The 10 Most Important Revolutions in History

By Joseph Kiprop on May 28 2018 in Society

The storming of the Bastille, 1789, part of the French Revolution.
The storming of the Bastille, 1789, part of the French Revolution.

Over the course of civilization, there have been several incidents which have forever altered human history where ordinary people came together to bring down oppressive regimes. These movements relied on the unity of the involved parties and had some becoming precursors to civil and international war.

10. Chinese communist revolution

On October 1, 1949, Mao Zedong, theleader of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), proclaimed the creation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The declaration brought to end the costly civil war between the CCP and the National Party or Kuomintang (KMT), which began immediately after the WWII and there had been on and off conflict between the parties since the 1920’s. The formation of PRC helped to end the long governmental turmoil in China which started with the Chinese Revolution in 1911. As the mainland China fell to the communists in 1949, the US suspended all diplomatic relations with PRC for several decades

9. Iranian revolution

The Iranian Revolution (also known as the Islamic Revolution) was a period where Iranians conducted numerous demonstrations against the US-backed Pahlavi dynasty and ended with the overthrow of the leader, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi and imposing an Islamic state led by Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The Iranian Revolution grabbed international attention with university students being heavily involved. The Islamic government called for the rejection of capitalism among other ideas which were considered as “Western,” an action which caused a diplomatic row between Iran and the United States. The Iranian Revolution became an inspiration to other movements all over the world including the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.

8. Haitian revolution

The Haitian Revolution was a successful anti-slavery war which took place in the then French colony of Saint-Domingue (today Haiti). The revolution which lasted for over 12 years began on August 21, 1791, and ended on January 1, 1804, and cost hundreds of thousands of lives. The Haiti rebels were fighting against the institution of slavery, and their victory changed the global stance on slavery. Many subsequent slave revolts all over the Americas and the 20th-century civil rights movements were inspired by the success of the Haitian Revolution.

7. Industrial revolution

The Industrial Revolution was a global movement in the early 19th century and involved the transition to mechanization of the then hand production methods. The Industrial Revolution’s origin is traced to Great Britain and was characterized by increased use of steam power and the development of heavy machinery and the rise of the factory system. The Industrial Revolution remains one of the most pivotal moments in human civilization as many significant innovations improved the standards of living of the people with many job opportunities being at the factories. Economists even view the Industrial Revolution the most critical phase of human civilization after the domestication of plants and animals.

6. Revolutions of 1848

The Revolutions of 1848 were a series of political upheavals which occurred in 1848 all over Europe and became the most widespread wave of revolutions to happen in Europe. The Revolutions of 1848 involved France, Germany, the Austrian Empire, the Italian States, Poland, and the Kingdom of Hungary among others and were mainly democratic. While the revolutions occurred almost simultaneously across the continent, there was zero coordination between the involved countries. The Revolutions of 1848 left a lasting legacy and caused the end of the feudal system of government in many countries and saw the growth of democracy in Europe.

5. Cuban revolution

The Cuban Revolution was a revolt which occurred in the island nation of Cuba and culminated in the overthrowing of the Batista-led authoritarian government. The revolution took place for five years beginning on July 26th, 1953 and ending on January 1st, 1959. In the years preceding the revolution, the Cuban public was under immense pressure due to high levels of unemployment, rising inflation, and limited water infrastructure. The rebels led by Fidel Castro, his brother Raul Castro and Che Guevara began sporadic attacks against the government and eventually seized control of the country in January 1st, 1959. Fidel Castro immediately imposed a revolutionary socialist government and nationalized major industries. The Cuban Revolution was of great significance as it began a long strained bilateral relationship between the United States and Cuba. The revolution also saw the government enact several policies on social-economic reform.

4. Xinhai revolution

The Xinhai Revolution was the 1911 revolution in China which led to the collapse of the last imperial dynasty in the country, the Qing Dynasty. While the revolution played a significant role in shaping the modern social and economic policies of the country, it was also one of the most violent moments in Chinese history and cost hundreds of thousands of lives. The primary cause of the revolution was growing public disdain of the Qing Dynasty which was accused of having archaic policies and not being able to modernize the country, allegations which were compounded by China’s loss during the First Sino-Japanese War of 1895. The Xinhai Revolution lasted four months and resulted in the end of imperial rule in China and saw the establishment of the Provisional Government of the Republic of China. The Xinhai Revolution was of great significance as it ended centuries of dynasties in China and ushered the country to modernization.

3. French revolution

The French Revolution was a 10-year period where many social and political reforms took place. The French Revolution began in 1789 and ended in 1799 and changed modern history in France and Europe in general. While historians are not sure of the exact cause of the revolution, several factors can be pointed as the key triggers and most notable being the increasing social and economic inequality. In preceding years, France had been involved in several foreign wars including the American Revolutionary War and the Seven Years’ War which had grave implications for the economic status of the country. The outcome of the revolution set a precedent in the global social-economic models with the monarch being replaced by a democratic republic.

2. American revolution

The American Revolution, which took place between 1765 and 1783, began after members of the American colonial society refused to submit to Great Britain’s King and Parliament’s authority. The decision by the Parliament of Great Britain to impose taxes on the Americans irked the colonists who went ahead and destroyed a consignment of taxed tea from the East India Company. The action caused Britain to close down Boston Harbor until perpetrators of the vandalism were brought to justice. With time these economic tussles grew to become violent protests where the colonists who were against Great Britain’s decisions (known as Patriots) clashed with colonists who backed Great Britain (loyalists). The eventual war drew in other international players including France, Spain, and the Dutch to become the American Revolutionary War of 1775-1783. In its aftermath, the American Revolution saw the drafting of the Constitution of the United States and later the independence of the United States.

1. Russian revolution

The Russian Revolution is the term used to describe two revolutions which occurred in Russia in 1917 between February and October. The first revolution, known as the February Revolution, was focused on the then Russian capital, Petrograd, and led to the collapse of the Russian Empire and the abdication of its leader, Emperor Nicholas II and the establishment of a provisional government. The second phase of the Russian Revolution, known as the October Revolution was led by Vladimir Lenin who led Soviets in overthrowing the provisional government and imposed a communist government. The October Revolution was significant because out of it Moscow was chosen as the nation’s capital and the nation became a communist state.

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