Revolutions in America and France
A Tale of Two Revolutions
The Victorian novelist Charles Dickens wrote the following famous passage about France before the French Revolution:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair . . .
--A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, 1859
Dickens was very concerned about social inequality in Europe. Just before the French Revolution, it was “the best of times” for the wealthy aristocracy, who did not have to pay taxes, and it was “the worst of times” for the hungry and heavily taxed common people, who were known as the Third Estate.
Taxes also played a role in the American Revolution. The colonists were concerned that they had no say in the decisions the British government made about taxes. The British government was far away, and the colonists had no one in that government to represent their interests.
The two revolutions were linked in other ways. Many of the philosophical ideas that led to the American Revolution came from the European Enlightenment, including the ideas of French writers like Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In return, many of the political ideas the French Revolution adopted came from the government created by the newly independent United States.
- How does the passage from Dickens show contrast between opposites?
- Look at the illustration from A Tale of Two Cities. What do you think the title “The Sea Rises” means?
- In what ways are differences between the wealthier upper class and poorer lower class still relevant today?
In Revolutions in America and France, you will explore the causes, key events, and historical significance of the American and French Revolutions to understand the impact they had on world history.
Essential Question: Were the American and French Revolutions truly revolutionary?
The Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution, which began in Great Britain in the late 1700s and spread around the Western world in the 1800s, involved the construction of many factories, such as this one in Pennsylvania around 1857, to manufacture goods.
Essential Question: How did the Industrial Revolution change daily life and society?