The 18th century: the crisis of the Ancien Régime


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The Ancien Régime, Enlightenment and the independence of the 13 colonies of North America

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The 18th century: the crisis of the Ancien Régime

  2. 2. ANCIEN RÉGIME Expression used by the French revolutionaries to describe all they wanted to destroy. On the other hand, they wanted to establish: - A representative government, elected by the citizens - A society based on equality of all the citizens, without privileges. - A productive economy, where those who had initiative could make business without limitations.
  3. 3. THE ANCIEN RÉGIME: MAIN FEATURES - Absolute monarchy - Society divided into estates - Low production economy: subsistence agriculture and a lot of limits to the development of economic activities (guilds, interior customs, a lot of taxes) - Demography: high birth rates, high mortality rates, low natural growth (sometimes zero or negative growth)
  4. 4. ENLIGHTENMENT: DEFINITION Intellectual movement developed in Europe in the 18th century that questioned all the Ancien Régime principles. it was based on the use of Reason as the best way to know the world and transform it. The enlightened philosophers wanted to “illuminate the darkness of the world with the lights of Reason”. this is why the 18th century was also called the “century of lights” and the “Age of Reason” Elitist movement, promoted by educated people
  5. 5. PRECEDENTS (17TH CENTURY) JOHN LOCKE: English philosopher who lived the English revolutions of the 17th century. His ideas are considered to be a precedent of Enlightenment: - He criticized absolutism - He defended the division of powers - He defended the role of the State as the guarantor of the citizens rights JOHN LOCKE ISAAC NEWTON: English scientist who created the scientific method, based on observing and checking facts. He discovered the Law of Universal Gravitation ISAAC NEWTON
  6. 6. MAIN FEATURES IMMANUEL KANT “Dare to know” (SAPERE AUDE) • Absolute faith in Reason, as the best way of understanding the world. • Rejection of everything that couldn´t be explained through Reason: the authority principle, superstitions, traditions, revelations… • Optimism and trust in progress. • Knowledge as the basis of happiness. • Trust in education considered to be the best way to improve the living conditions of the people. • Religious tolerance: no religion was superior and Reason was enough to establish a morality code to determine how to behave. • Criticism of absolutism and the estate- based society and defense of freedom and equality of all the human beings. • Elitist movement, reserved to educated people
  7. 7. THE ENCYCLOPEDIA DIDEROT D´ALEMBERT Denis Diderot and Jean Rond D´Alembert compiled all the knowledge of their time. They asked the main scientists and philosophers to write articles for this project. The first edition of the Encyclopedia appeared in 1751 and had 35 volumes.
  8. 8. JEAN JACQUES ROUSSEAU MAIN IDEAS - He defended the social contract: the agreement the people and the governors sign to preserve social order. - He defended the general will: power or sovereignty lies on the people and they should use it directly, deciding by themselves (not through representatives).
  9. 9. MONTESQUIEU He defended the division of powers into three institutions (executive, legislative and judicial) and insisted on the necessity of an independent judicial power.
  10. 10. VOLTAIRE He defended: - that the power of the king had to be limited by the Parliament, - a universal tax system - religious tolerance. He strongly criticized the Church.
  11. 11. ECONOMIC THINKING: PHYSIOCRACY AND ECONOMIC LIBERALISM Physiocrats considered agriculture to be the most important economic activity of a country and they supported private property, free trade, free industry and were against any intervention of the State in economy (economic liberalism). QUESNAY one of the main physiocrats ADAM SMITH, Pioneer of economic liberalism
  12. 12. ENLIGHTENED DESPOTISM Some European monarchs adopted some ideas of the Enlightenment and introduced some reforms in their kingdoms, but, at the same time, they tried to preserve their absolute power. CATHERINE II OF RUSSIA They made administrative, educational and economic reforms, but without asking their subjects for their opinion: they did “everything for the people, but without the people”. They didn´t touch the structure of power or the privileges of nobles and clergy. This is why the reforms they made were insufficient. FREDERIC II OF PRUSSIA CHARLES III
  13. 13. INDEPENDENCE OF THE BRITISH COLONIES OF NORTH AMERICA Reasons for the colonists´ discontent: -No representatives in the British Parliament: they couldn´t express their opinion or oppose the laws against their interests. -Constant tax increase. -British trade monopoly over the colonies: they couldn´t buy or sell their products to other places. THE 13 BRITISH COLONIES
  14. 14. The expansion of the ideas of Enlightenment also had an important influence over the colonists. BOSTON TEA PARTY(1773) The revolt started as a reaction against the increase of the tea tax (the revolt slogan was “no taxation without representation”). Some colonists dressed as Indians assaulted a British ship of the East India Company at Boston harbor and threw all the tea cargo away to the sea. The British strongly repressed the revolt and discontent grew.
  15. 15. REVOLUTIONARY WAR / AMERICAN WAR OF INDEPENDENCE (1775-1783) In 1775 the war between the British and the colonists started. The first battles took place in Lexington and Concord. France and Spain supported the colonists againts the British. The representatives of the colonists met at the 2nd Continental Congress and assumed government. Lexington and Concord Battles
  16. 16. DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE (4TH JULY1776) During the 2nd Continental Congress of Philadelphia the delegates of the 13 colonies decided to declare the independence from Great Britain. Thomas Jefferson wrote the text of the declaration. The presentation of the Declaration
  17. 17. General George Washington led the North American troops. After some defeats in Saratoga (1777) and Yorktown (1781), the war finished in 1783. In Versailles Treaty Great Britain recognized the independence of the USA (United States of America). Yorktown Battle
  18. 18. DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE: CONTENT - - King George hasn´t fulfilled his role with respect to the North American colonies. Complete text: All men are equal and free and have some unalienable rights. The government ´s role is to guarantee these rights. If the government doesn´t do its work, the citizens are legitimized to break their ties with the government The colonies have decided to break their political connection with Great Britain and become an independent nation.
  19. 19. THE USA: THE FIRST “REPRESENTATIVE” GOVERNMENT George Washinton was the first president of the USA. In 1787 the USA had the first written Constitution in history. It included: - - Seven articles with the organization of the new State, based on the principles of political liberalism (representative government, division of powers, general will, social contract…) The USA was : - a presidentialist Republic: the president holds wide powers. - A federal State: every state has important powers: own laws, own courts of justice, own police… However, a big part of the population was excluded from these rights: women, poor people, slaves, native Americans.
  20. 20. In 1791 the Constitution added a Bill of Rights (the 10 first amendments)
  21. 21. The Constitution has been amended several times. Nowadays it includes 27 amendments. Some of the amendments done included the abolition of slavery, the right to vote for women, for black people, the prohibition of alcohol.