1 – America 1776 This was a Revolution by relatively wealthy landowners and merchants who had colonised the east coast of America. They rebelled against the authority of the British Crown; essentially this was a revolt against taxation without representation. Largely because these colonies were so far away the revolution was not easily supressed. Eventually these separatist colonies formed a Union and elected a President, who unlike the kings of Europe had no hereditary succession but were to be elected. They also had a declaration of citizens rights. These were two new departures and had lasting consequences. The importance of the individual and the idea of the pursuit of happiness, even if in early drafts this was the pursuit of property – were indeed a new basis on which to run society. And this persists to this day in the ideas of Conservativism, that individual freedom is more important than any consideration for others.
2 – France 1789 This was really a different type of revolution, driven by poverty and oppression of the masses by the Aristocracy. The Revolution was soon hijacked by a few radical individuals who pursued those born into riches and power ruthlessly. Eventually this led to the rise of a new ‘king’ – Napoleon. But the ideas of Liberty, Fraternity and Equality are still at the heart of the French constitution; that all men (not sure anyone was that concerned about women) are brothers and free from oppression and equal under the law. These ideas have been more or less universally accepted by most Western countries – and are in some ways the opposite of the American ideal.
3 – Russia 1917 This was again brought about by incredible hardship, but also military defeats and an unbending Royalty. This was a longer lasting revolution, and again it was taken over by a corrupt elite. The main idea of this communist pursuit was that the individual was completely at the service of the state; the state being the physical manifestation of the will of the people. Of course, this failed, but not after scaring the ruling elites in most other Nations to their core; the fear of the mob was the main driver of the huge increases in standards of living for poorer people in the West. Without the Russian revolution decent working conditions, decent housing, health services and education would have been far harder to achieve. Without the example of Communism they are slowly being eroded.
No-one can say if there will be any further Revolutions, but it doesn’t seem likely. But the battles continue – the individual versus society, the freedom to do as one likes against the freedom from the oppression by those who are stronger than others, Government for the rich and powerful or for the many, the power of the individual against the power of the state. Many died, especially in the last two revolutions – but the ides still live on. We must never forget them.