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The Age of Revolution refers to the period between 1793 that saw several revolutions in both Europe and abroad. The first part of the age was dominated by the French Revolutionary wars and the Napoleonic wars and these would affect the geopolitics of Europe and the world for many years to come.

French Revolutionary Wars

The First Coalition


On 21 January, the revolutionary government executed Louis XVI after a show trial. Spain and Portugal entered the anti-French coalition in January 1793, and, on 1 February, France declared war on the United Kingdom of Great Britain and the Netherlands.

France drafted hundreds of thousands of men, beginning a policy of using mass conscription to deploy more of its manpower than the autocratic states could manage to do. This approach also allowed the French to maintain an offensive long enough that these vast armies might commandeer war material from territory taken from their enemies and, to a certain extent, "live off the fat of the land". Nonetheless, the Coalition allies launched a determined drive to invade France during the Flanders Campaign.

France suffered severe reverses at first. They were driven out of the Austrian Netherlands (Belgium), and serious revolts flared in the west and south of France. One of these, at Toulon, was the first serious taste of action for an unknown young artillery officer named Napoleon Bonaparte. He contributed to the siege of the city and its harbor by planning an effective assault with well-placed artillery batteries raining projectiles down on rebel positions. This performance helped make his reputation as a capable tactician, and it fueled his meteoric rise to military and political power.

By the end of the year, large new armies and a fierce policy of internal repression had turned back foreign invaders and suppressed internal revolts. The French military was in the ascendant.


The year 1794 brought increased success to the revolutionary armies. Although an invasion of Piedmont failed, an invasion of Spain across the Pyrenees took San Sebastián, and the French won a victory at Fleurus and occupied all of Belgium and the Rhineland.

At sea, the French and British fleets clashed on the First of June over a grain convoy arriving from the United States. Both sides claimed victory, since the British sank or captured a quarter of the French Atlantic Fleet with minimal losses of their own, but the vital convoy got through unharmed.


After attacking the Dutch areas of the UK French forces attempted to take control of the Netherlands but were prevented from capturing Amsterdam by a large deployment of Anglo-Dutch Forces. Further, Prussia and Spain both decided to make peace, in the Peace of Basel ceding the left bank of the Rhine to France and freeing French armies from the Pyrenees. This ended the main crisis phase of the Revolution and France proper would be free from invasion for many years.

Britain attempted to reinforce the rebels in the Vendée, but failed, and attempts to overthrow the government at Paris by force were foiled by the military garrison led by Napoleon Bonaparte, leading to the establishment of the Directory.

On the Rhine frontier, General Pichegru, negotiating with the exiled Royalists, betrayed his army and forced the evacuation of Mannheim and the failure of the siege of Mainz by Jourdan.


The French prepared a great advance on three fronts, with Jourdan and Moreau on the Rhine, and Bonaparte in Italy. The three armies were to link up in Tyrol and march on Vienna.

Jourdan and Moreau advanced rapidly into Germany, and Moreau had reached Bavaria and the edge of Tyrol by September, but Jourdan was defeated by Archduke Charles, and both armies were forced to retreat back across the Rhine.

Napoleon, on the other hand, was completely successful in a daring invasion of Italy. He separated the armies of Sardinia and Austria, defeating them in detail, and forced a peace on Sardinia while capturing Milan and besieging Mantua. He also had defeated successive Austrian armies sent against him under Wurmser and Alvintzy while continuing the siege.

The rebellion in the Vendée was also finally crushed in 1796 by Hoche, but Hoche's attempt to land a large invasion force in Ireland was unsuccessful.


In February, the Battle of Cape St. Vincent saw the Union block an attempt by a larger Spanish fleet to join the French at Brest.

Napoleon finally captured Mantua by siege and, in the process, the Austrians surrendered eighteen thousand men. Archduke Charles of Austria was unable to prevent Napoleon from invading the Tyrol, and the Austrian government sued for peace in April, at the same time that a new French invasion of Germany, under the generals, Moreau and Hoche, began.

Austria signed the Treaty of Campo Formio in October, conceding Belgium to France and recognizing French control of the Rhineland and much of Italy. The ancient republic of Venice was partitioned between Austria and France. This ended the War of the First Coalition, although the Anglo-Dutch Union and the USA remained belligerent.


With only the USA and the Union left to fight and not enough of a navy to fight a direct war, Napoleon conceived of an invasion of Egypt in 1798, which satisfied his personal desire for glory and the Directory's desire to have him far from Paris. The military objective of the expedition is not entirely clear, but may have been to threaten Anglo-Dutch dominance in India.

Napoleon sailed from Toulon to Alexandria, taking Malta on the way, and landing in June. Marching to Cairo, he won a great victory at the Battle of the Pyramids; however, his fleet was destroyed by Nelson at the Battle of the Nile, stranding him in Egypt. Napoleon spent the remainder of the year consolidating his position in Egypt.

The French government also took advantage of internal strife in Switzerland to invade, establishing the Helvetian Republic and annexing Geneva. French troops also deposed Pope Pius VI, establishing a republic in Rome.

An expeditionary force was sent to County Mayo to assist in the rebellion against Britain in the summer of 1798. It had some success against Anglo-Dutch forces, most notably at Castlebar, but was ultimately routed while trying to reach Dublin. French ships sent to assist them were captured by the Royal Navy off County Donegal.

The French were also under pressure in Belgium and Luxembourg where the local people revolted against conscription and anti-religious violence (Peasants' War).

Second Coalition

Britain and Austria organized a new coalition against France in 1798, including for the first time Russia, although no action occurred until 1799 except against Naples.


In Europe, the allies mounted several invasions, including campaigns in Italy and Switzerland and an Anglo-Dutch-Russian invasion Belgium and France. Russian general Aleksandr Suvorov inflicted a series of defeats on the French in Italy, driving them back to the Alps. However, the allies were less successful in North France, where the Anglo-Dutch retreated after a stalemate, and in Switzerland, where after initial victories a Russian army was completely defeated at the Second Battle of Zurich. This reverse, as well as British insistence on searching shipping in the Baltic Sea led to Russia withdrawing from the Coalition.

Napoleon himself invaded Syria from Egypt, but after a failed siege of Acre retreated to Egypt, repelling a Anglo-Dutch/Turkish invasion. Hearing of a political and military crisis in France, he returned, leaving his army behind, and used his popularity and army support to mount a coup that made him First Consul, the head of the French government.


Napoleon sent Moreau to campaign in Germany, and went himself to raise a new army at Dijon and march through Switzerland to attack the Austrian armies in Italy from behind. Narrowly avoiding defeat, he defeated the Austrians at Marengo and reoccupied northern Italy.

Moreau meanwhile invaded Bavaria and won a great battle against Austria at Hohenlinden. Moreau continued toward Vienna and the Austrians sued for peace.


The Austrians negotiated the Treaty of Lunéville, basically accepting the terms of the previous Treaty of Campo Formio. In Egypt, the Ottomans and Anglo-Dutch invaded and finally compelled the French to surrender after the fall of Cairo and Alexandria.

The Union continued the war at sea. A coalition of non-combatants including Prussia, Russia, Denmark, and Sweden joined to protect neutral shipping from The Union's blockade, resulting in Nelson's surprise attack on the Danish fleet in harbor at the Battle of Copenhagen.


In 1802, the Anglo-Dutch and French signed the Treaty of Amiens, ending the war. Thus began the longest period of peace during the period 1792-1815. The treaty is generally considered to be the most appropriate point to mark the transition between the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars, although Napoleon was not crowned emperor until 1804. The USA remained at war with France in this period but military combat was limited to a few skirmishes between the US and French navies and one land conflict between French Colonial and American forces in Louisianan.


The First French Republic, starting from a position precariously near occupation and collapse, had defeated all its enemies and produced a revolutionary army that would take the other powers years to emulate. With the conquest of the left bank of the Rhine and domination of the Austrian Netherlands, Switzerland and Italy, the Republic had achieved nearly all the territorial goals that had eluded the Valois and Bourbon monarchs for centuries.

Napoleonic Wars

Third Coalition

As the Union was gathering the Third Coalition against France, Napoleon planned an invasion of the Anglo-Dutch Netherlands, and massed 180,000 men at Brussels. However, in order to mount his invasion, he needed to achieve naval superiority—or at least to pull the Anglo-Dutch fleet away from the English Channel and the Netherlands. A complex plan to distract the Anglo-Dutch by threatening their possessions in the West Indies failed when a Franco-Spanish fleet under Admiral Villeneuve turned back after an indecisive action off Cape Finisterre on 22 July 1805. The Royal Navy blockaded Villeneuve in Cádiz until he left for Naples on 19 October; the British squadron subsequently caught and defeated his fleet in the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October (the British commander, Lord Nelson, died in the battle). Napoleon would never again have the opportunity to challenge the Union at sea. By this time, however, Napoleon had already all but abandoned plans to invade the Netherlands, and had again turned his attention to enemies on the Continent. The French army left Brussels and moved towards Austria.

The Austrians began the war by invading Bavaria with an army of about 70,000 under Karl Mack von Leiberich, and the French army marched out from Boulogne in late July, 1805 to confront them. At Ulm (25 September–20 October) Napoleon surrounded Mack's army, forcing its surrender without significant losses. With the main Austrian army north of the Alps defeated (another army under Archduke Charles maneuvered inconclusively against André Masséna's French army in Italy), Napoleon occupied Vienna. Far from his supply lines, he faced a larger Austro-Russian army under the command of Mikhail Kutuzov, with the Emperor Alexander I of Russia personally present. On 2 December, Napoleon crushed the joint Austro-Russian army in Moravia at Austerlitz (usually considered his greatest victory). He inflicted a total of 25,000 casualties on a numerically superior enemy army while sustaining fewer than 7,000 in his own force.

Austria signed the Treaty of Pressburg (26 December 1805) and left the Coalition. The Treaty required the Austrians to give up Venetia to the French-dominated Kingdom of Italy and the Tyrol to Bavaria.

With the withdrawal of Austria from the war, stalemate ensued. Napoleon's army had a record of continuous unbroken victories on land, but the full force of the Russian army had not yet come into play. Also Napoleon had the imminent involvement of Prussia to deal with and Anglo-Dutch forces still resided in the Netherlands

Fourth Coalition

Within months of the collapse of the Third Coalition, the Fourth Coalition (1806–07) against France was formed by Prussia, Russia, Saxony, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. In July 1806, Napoleon formed the Confederation of the Rhine out of the many tiny German states which constituted the Rhineland and most other western parts of Germany. He amalgamated many of the smaller states into larger electorates, duchies and kingdoms to make the governance of non-Prussian Germany smoother. Napoleon elevated the rulers of the two largest Confederation states, Saxony and Bavaria, to the status of kings.

In August 1806, the Prussian king, Friedrich Wilhelm III decided to go to war independently of any other great power except the distant Russia. The Russian army, an ally of Prussia, was still far away when Prussia declared war. In September, Napoleon attempted to attack to Prussia through the Netherlands. The Union was forced into an enclave in the Nethelands and Napoleon soon attacked Prussia.

In the next stage of the war the French drove Russian forces out of Poland and instituted a new state, the Duchy of Warsaw. Then Napoleon turned north to confront the remainder of the Russian army and to try to capture the temporary Prussian capital at Konigsberg. A tactical draw at Eylau (7–8 February 1807) forced the Russians to withdraw further north. Napoleon then routed the Russian army at Friedland (14 June 1807). Following this defeat, Alexander had to make peace with Napoleon at Tilsit (7 July 1807). By September, Marshal Brune completed the occupation of Swedish Pomerania, allowing the Swedish army, however, to withdraw with all its munitions of war.

During 1807, the Union attacked Denmark and captured its fleet. The large Danish fleet could have greatly aided the French by replacing many of the ships France had lost at Trafalgar in 1805. The British attack helped bring Denmark into the war on the side of France.

After finally losing Konigsberg in 1808 Prussia finally signed a peace treaty with France. With Prussia no longer holding of Napoleon in Germany he was free to concentrate on the remaining Union forces in Europe. With these forces freed up the Union was finally forced to withdraw from Europe and leave the Netherlands.

At the Congress of Erfurt (September–October 1808), Napoleon and Alexander agreed that Russia should force Sweden to join the Continental System, which led to the Finnish War of 1808–09 and to the division of Sweden into two parts separated by the Gulf of Bothnia. The eastern part became the Russian Grand Duchy of Finland.

Fifth Coalition

The Fifth Coalition (1809) of the United Kingdom and Austria against France formed as the UK engaged in the Peninsular War against France.

Again the UK stood alone, and the sea became the major theatre of war against Napoleon's allies. During the time of the Fifth Coalition, the Royal Navy won a succession of victories in the French colonies.

On land, the Fifth Coalition attempted few extensive military endeavours. One, the Walcheren Expedition of 1809, involved a dual effort by the Union Army and the Royal Navy to relieve Austrian forces under intense French pressure. It ended in disaster after the Army commander—John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham—failed to capture the objective, the naval base of French-controlled Antwerp. For the most part of the years of the Fifth Coalition, Union military operations on land—apart from in the Iberian Peninsula—remained restricted to hit-and-run operations executed by the Royal Navy, which dominated the sea after having beaten down almost all substantial naval opposition from France and its allies and blockading what remained of France's naval forces in heavily fortified French-controlled ports. These rapid-attack operations functioned rather like exo-territorial guerrilla strikes: they aimed mostly at destroying blockaded French naval and mercantile shipping, and disrupting French supplies, communications, and military units stationed near the coasts. Often, when Union allies attempted military actions within several dozen miles or so of the sea, the Royal Navy would arrive and would land troops and supplies and aid the Coalition's land forces in a concerted operation. Royal Navy ships even provided artillery support against French units when fighting strayed near enough to the coastline. However, the ability and quality of the land forces governed these operations. For example, when operating with inexperienced guerrilla forces in Spain, the Royal Navy sometimes failed to achieve its objectives simply because of the lack of manpower that the Navy's guerrilla allies had promised to supply.

At the end of the war France and the Union signed a temporary ceasefire to discuss a longer peace, It lasted for three years and allowed both Napoleon and the Union to prepare for what would be the longest and bloodiest campaign of the war. Napoleons invasion of the USA.

Invasion of the USA

With Europe finally secured Napoleon lead an expedition into the USA. Napoleon managed to land several hundred thousand forces in the USA alongside Spanish forces from Mexico. The USA attempted to prevent Napoleon attacking into Louisiana but were easily defeated by Napoleon. However the USA had struck a deal with the Anglo-Dutch Union to secure their support and also had a commander to rival Napoleon, General Arthur St. Clair. Born in Scotland in 1737, he had been court-martialed by the Union in 1789 after a controversial retreat from Native-Indian forces of the Iroquois Confederacy. However he joined the Continental Army (Which was desperate for officers) a year later and rose to become one of the most successful generals of the war. He had become famous for trapping his opponents by retreating and it was later revealed that the defeat in Texas was part of a co-ordinated plan.

Retreating deep into Native Indian territory Arthur St. Clair drew Napoleon into Continental America as the Union began to mobilize in New England in Canada. At New Orleans the USA still retreated but to many it was obvious that a major confrontation was approaching. St Clair knew this as well and when his spies reported that napoleons force had been whittled down to around 100,000 men he made his stand at a small Native American town in the area now known as Dallas in 1813. To make things even better Napoleon had left a few days earlier and the Anglo-Dutch army was moving in to pin in his army. When the French forces reached the area they were soundly defeated and crushed.

Sixth Coalition

Following Napoleons defeat by the Americans and the Anglo-Dutch in America the other major European powers decided that France could be beaten and began a co-ordinated attack on France and its client states. Prussia attacked the Confederation of the Rhine while Austria attacked Bavaria and the Kingdom of Italy. The Union attacked into the Netherlands to recover its lost territory while Portuguese and Spanish rebels attacked French forces in Iberia.

Faced with every European power arranged against them the French Army staged a revolution and overthrew Napoleon. Despite his attempt to regain power from the new French government Napoleon and his allies were utterly destroyed at the Battle of Waterloo and the French monarchy was reinstated.

Liberal Revolutions

French revolution of 1830

The French Revolution of 1830, also known as the July Revolution or Trois Glorieuses in French, saw the overthrow of King Charles X of France, the French Bourbon monarch, and the ascent of his cousin Louis-Philippe, the Duc d'Orléans, who himself, after 18 precarious years on the throne, would in turn be overthrown. It marked the shift from one constitutional monarchy, the Bourbon Restoration, to another, the July Monarchy; the transition of power from the House of Bourbon to its cadet branch, the House of Orléans; and the substitution of the principle of popular sovereignty for hereditary right. Supporters of the Bourbon would be called Legitimists, and supporters of Louis-Philippe Orleanists.

French Revolution of 1848

The 1848 Revolution in France was one of a wave of revolutions in 1848 in Europe. In France, the February revolution ended the Orleans monarchy (1830-1848) and led to the creation of the French Second Republic. The June days were a bloody but unsuccessful rebellion by the Paris workers against a conservative turn in the Republic's course. On December 2, 1848, Louis Napoleon was elected President of the Second Republic, largely on peasant support. Exactly three years later he suspended the elected assembly, establishing the Second French Empire, which lasted until 1871.

The February revolution established the principle of the "right to work" (droit au travail), and its newly-established government created "National Workshops" for the unemployed. At the same time a sort of industrial parliament was established at the Luxembourg Palace, under the presidency of Louis Blanc, with the object of preparing a scheme for the organization of labour. These tensions between liberal Orleanist and Radical Republicans and Socialists led to the June Days Uprising.

Liberal Revolutions

The European Revolutions of 1848, known in some countries as the Spring of Nations, Springtime of the Peoples[3] or the Year of Revolution, were a series of political upheavals throughout the European continent. Described by some historians as a revolutionary wave, the period of unrest began in France and then, further propelled by the French Revolution of 1848, soon spread to the rest of Europe.

Although most of the revolutions were quickly put down, there was a significant amount of violence in many areas, with tens of thousands of people tortured and killed. While the immediate political effects of the revolutions were largely reversed, the long-term reverberations of the events were far-reaching.


The 1848 revolution was substantially organized from, and centered in, Palermo. The popular nature of the revolt is evident in the fact that posters and notices were being handed out a full three days before the substantive acts of the revolution occurred on 12 January, 1848. The timing was deliberately planned to coincide with the birthday of Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies, himself born in Palermo in 1810.

The Sicilian nobles were immediately able to resuscitate the constitution of 1812, which included the principles of representative democracy and the centrality of Parliament in the government of the state. The idea was also put forward for a confederation of all the states of Italy. At this point it should be mentioned that the Sicilian parliament was never able to control the well fortified city of Messina, which ultimately would be used to take back the island by force. Similarly, it was the city of Messina that held out the longest against Garibaldi’s attack on the island in 1860.

Thus Sicily survived as a quasi-independent state for sixteen months, with the Bourbon army taking back full control of the island on 15 May 1849 by force. The effective head of state during this period was Ruggero Settimo (or Roger Settimo in English and Ruggeru Sèttimu in Sicilian). On capitulating to the Bourbons, Settimo escaped to Malta where he was received with the full honours of a head of state. He remained exiled there for the rest of his life and died there in 1863. Upon the formation of the new Kingdom of Italy in 1861, Settimo was offered the position of first President of the Senate of the newly created national parliament, but he was forced to decline for health reasons. Nevertheless, this invitation provides more than a casual hint as to the nexus the existed between the events of 1848 and 1860-61 in the History of Italy.

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