The French Revolution
There have been other revolutions in the history of the world, but few have had the same level of influence as the one which took place in France between 1789 and 1799. This wasn’t just a dissatisfied group of nobles rebelling against a monarchy. This was hundreds of thousands of peasants rising up and chopping off the heads of the aristocracy. To this day, the founding ideals of the revolution have delivered sweeping social changes unlike any other event in world history. No other events have the immediacy or the sheer brutal impact as the French Revolution.
As ever, the causes of the event are relentlessly debated. Fiscal mismanagement and feudalism impoverished the French working class, while the ruling aristocracy lived in gold-lined palaces. Eventually, the poor folk realized that they vastly outnumbered their social overlords and rose up in a wave of violence. The abolition of the monarchy and the establishing of a French republic was not only shocking for French people – across Europe, kings and queens suddenly began to fear that they might befall the same fate.
The three pillars of the revolution – liberty, equality, and freedom – became a rallying cry for the peasants. The ideas they put forward might have been crushed in the coming years (mostly by the European elite, who feared for their positions) but they endured. These Enlightenment ideals have become core to almost every modern democracy. While the stage was set for bloodshed, war, and (eventually) the rise of Napoleon, the French Revolution changed the world in ways which we not only still feel, but value today.