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Revolutions and Wars of Independence


American War of Independence

Great Britain regulated trade in the American colonies to such a great extent that there was growing annoyance among the settlers at the controls and checks imposed upon them. There were acts of rebellion and this hostility flared into war on 19 April, 1775; when shots were exchanged in Lexington.

The first battle of the war was fought at Bunker Hill Charlestown in which Britain won; they also scored decisive victories in New York (1776) and Philadelphia (1777). But the American Continental Congress had appointed George Washington (1732-99) to take charge of the untrained American soldiers and he inspired them to fight for their freedom. Further inspiration was provided on 4 July, 1776 when the Congress issued the Declaration of Independence drafted by Thomas Jefferson. The Declaration renounced allegiance to the British throne and resolved "that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states.'' Americans were aided in their fight by Britain's enemies in Europe and in 1777 the British general Burgoyne (1723-92) was forced to surrender at Saratoga.

In 1781 General Cornwallis (1738-1805) besieged at Yorktown by French ships which prevented aid from reaching him by sea, surrendered and the War of Independence ended. America was granted its independence in 1783 and George Washington was elected the first President of USA.

Boston tea party It is an incident related to the War of Independence in America when settlers in colonies threw a shipment of 342 chests of tea into the sea at Boston in 1773. To suppress the agitation, the colony of Massachusetts was brought under direct control of the Crown.

Greek War of Independence

The Turkish empire included south-east Europe and the Middle East. The Greeks were the first people to revolt against the Turks in 1821.

Russians supported the Greeks, Britain and France also joined in supporting the Greeks in 1827. All three countries joined together to destroy the Turkish empire and the Turks were forced to yield. The Greeks achieved independence in 1830.

Belgian War of Independence (1830)

When the Dutch gained independence in the late sixteenth century, the southern provinces of the Netherlands (roughly equal to modern Belgium) remained under the rule of Spain, and later Austria. During the Napoleonic, wars they were overrun by the French and when Napoleon was defeated in 1814 Belgium was reunited with the Netherlands as one kingdom.

The union with the Dutch was not accepted in Belgium. Although the two peoples had much in common, problems arose out of differences in religion, language and social customs. Under the Dutch king the Belgians, felt that they were being regarded as second-class citizens. This led to riots against Dutch rule in 1830 and quickly developed into a full-scale mass revolution.

The Belgians declared their independence in 1830 and drew up a national Constitution in 1831 inviting Leopold of Saxe-Coburg (1790-1865) to become their first king.

French Revolution (1789-1793)

In the 18th century France was under the despotic rule of King Louis XVI, who was not only inexperienced but also weak, feeble and lacked administrative capabilities. He believed in the Theory of Divine Right of Kings. At the time French society consisted of nobles, clergy and the commoners. Nobles belonged to the highly privileged class and enjoyed special rights. As one-fifth of the land was the property of the church, the clergy monopolized offices of the church and led a luxurious life. The commoners were isolated as the most under-privileged class which comprised peasants in villages, workers in cities and middle-class government employees.

The commoners were awakened by French philosopher of the time who attacked the church, the crown, and old traditions, of despotic rule. Montesquieu (1689-1755) who was dead against the Divine Right Theory of kings; Volatire (1664-1774) who exposed the tyranny and arbitrary practices of the King, abuses of the Church and social inequalities; Rousseau (1712-1778), were the 18h century philosophers of France, who through their writings and ideologies of liberty, equality and fraternity prepared the nation for this great revolution in France.

French Revolution not only made France a Republic but also gave new direction to the oppressed people of other countries, helped advocated and furthered the cause of liberty, fraternity and equality by awakening people against despotic rulers in their countries.

Russian Revolution (1917-1922)

The great revolution in Russia took place in two stages. The first stage of the Russian Revolution began in February 1917 with the overthrow of the Czar Nicholas II. The second stage in October of the same year led to the establishment of the world's first communist state by the Bolsheviks under Lenin.

Revolution Russia joined the Allies in World War I to 1914, and met with success in the beginning but was defeated in 1915-16 with over 5.5 million casualties in 2.5 years of war. This led to shortage of war material and food which thoroughly frustrated the soldiers.

On 7 March, 1917, workers struck work and attacked Petrograd. Farmers revolted to villages and the frustrated soldiers of World War I joined the general public to revolt against the Czar. Riots broke out and lawlessness spread throughout Russia. The Czar was dethroned and a temporary government set up under prince Kerensky's leadership. Kerensky was the follower of a midway policy (Mensheviks group) but people wanted definite social and economic changes.

Lenin who was deeply influenced by the principles of Karl Marx took over leadership of the Bolshevik party which wished to setup a common government. The unity of labourers and peasants under the leadership of Lenin made the revolution a success.

Lenin emerged as a great revolutionary leader; Czar Nicholas II and his family were assassinated, power came into the hands of the public, and landlords, traders and the clergy were reduced to destitution. The Russian revolution set up a new society on the basis of communist principles and thus the great revolution came to an end.

This was a great revolution after the French revolution (1789-93) which was not limited to Russia alone but affected almost all countries of the world. It established the ideology of Marxism and led to the independence of several countries.

Chinese Revolution

The Manchu Dynasty was overthrown and a republic proclaimed in October 1911. First President Sun Yat-Sen resigned in favour of strongman Yuan Shih-Kai. Sun organized the Parliamentarian `Kuomintany' Party. Students launched protests on 4 May, 1919 against League of Nations concessions in China to Japan. Nationalist, liberal and socialist ideas and political groups spread. The Communist Party was founded in 1921. An Communist regime took power in Mongolia with Soviet support in 1921.

Algerian War of Independence (1947-62)

In 1947 Algeria became politically unified with France but the 86 percent Muslim population (Arabs and Berber) revolted against French domination and in 1954 war broke out. French deployed half a million troops against the rebels, but instead of suppressing the revolution, troops supported the agitation and it turned into a sort of civil war. General De Gaulle was called upon and he ultimately planned the Algerian independence which was achieved in 1962.

Creation of Bangladesh

Elections in Pakistan in 1970 resulted in a split between the Punjabis of West Pakistan and the Bengalis of East Pakistan. By March 1971 the tension between the two groups had escalated. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (1920-75) of East Pakistan and his separatist party the Awami League launched a civil disobedience movement and called for independence from Pakistan's rule. On Pakistan's Republic Day (March 23) people dragged down its national flag and unfurled the flag of Bangladesh. Severe fighting took place between the separatist (Mukti Bahini) and Pakistan's forces stationed in East Pakistan. Mujibur Rahman was charged with treason. However, formal independence was declared on 17 April, 1971 and fierce fighting continued in which India supported the separatist group. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was nominated President of Bangladesh while in jail and returned to Bangladesh in January 1972 to a tumultuous welcome. He was, however, assassinated in 1975.

Collapse of the Soviet Empire

In 1985 President Gorbachov inherited a collapsing empire. Constricted by domestic pressures, he chose not to intervene when, in a few dramatic months of late 1989 and early 1990, communist governments of Eastern Europe collapsed under popular pressure and new regimes declared themselves independent of Soviet control. The tearing down of the Berlin Wall, and subsequent reunification of Germany was the most powerful symbol of change. The situation was little better in the republics which constituted the Soviet Union. The people were increasingly disillusioned by falling living standards and inefficient government. Powerful nationalists forces, from the southern republics of Armenia to Azerbaijan to the old Baltic States in the north, now threatened to break up the Soviet Union from within. In August 1991 an attempt by communist `hard-liners' to restore the old system in a coup d'etat failed, leaving the central Soviet government stripped of any real power. As one republic after another announced succession it was quickly clear that the world possessed another `sick man'<197>with all the attendant dangers. The collapse of Soviet Union signaled the end of superpower confrontation.