Guest Author - Rebecca Graf
During the 19th century, France and Russia were two of the most changing European powers. They had not advanced as far as Britain had in restricting the monarchy and creating a government that was more for the people by the people. New ideals as well as changes across Europe put into motion movements that would forever change each of them, yet they faced those challenges in different manners that would decide how they wound enter into the 20th century. France and Russia found their own ways to adapt to the changes in the 19the century leading them to success and failure.
France and Russia both were experiencing changes in the new century. Ideals that had taken seed in the 19th century were becoming deeply rooted. The Enlightenment reached all corners of Europe. The ideologies promoted during that time called for more equality among the people and various social classes as well as more liberties and progress within the countries though none of the thinkers proposing these ideas agreed upon the best method to obtain them. France and Russia both heard the call. Here is where the similarities end as each approached change differently.
France took the road of revolution. It would be bloody and last many years with various degrees of peace. During the most troublesome time, progress ceased while other nations including Germany and Britain surged forward. France was focused on fighting instead of development. The revolutions were an attempt to advance the nation quickly.
The Enlightenment fueled the desires of the masses and the actions of the rulers of both countries. The French expressed Enlightenment ideals in The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen written in August 1789. Though this occurred in the 18th century, it was the groundwork for the 19th century, both positive and negative. The people of France wanted the “natural, inalienable and sacred rights of man” to be protected by the government that had become too corrupt. France wanted social distinctions to not be based on birth. The nation did not want to be at the whims of a monarchy that did not seek the best interest for the citizens.
France would have to fight to get what they thought they had obtained in the French Revolution. As men assumed the role of ruler, their main goal was to return the absolute monarchy. This meant that more emphasis was placed politics and social status than on the economy and industry. Under the early rulers after the revolution, France began to fall economically. The revolution’s achievements were set back as Charles X and cut the number of eligible voters and abolished the freedom of the press so hard fought for. War would then break out again.
Blood would become France’s way of dealing with the changes as the governments fought to keep complete control as it had been in generations before. The people of France would fight the idea of returning to the past when the future beckoned them. They realized that France would never be able to compete on the global stage if it did not move forward with the rest of the world. American had already taken a huge leap of faith with great benefits. Britain and Germany were even moving forward and accepting the ideals and technology that was coming forth. Both countries were moving ahead at full speed leaving the rest of Europe behind. The ups and downs of the French revolutions of the 19th century would only find a reprieve in Napoleon III.
Only under Napoleon III did France begin to make headway economically though not politically. France was not as conservative politically and socially as it had been under the monarchy, but it was not where most of France wanted it to be. Napoleon III tried to please both sides. In the process, he tried to create a strong France that resembled that of the centuries before by encouraging growth in industry and banking. He even developed new ways to finance businesses. He improved the infrastructure of the nation which in turn promoted economic growth.
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