that will maybe see us come through it.

Is there a historical precedent for that alternative?


The Roman Empire survived the Crisis of the Third Century.


Maybe I’ll write a book about it called The Restoration of the World: Rome and the Crisis of the Third Century. Look for it in like 2024. Not that I don’t have the next 15 years planned out. I have got to get everything out of me before the flood waters come open and swamp us, and we get picked up by the monks of Leibowitz.


That is a great book, A Canticle for Leibowitz. Sparky, is this our most terrifying episode ever? It’s pretty close.

It’s pretty close. In terms of conflict, I would say our immigration episodes with Brianna are probably our most depressing. We’re not even getting close to that.

Yeah. But just in terms of terror…

I’m curious to ask our podcast host, Pete Davis, whether he thinks Mike Duncan is a prophet, a mystic, or a sage. But I think, in any case, this is bad news.


Prophet, a mystic, or a sage? Or a bullshit artist who is really just looking to sell you razors, and I’m just a hoax? I don’t know any of this stuff, I’m just in it for the razor blade money.

This is the downfall of the prophet, mystic, and the sage theory, is that it does not deal well with people who are just full of shit.


The thing I do get accused of, though, sometimes on Twitter, is that people think that I doomsay because either I enjoy it on a psychological level, or I think it plays well to an audience. People have accused me of being a doomsayer. I’m not, for the record. But they’re like, “This is the greatest time in human history to be alive.”

And there’s a lot of truth to that, but that doesn’t mean things are just going to… Pollyanna is the one who doesn’t think anything is going to go wrong, right?

10 Failed Revolutions That Almost Broke History

The French revolution is thought of as the most influential event of it’s era, leading to the rise of Napoleon, and therefore a unified Germany, and therefore Nazi Germany, and therefore the Cold War. A revolution can change everything, overthrow a stable government and it’s anyone’s guess what will happen next. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a successful revolution that didn’t change the course of history. There are dozens of failed revolutions from history that just didn’t have enough momentum to achieve their demands. These revolutions would have changed history in ways we can’t even guess to. In this list I will go into how different our history might look if these 10 failed revolutions that almost changed anything were successful.

Revolution Of 1905

The revolution of 1905 was the biggest in a series of failed revolutions against the Imperial Russian government. It lasted for over 2 years and genuinely posed a major threat to the Russian Tsar. The Tsar was forced to appease the rebelling peasants by announcing the adoption of some of their demands. He agreed to introduce a new parliament, implying Russia would slide into democracy.
How it could have changed history:
If the revolution was successful in overthrowing the Tsar, it is unlikely Russia would have entered the first world war. The first world war was a disaster and clearly paved the way for Soviet control of Russia. It is thought that the Soviet Union never would have existed if the revolution of 1905 didn’t fail.

Peasants’ Revolt

The Peasants’ Revolt was a huge revolution in the late 14th century. As the name would suggest, the lower classes of England were revolting against their feudal overlords. The revolution was caused by several things: the black death had driven people desperate, the hundred years war required higher taxes on ordinary peasants, and it just sucks to be a feudal subject. Most of the English army were either in France or Northern-England so there wasn’t much standing in the way of the peasants. They simply took control of several major cities, including London! The King was forced to flee London for safety. He met with rebel leaders and ordered those leaders immediately killed. Killing the leaders gave the royals enough time to gather soldiers and retake London. They then got to work executing anyone involved.
How it could have changed history:
The peasants wanted an end to the feudal system in England. The king didn’t change it in the end. If they were successful in changing the system, it would have changed the course of English history. And England is one of the world’s most influential countries historically.

Roman Slave Rebellion

The Roman slave rebellion is a string of failed revolutions driven by escaped slaves against Roman officials. The third revolt is the most well known as it was led by Spartacus. Incredibly, Spartacus was a former slave himself who led a massive army of 120 thousand other escaped slaves in the quest for their freedom. They also wanted to capture some Roman territory and live there free. But they were defeated after being on the run for 2 years.
How it could have changed history:
Some think their goal was to end slavery, but this is unclear. If they were successful, they would have embarrassed the Roman people and weakened their diplomatic position. The Roman public would certainly have demanded some kind of big action to resurrect the glory of Rome.

Satsuma Rebellion

The Satsuma Rebellion was when a group of Samurai warriors decided to abandon their posts and revolt against the Japanese government. It was named after the area of Satsuma, which was traditionally a place where disgraced Samurai would go to live when they couldn’t find work. The rebellion lasted almost the whole year of 1877, and commanded an army of around 20 thousand. They were rebelling against the controversial new emperor of Japan, Emperor Meiji. He took Japan from being a backwards feudal society to being a strong empire under his full control. The Satsuma was just one in a series of failed revolutions waged against him.
How it could have changed history:
If successful, Emperor Meiji wouldn’t be able to continue the progress that he later did. This included expanding the Japanese overseas territories. Japan probably wouldn’t have got involved in either the first or second world wars. That’s a significant change.

Jacobite Risings

The Jacobite were a group who believed the English monarch should be a catholic. More specifically, they believed the English monarch should be either James II or one of his many descendants. He was England’s last ruler to be catholic and during his lifetime there were several failed revolutions aiming to regain power for him. But even after he died, the Jacobite didn’t stop struggling for his descendants to return to the thrown. The Jacobite were strong in numbers for several hundred years after. All their attempts, both armed and peaceful, ultimately failed. Some still believe they operate today in secret planning the return of a catholic king.
How it could have changed history:
Well the British switch away from Catholicism did change history. The Church of England thrived and influenced the whole country. The line of kings had direct impact on the way British society developed, how the empire spread. So much would be different.

Boxer Rebellion

The Boxer rebellion was a huge Chinese uprising in 1899. The rebels, known as the Boxers, wanted less of a Christian and western presence in their country and were extremely nationalist. It was deemed as a threat to the diplomatic relations between China and the world powers. This prompted a grand allience of 8 major powers to join forces and suppress the revolution. Japan, Russia, Britain, France, Germany, America, Italy, and Austria-Hungary were the alliance. So obviously the rebels didn’t last very long.
How it could have changed history:
If the Boxers had been successful, Chinese history would be quite different. Perhaps the Imperial Chinese rulers wouldn’t have been overthrown in the early 20th century. This would have made the rise of the Chinese communist party even more unlikely. Maybe China wouldn’t be the economic superpower it is today if the Boxer rebellion had been a success.

Great Jewish Revolt

The great Jewish revolt was one of many failed revolutions attempting to attain independence Jewish independence from the Roman empire. The Jews wanted their freedom, but the Romans valued their middle-eastern land greatly. So they weren’t just going to give it up without a fight. The Jewish rebels were tough, forcing Roman officials to flee from Jerusalem and defeating a strong Syrian military force brought in to suppress them. The rebels then started massacring Romans. This caused to Empire to get desperate and call in the big guns. Five experienced legions were sent in to suppress the rebellion. They did so, and then destroyed most of Jerusalem.
How it could have changed history:
Jerusalem was an important city in the middle-east at the time. And the middle-east was seen as Rome’s soft underbelly. If Rome had lost control of Jewish land, it would have weakened them in the whole region. It’s possible they would have lost their already struggling grip on Syria, which was a great source of wealth for the Empire.

California Republic

The California Republic was a defacto independent nation that existed in 1846 for just a couple of weeks. In itself, it was a revolution. This was immediately after California was taken from Mexico by American settlers. So they decided to just make it their own country. The republic of California was born. They had a tiny military of under 300 soldiers. So the United States decided it would be an easy defeat. The republic surrendered as soon as the US soldiers arrived, and California was absorbed into America.
How it could have changed history:
If successful, the who knows what the world would be like today. Imagine if California had never joined the union, and simply remained independent. California is the most wealthy and populous American state, more than able to survive independently. Californian oil help fuel America’s rise during it’s industrialization too.

Rebellion Of 1857

Failed revolutions don’t get much closer to success than this one. The Rebellion of 1857 was a huge uprising in India against the British Empire. Lasting for 13 long months, it all started when the British wanted Indian army recruits to use a new type of gun lubrication containing animal grease. This went against both the Hindu and Muslim religion’s teachings. As India’s two biggest religions were Hinduism and Islam, this was never going to go down well. Widespread fighting broke out and the British were forced to call in foreign legions. The east-India company was weakened to the point where it was dissolved and the British government imposed direct control in India. That’s how the revolt was crushed.
How it could have changed history:
Well, if the British lost power in India… that would have been a big deal. India was one of the most valuable lands in the British empire. Without it, who knows where we would be today.

Revolutions Of 1848

The revolutions of 1848 was a massive wave of failed revolutions across all of Europe. Revolts broke out everywhere from Italy and Hungary to Germany and Denmark. All of which failed within a year. The revolutionaries aimed at liberating themselves from serfdom at the least and overthrowing their ruling monarchs at most. The revolutionary groups really didn’t work together and coordinate their attacks. The European monarchs did work together to maintain power. The events were triggered by the revolution in France. But their outcomes were quite different, resulting in almost no political change at all.
How it could have changed history:
The failed revolutions were active in 50 countries. Can you imagine 50 successful government overthrows at the same time? It would have really broken the history of Europe, and therefore the world.

Which is a revolution and which is a civil war?

No, you misunderstand the nature of our suggestion. it is precisely because the Colonists were victorious that the action is called "The American Revolution". If the effort had failed, then, once the bodies of Washington and Hancock (among others) had been taken down from the gallows, the action would undoubtedly have come to be called either "The British (not English, mind you) Civil War in America", or more likely "The Anglo-American (War of) Rebellion".

In any case, the military action marking a separatist revolution which succeeds cannot properly be called a "civil war", but rather is properly called a "war of Independence". Civil wars are prosecuted for the general purpose of "change"/"replacement", while wars of independence are prosecuted for the general purpose of "separation".



I think that @Willempie was hinting at the very consideration that I noted above.

No, you misunderstand the nature of our suggestion. it is precisely because the Colonists were victorious that the action is called "The American Revolution". If the effort had failed, then, once the bodies of Washington and Hancock (among others) had been taken down from the gallows, the action would undoubtedly have come to be called either "The British (not English, mind you) Civil War in America", or more likely "The Anglo-American (War of) Rebellion".

In any case, the military action marking a separatist revolution which succeeds cannot properly be called a "civil war", but rather is properly called a "war of Independence". Civil wars are prosecuted for the general purpose of "change"/"replacement", while wars of independence are prosecuted for the general purpose of "separation".

What is a revolution?

What is a revolution? Revolutions are the great turning points of history. A revolution is a tumultuous and transformative event that attempts to change a nation, a region or society – and in some cases even the world.

Common features

Revolutions vary in their motives and their aims. Some, like the American Revolution, seek to overthrow and replace the political order. Others, like the Russian and Chinese revolutions, also seek radical social and economic change.

Revolutions do share common features, however. One is that they are fast-moving. In a short time, often just a few years, a revolution can bring about significant change and upheaval.

Most revolutions are driven by people and groups inspired by hope, idealism and dreams of a better society. These revolutionaries attempt to change or overthrow the old order while the old order strives to maintain its power. The outcomes are confrontation, conflict, disruption and division, which can lead to war, violence and human suffering.

Eventually, the revolutionaries emerge triumphant and set about trying to create a better society. In most cases, this proves much more difficult than they had anticipated.

All revolutions are unique to their times, locations and conditions. They do not follow a single plan or model. Despite this, several revolutions have followed a similar course: they have unfolded and developed in stages or phases. Some of these phases are discussed below.

Long-term causes

Revolutions do not occur suddenly or ‘out of the blue’. They develop after a long accumulation of grievances and dissatisfaction. These grievances can be political, economic or social, or a combination of the three.

These grievances on their own may not be enough to spark a rebellion or revolution – however, they can undermine or erode faith in the ruling class, the political order or prevailing economic system. Ordinary people become dissatisfied and frustrated with their lot. Revolutionary sentiment begins to circulate and grow.

These unsettling ideas might simmer for years or even decades before any action is taken. They provide a fertile intellectual ground in which the seeds of revolution can germinate.

Short-term causes

Every revolution is triggered by at least one short-term event or crisis. These events create, worsen or highlight existing grievances, conditions or suffering. This brings about more urgent demands for action or reform.

Some events or crises that might trigger a revolution include disastrous wars or military defeats, the passing of unpopular laws, government resistance to reform, a rapid deterioration in economic conditions or standards of living, or an act of violence against the people.

Revolutionary sentiment intensifies when people believe the old regime is unwilling or incapable of reform and improvement. If the revolutionaries realise change and reform will not come ‘from above’, they become more determined to bring about change ‘from below’.


Ideas play a critical part in all revolutions. Those who seek change are motivated by new ideas about politics, economics or society.

Revolutionary ideas are developed, adapted and articulated by important writers and thinkers, such as Jefferson and Paine in America, the philosophes in France and Marx in Russia. These ideas promote revolution, explain their objectives and justify their actions.

In the American and French revolutions, for example, old ideas about monarchy and the ‘divine right of kings’ were challenged by Enlightenment ideas of self-government and republicanism. The revolutions in Russia and China were underpinned first by liberal republicanism, then later by Marxist socialism.

Revolutions often involve a struggle of ideas between the old order and the revolutionaries – or indeed between different revolutionary factions.


In the timeline of every revolution, there are critical moments when revolutionaries come into direct confrontation with the forces of the old regime.

This may be a showdown between government troops and protesting civilians, such as in Boston (America, March 1770) or on ‘Bloody Sunday’ (Russia, January 1905). Alternatively, it may be a confrontation of words or ideas, like the signing of the Declaration of Independence (America, July 1776) or the passing of the Tennis Court Oath (France, June 1789).

Whatever form they take, these flashpoints bring revolutionary ideas and movements to a head. They directly challenge the power and authority of the old regime and bring about an acceleration in the pace of revolution.

Armed struggle

Revolutions, by their nature, are violent struggles between the old regime and those who hope to remove it. Many revolutionaries prepare for armed struggle by forming militias or armies, either to protect themselves or to overthrow the old order. Meanwhile, the old regime mobilises to defend its grip on power.

Eventually, the two forces will clash – such as at Lexington Concord (America, April 1775), the Bastille (France, July 1789) and the Winter Palace (Russia, October 1917). This may lead to war.

If revolutionary war unfolds, society becomes polarised and individuals and regions are forced to take sides. The outcomes of revolutionary war may be dispossession, death and destruction.

A grab for power

Having openly demanded change and signalled their intention to fight, the revolutionaries will seek to displace or overthrow the old order.

How easily this is achieved depends on the level of popular support and military backing enjoyed by the old regime. Sometimes the old regime is so weak that a transition of political power is made swiftly and with minimal violence, such as in China (October 1911) and Russia (February-March 1917).

Sometimes the old regime may lose its political power gradually or incrementally, as occurred in France in 1788-1789. There may be a period of military struggle or attempted counter-revolution, as conservative forces resist political change and attempt to restore the power of the old regime.

Consolidation and confrontation

Once it has claimed control, the new regime will look to consolidate its grip on power. It must defeat remaining military threats or deal with lingering counter-revolutionaries. It must also face the challenge of rebuilding the new society.

Having thrown off the old political system, the revolutionaries must devise and implement a new one. Most importantly, the new regime must earn the support of the people – not just those who supported the revolution but the population at large.

The new regime must find solutions for the same social or economic problems and grievances that caused the revolution, such as debt, inflation, food shortages or the misuse of power. They must justify their actions by fulfilling their promises and the ideals of the revolution.

Division and factionalism

As the new regime attempts to rebuild society, it may become divided over aims and methods.

Revolutions tend to be better at destruction than construction. They are more effective at dismantling the old order than deciding what will replace it. Plans for a new society are often formed ‘on the run’, in the fires of the revolution.

As these plans appear, ideological divisions may emerge. The revolutionaries may disagree and form internal factions or separate groups. There may be some dispute, even conflict over the future of the new society. New leaders with different ideas or methods may also appear.


After the revolution, the new society may enter a period of radical political leadership. Radical leaders may claim the revolution is failing to meet its objectives or that the needs of the people are not being met or that the revolution is in danger from civil war, counter-revolutionaries or foreign threats.

The radicals may seek to address these problems with extreme measures, such as war, terror, grain seizures or price controls. In doing so, it may encounter opposition from political opponents, moderates or the ordinary people.

This radical phase may also mark a peak in state-sanctioned violence, such as during the Reign of Terror (France, 1793-94) and the Red Terror (Russia, 1918).


A radical phase will come to an end when the new regime becomes more moderate. The new government may relax its position or, alternatively, the radicals may be displaced by moderates.

Radical policies and methods are abandoned and possibly discredited. The radicals may be isolated or excluded there may even be a period of violent retribution against them (often dubbed a ‘White Terror’).

The new society winds back its radical policies and seeks to restore order, control, stability and prosperity. In most cases, it does this by returning to some of the structures, conventions and policies of earlier times – including from before the revolution.

Historical interpretations

Historians over time have offered many different interpretations of revolutions, their causes and their meaning.

The American historian Crane Brinton (1898-1968), who specialised in the French Revolution, famously likened revolutions to a “fever”. This analogy suggests that revolutions are a negative event, like an illness that needs to be treated or cured. Brinton described radical revolutionaries as “lunatics” and the moderates who slow or halt revolutionary change as “level-headed”.

Other historians have more measured views about revolutions. They see them as inevitable, human-driven events that are necessary for society to develop, progress and advance.

Citation information
Title: “What is a revolution?”
Authors: Michael McConnell, Steve Thompson
Publisher: Alpha History
URL: https://alphahistory.com/vcehistory/what-is-a-revolution/
Date published: June 20, 2018
Copyright: The content on this page may not be republished without our express permission. For more information on usage, please refer to our Terms of Use.

Isaac Newton

While both Kepler and Galileo’s work helped to make a case for the Copernican heliocentric system, there was still a hole in the theory. Neither can adequately explain what force kept the planets in motion around the sun and why they moved this particular way. It wasn’t until several decades later that the heliocentric model was proven by the English mathematician Isaac Newton.

Isaac Newton, whose discoveries in many ways marked the end of the Scientific Revolution, can very well be considered among one of the most important figures of that era. What he achieved during his time has since become the foundation for modern physics and many of his theories detailed in Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy) has been called the most influential work on physics.

In Principa, published in 1687, Newton described three laws of motion that can be used to help explain the mechanics behind elliptical planetary orbits. The first law postulates that an object that is stationary will remain so unless an external force is applied to it. The second law states that force is equal to mass times acceleration and a change in motion is proportional to the force applied. The third law simply stipulates that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Although it was Newton’s three laws of motion, along with law of universal gravitation, that ultimately made him a star among the scientific community, he also made several other important contributions to the field of optics, such as building he first practical reflecting telescope and developing a theory of color.

Watch the video: FINAL FANTASY XIV - Revolutions (May 2022).