Age of Revolutions

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With the expression “the age of revolutions” we indicate that period in which Britain was influenced by 2 historical events: on one side, the Industrial Revolution changed Britain’s social structure; on the other side, the French Revolution spread new ideas and beliefs.Through this kind of revolution ,British society aimed to get rid of old forms of government to search new ways to govern.
We don’t have to forget that during the Augustan age Britain was more stable politically speaking, but all changed after the American Declaration of Independence (1776), who sealed the birth of the US , and so, the loss of the American colonies by Britain. In 1776, in fact, Thomas Jefferson wrote up the Declaration of Independence, in which he declared the egalitarian principles of the new America, where the rights to be guaranteed were those of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”.


The expression “Industrial Revolution” usually refers to that period in which England had an economic development from 1760 to the middle of the 19th century,and it sealed the Britain’s transformation from an agricultural to an industrial country.
During this revolution , new sources of power (for example coal and steam) and technological inventions ( like the steam engine) were discovered.
But the drastic change was the movement of rural population to the cities to find work, because agriculture in the countryside was gradually replaced by industrial practices ,considered more productive and efficient. Even if people found work as industrial labourers, masses’ living conditions were really bad: in fact, they lived in poverty, and often in overcrowded places. Even working conditions were not better, because people worked up to 16 hours a day, and women and children took poor wages.


The French Revolution (1789-1791) brought an age of political and social changes throughout Europe.
In Britain, it created 2 different currents of thinking : on one side,it had many supporters among Romantic poets such as Blake,Coleridge and Wordsworth ; on the other side, many thinkers condamned the revolution’s violence, such as Edmund Burke in his Reflections on the French Revolution .
In fact, while before the Revolution had the purpose to eliminate the aristocracy,now it became a bloody power struggle among different groups. The Jacobins, led by Maximilien Robespierre,mobilised a huge army to obtain their aims and to assert the idea of liberty, equality and fraternity for all.


With the advent of the Industrial Revolution,there was the growing worry for the unemployment ,caused by the introduction of new machines. All that brought to the Luddite Riots, who took their name from a hero to the workers , Ned Ludd. Even if the Luddites were capable to destroy many machines in Nottingham, their movement was soon stopped.Another rising was the Peterloo Massacre, where a lot of people in support of parliamentary reform were dispersed by the army from St.Peter’s field in Manchester.The term “Peterloo” refers, in an ironic kind of way, to the battle of Waterloo,and surely this massacre marked a turning point in British parliamentary history.