American, French, and Spanish Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis

American Revolution

The war began when some of the colonies decided to fight for independence. In 1775, they created their own army, which was led by George Washington.
In the first stage, Great Britain had some military successes. On 4 July 1776, the Continental Congress proclaimed the Declaration of Independence. In the second stage, the colonists’ military victory at the Battle of Saratoga led France and Spain to offer them support. As a result, the two sides were more closely matched in military terms. This led to a ceasefire. Great Britain recognized American independence and the birth of the United States in the 1783 Treaty of Versailles. In 1787, the United States Constitution was adopted. This established a federal republic based on the Enlightenment principles of equality and liberty. The American Revolution had important consequences. The United States became a symbol for the struggle for liberty and equality in other countries. It also showed that it was possible to put Enlightenment ideas into practice. The United States Constitution included these principles:

Type of government:

federal republic

Popular sovereignty:

male suffrage. Only white men with a certain amount of property could vote.

Separation of powers:

the president was the executive branch, Congress the legislative branch, and the Supreme Court was the judicial branch.


citizens were free and equal before the law. But slavery continued to be legal

French Revolution

The French Revolution was a period of violent political and social change, which saw the abolition of the absolute monarchy and the end of the estates system of the Ancien Régime. The French Revolution began in 1789 and is considered to be the first European bourgeois revolution. The influence of the Enlightenment: French intellectuals and the bourgeoisie supported Enlightenment ideas and wanted to put them into practice. For example, they demanded that any French subjects be free and equal before the law. The economic crisis: the French monarchy was heavily in debt. This was because of the court’s excessive spending on parties, palaces, and other luxuries, and also because of France’s participation in military conflicts such as the American War of Independence. Poor harvests after 1770 led to an increase in the price of grain, which is used to make bread. As a result of high bread prices, the peasants and the urban poor often suffered from hunger. The social crisis: the economic crisis affected each of the three estates differently. The privileged estates (the clergy and the nobility) were able to maintain their income, but the Third Estate (the non-privileged) suffered from rising taxes, since they were the only estate that paid tax. The political crisis: to improve royal finances, Louis XVI’s ministers suggested that the privileged estates should pay tax. The nobility and clergy refused and demanded that the king convene the Estates General. This was the only body that could approve new taxes. Louis XVI governed France as an absolute monarch. He opposed meetings of the Estates General so that the estates could not limit their power and present their demands. However, in the face of the nobility and clergy’s demands, he was forced to convene the Estates General in 1789.

Spanish Revolution

The Spanish War of Independence saw the Spanish population fight against the French from 1808 to 1813. On 2 May 1808, the people of Madrid rose up against the French Occupation but they failed to overthrow the French. Despite their defeat, other parts of Spain were encouraged by their actions and the Spanish War of Independence began. Local and provincial councils were formed to fight against the French. These committees were governmental organizations whose members were elected by the people. For the first time in Spain, people were voting to choose their representatives. These committees were led by the Central Council, which represented the absent Fernando VII in areas that had not been occupied by the French. The Central Council had both executive and legislative power. It managed the war effort and could sign treaties. 1808: Spanish forces won several victories, including the Battle of Bailen. This temporarily stopped the French from reaching Andalucia. 1808–1812: guerrilla warfare began. Napoleon came to Spain to oversee the French occupation. There were sieges in some cities, such as Zaragoza and Gerona. Finally, the French occupied any of Spain except for Cadiz. 1812-1813: the Central Council signed a military alliance with Great Britain. At the same time, Napoleon withdrew some of his troops from Spain in order to send them to Russia. The Anglo-Spanish and Portuguese troops, led by the Duke of Wellington, won victories at ls Arapiles, Vitoria, and San Marcial. This forced the French to withdraw from Spain. In December 1813, Napoleon signed the Treaty of Valençay. As a result, Fernando VII returned to the throne. The consequences of the War of Independence were devastating for Spain. Agriculture was abandoned, and cities and industries were destroyed. In addition, almost a million people died in the war.