Articles, Blog

The Bourgeois Revolution: World Revolutions #2

October 12, 2019


This video is brought to you by your contributions
on Patreon. Click here to lend your support to history
education online today. Hey folks, This is part two in a hot potato history series
with Cypher over at Cynical Historian. Each week we’re going to alternate talking
about major revolutions in world history. Last week, Cypher talked about The General
Crisis, a period where the world became more centralized in terms of organization. What we are talking about today is where we
see a major shift in who holds the power in society. A new class of wealthy people arose, and because
of changes in economics and technology, became extremely powerful, in many ways toppling
the rule of kings and emperors. At the beginning of this period in the western
world from the mid 1770s to 1815, called the Bourgeois revolution, people still lived under
aristocratic rule. Even England after the English civil war gave
much of its power to the king, lords, earls, dukes, and whatnot. This aristocratic class held its power by
owning land. In a society dominated by farming, land roughly
equated power. However, things were beginning to change. There has always been a small class of people
who didn’t own farmland, but made an income as artisans. Butchers, bakers, candlestick makers, you
know the drill. Their lives were often modest, as their entire
existence relied on selling enough of their stuff to feed, clothe, and house themselves. Given how long these products would take to
make, this was quite a feat. Around the same time, the european powers
were also in a mad dash to colonize the world, finding that conquering, enslaving, and subjugating
the globe was very profitable. This colonization led to a massive influx
in raw goods and a corresponding drop in prices for those goods, which was far more than our
artisan class could possibly compete with. The result was that many colonial agricultural
plantations throughout the British empire needed to reduce the cost of labour in order
to make profits, hence the explosion of slavery. The price changes also meant that the market
called for many MANY more people in the manufacturing sector, rather than farmhands. We should also pause, and talk about some
key technological innovations in this period that contributed to the shifting scales of
power. Around the 1760s, huge inventions in chemical
engineering, and iron production made goods much cheaper, and more efficient use of water
power, and even steam power meant that the act of making manufactured goods could skyrocket. So some entrepreneurial people changed their
tactic of making stuff out of their own houses, and instead started buying the materials,
distributing it to many workers, and giving them a share of their profits rather than
the workers keeping all the profit themselves like in the past. By owning the raw material, the entrepreneurs
were entitled in their minds to the lion’s share of the profit. This later developed into manufactories, where
entrepreneurs would have large buildings where they would pay people to work, giving them
money by the hour rather than based on how much they made. This was the first time we had people going
to work, clocking in, and clocking out. When water and steam power was added to the
mix, new machines allowed more stuff to be made, with workers who had less skill. In just a few decades, it was possible to
be very rich without having peasants, serfs, and slaves working for you on farms. You could own a few factories, pay your workers
as low a wage as you could get away with and make some mad profit (more on these guys in
the future installment of this series) . This new wealthy class, just like Rodney Dangerfield,
had issues with getting respect. In this period, the idea of working for your
money was actually a sign of low birth, and aristocrats refused to acknowledge these people
as part of the rich people club. Even southern gentlemen who actually embraced
this philosophy were rejected as peripheral riff raff. They often mocked their attempts to act like
the wealthy. The new rich did not sit idly by as they were
mocked by the aristocrats. They developed their own sets of values. These ideas consisted of the sacredness of
owning and working property, their demands for the right to manage their own affairs
without giving tribute to local lords, and the desire to think and worship as they saw
fit. It eventually resulted in the book Common
Sense by Thomas Paine, who wrote that he didn’t see all that much use for kings and lords. All of this led to a string of revolutions
throughout the western world in the late 1700s and early 1800s. When the British, after the seven years war,
refused their 13 colonies the right to expand into native territory, imposed taxation to
pay off the king’s war debts, and suppressed the freedom of speech in Boston, this group
said no more. They revolted, using the language they had
developed over the centuries of liberty and property. Ideas that have roots as far back as the English
Civil War discussed last week. The revolt escalated into a revolution, and
in 1776, representatives of this class from the colonies declared their land an independent
state. By 1783, they were internationally recognized
as the United States of America. The new US constitution created in 1787 made
sure to implement a form of democracy, but one that left out anyone but this bourgeoisie
class from voting. Much of the western world heard about these
ideas, which while designed for the new rich, were written in very universal language. All men are created equal, life liberty, and
the pursuit of happiness, etc. These ideas would be received very well in
other parts of the world. For example, In France, where the government
was very aristocratic, and very unequal, people started to resent their leaders. Again, the imposition of high taxes, a bad
harvest, and the resentment of the privileges of the aristocrats led to a very fast revolution
in 1789. The French revolutionaries abolished feudalism,
threw out the catholic church, and established the rights of man and the citizen. This is actually where our terms left and
right wing come from, as left wing revolutionaries fought with right wing monarchists. The revolutionaries declared a democratic,
secular state with freedom of religion, divorce, decriminalization of same sex relationships,
and even rights for black and jewish people. The reaction from Europe was fast and brutal. France quickly found itself at war with basically
the entire continent. The revolution then began to have issues with
organization and rule. A committee led by Maximilien Robespierre
imposed a dictatorship that executed anyone who disagreed with them as counter-revolutionary. Another council, called the directory then
took over in 1795, but kept delaying elections. In a military coup, they fell to Napoleon
Bonaparte. Bonaparte’s rulership was marked by wars
where France conquered much of Europe, toppling monarchies, and imposing these new ideas inspired
by the Americans. The French revolution sparked conflicts around
the world, and led to the independence of colonies like Mexico and Haiti, as well as
unrest in India and China. It would be the decline of the absolute monarchies
that came out of the general crisis, and the rise of the modern state. Many call this the beginning of the “modern”
era. Following these bourgeois revolutions, we
enter a new world, where kings that dominated the world begin to lose their power, and in
their place, rises a new class of people, the business owners, and the professionals
who would reign supreme. Will this dominance last? Well, we will just have to see when Cypher
picks up the story on the spring of nations next week. There will be a link somewhere around here
when it’s up. Do you think the entire world can experience
a revolution like this, or are there just too many pieces that aren’t connected? Let me know what you think down below. If this is your first time here, and you want
to see more history videos, subscribe to this channel, and click on the i in the corner
to see the whole series so far. Also, my friend Will and I started a podcast
about the life as a growing youtuber, full of advice for growing a channel and making
videos. And of course come back soon for more Step
Back.

2 Comments

  • Reply Tristan Does stuff September 17, 2019 at 11:31 am

    I'm just like you I'm just like you're just like me you're just like me we both work for the bourgeoisie

  • Reply Ivy YT October 1, 2019 at 7:22 pm

    Don't-

  • Reply STARRYnight SPILLS October 7, 2019 at 10:56 pm

    All of the birds died 1986 due to reagan killing them and replacing them with spies that are now watching us THE BIRDS WORK FOR THE BOURGEOSIE

  • Leave a Reply