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The Atlantic Revolutions were a revolutionary wave in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It was associated with the Atlantic World during the era from the 1770s to the 1820s.

It shook the Americas and Europe, including the United States (1775–1783), France and French-controlled Europe (1789–1814), Haiti (1791–1804), and Spanish America (1810–1825).[1] There were smaller upheavals in Switzerland, Russia, and Brazil. The revolutionaries in each country knew of the others and to some degree were inspired by or emulated them.[2]

Independence movements in the New World began with the American Revolution, 1775–1783, in which France, the Netherlands and Spain assisted the new United States of America as it secured independence from Britain. In the 1790s the Haitian Revolution broke out. With Spain tied down in European wars, the mainland Spanish colonies secured independence around 1820.[3]

In long-term perspective, the revolutions were mostly successful. They spread widely the ideals of republicanism, the overthrow of aristocracies, kings and established churches. They emphasized the universal ideals of the Enlightenment, such as the equality of all men, including equal justice under law by disinterested courts as opposed to particular justice handed down at the whim of a local noble. They showed that the modern notion of revolution, of starting fresh with a radically new government, could actually work in practice. Revolutionary mentalities were born and continue to flourish to the present day.[4]

Various connecting threads among these varied uprisings include a concern for the "Rights of Man" and freedom of the individual; an idea (often predicated on John Locke or Jean-Jacques Rousseau) of popular sovereignty; belief in a "social contract", which in turn was often codified in written constitutions; a certain complex of religious convictions often associated with Deism or Voltairean agnosticism, and characterized by veneration of reason; abhorrence of feudalism and often of monarchy itself. The Atlantic Revolutions also had many shared symbols, including the name "Patriot" used by so many revolutionary groups; the slogan of "Liberty"; the liberty cap; Lady Liberty or Marianne; the tree of liberty or liberty pole, and so on.

Individuals and Movements

See also

  • Atlantic history, on historiography


  1. Wim Klooster, Revolutions in the Atlantic World: A Comparative History (2009)
  2. Laurent Dubois and Richard Rabinowitz, eds. Revolution!: The Atlantic World Reborn (2011)
  3. Jaime E. Rodríguez O., The Independence of Spanish America (1998)
  4. Robert R. Palmer, The Age of the Democratic Revolution: A Political History of Europe and America, 1760–1800. (2 vol, 1959–1964)


  • Geggus, David P. The Impact of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World (2002)
  • Jacques Godechot. France and the Atlantic revolution of the eighteenth century, 1770-1799 (1965)
  • Gould, Eliga H. and Peter S. Onuf, eds. Empire and Nation : The American Revolution in the Atlantic World (2004)
  • Greene, Jack P., Franklin W. Knight, Virginia Guedea, and Jaime E. Rodríguez O. “AHR Forum: Revolutions in the Americas", American Historical Review (2000) 105#1 92–152. Advanced scholarly essays comparing different revolutions in the New World. in JSTOR
  • Klooster, Wim. Revolutions in the Atlantic World: A Comparative History (2009)
  • Palmer, Robert. The Age of Democratic Revolutions 2 vols. (1959, 1964)
  • Sepinwall, Alyssa G. "Atlantic Revolutions", in Encyclopedia of the Modern World, ed. Peter Stearns (2008), I: 284 – 289
  • Verhoeven, W.M. and Beth Dolan Kautz, eds. Revolutions and Watersheds: Transatlantic Dialogues, 1775-1815 (1999)

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