Good History Essay Example - The Transformation of the European Society in the Early 19th Century

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Europe, Politics, Society, Revolution, Transformation, France, England, Economics

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2020/12/25

The Transformation of the European Society in the Early 19th Century

At the beginning of the 19th century, the society in Europe was in a state of transformation. The transformation was evident in the social, ideological, and political aspects of the society between 1789 and 1848. Several historic events concurred during this period, and they initiated the transformation experienced in the society. France and Britain were the most influential nations at that time both in Europe and the across the world. America had just won its independence, and it would assert its power in global matters many years later. The transformation of the society in Europe can be in the context of this the French revolution and the British revolution, which took place within the same period. The British revolution took place in the form of the establishment of radical changes in the economic setting of the country. The economic setting changed because of the changes in the approach used in industrial production and the improvement of the methods of production. For this reason, the paper will evaluate the transformation of the European society in light of the effects of the two revolutions. At this time, other nations such as Germany averted the political risks involved, which gave way to British and French influence in Europe through the events that took place in their socio-political contexts.

The French Revolution and the Resultant Transformation

The French revolution began and spread quickly throughout the country. The revolution followed the need for a transformation in the way the ruling class treated the rest of the society. France was marked by several years of inhumane treatment and exploitation of the poor in the society, and they began the revolution to advocate better conditions of living. The peasants groups in the community burned and looted the home of property owners, the seigniorial elite, and the tax collectors. The first significant act of the insurrection of the agricultural sector of the country, which triggered the migration of then noble class from the country. Their exit inspired the country’s national assembly to abolish the principle of feudalism in August 1789. Many historians regard the abolition of feudalism as the “death certificate of the old order” because it later created a new structure of the social in France and the neighboring nations.
The abolition of feudalism implies that the ownership of land would change in France and other nations that had a similar structure of allocating the factors of capital. The ownership of land by the elite and noble class ended and gave way to the principle of free land ownership. In the same month, the French national assembly formulated and adopted the Declaration of the rights of men and the Citizen. It was a statement of principles of democracy. The philosophical foundation of these principles was the political ideas and proposal of enlightenment advanced by political thinkers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The ideas promoted the replacement of the ancient regime with an alternative system based on the provision of equal opportunities for all the members of the society. As the ideas became popular in France, the whole of Europe began to call for a replacement of dictatorial and colonial government as people realized the importance of their political rights and fundamental freedom.
During this period, France and the whole of Europe focused on the abolition of a society based on the class system with a majority of the citizens forming the peasant class and the labor force. The people in power had the obligation to ensure the equitable distribution of the factors of economic production among all the people in the society regardless of their economic standing and origin. Freedom of speech was also among the important elements of this revolutionary period as citizens became more radical and demanded free and fair governance. At the same time, the call for sovereignty of governments also became popular as nations under colonial rule began to fight for the independence of their governments from France, Germany, and Britain. France led the way in drafting its first constitution, which proved to be a challenge to the nation’s national assembly.
Most of the political changes took place because of the government’s overspending under the leadership of King Louis the sixteenth. France nearly went bankrupt, which made it lose its political control and allow the political transformation in many of Europe’s nations. It is important to note that Britain suffered little effect from the French revolution because it was equally powerful nation as France was. The end of the French revolution and the failure of the governmental transition resulted in the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte. He staged a coup and overthrew the government in 1799 to take control of France and assert his influence on the whole of Europe, which would last as late as 1848.
As the convulsion hit France, the other regions of Europe also change their ideology on the ideal social structure of an ideal society and governance. The other regions had minimal challenges when changing their governments. The social status quo changed because of the equal distribution of wealth across all the groups in the society. Napoleon also changed the political perspective in Europe and made nations realize that a dictatorship could be overcome.

The Transformation in Europe based on the Industrial Revolution in Britain

Most of Europe, especially Western Europe practiced basic capitalism where the accumulation of property, wealth, and contracts based on the individual rather than the welfare of the society. However, the industrial revolution in Britain initiated the development of a true capitalist system in Europe. The influence came through the widespread use of credit facilities, investment in the stock markets and the emergence of business corporations. The ideological perception of capitalism changed in the whole of Europe as people appreciated the growth of an overall, economy rather than the welfare of the individual. By 1790, the industrial revolution in Britain began to accelerate considering the fact that it had taken several decades in its development. The number of manufacturing business and laborers increased significantly, which a marked a trend that would enter the first fifty years of the nineteenth century up to 1848. Across the continent, people began to replace hand tools with engines driven by steam and electricity.
The transformation of the economies resulting from the industrial revolution in Britain also led to social transformation in Europe. There was an increase in the population of the continent due to the increased in the availability of food. The introduction of mechanized methods for agricultural production implied that there was more efficiency in the sector as farmers could overcome the shortcomings of using human labor. There was also a shift in the demographics of the continent as people to places where they could take advantage of the job opportunities availed by the growth of the industries. The migration led to the clear definition of rural and urban areas. The industrialized centers emerged as the urban areas that attracted the movement of people from the rural and agriculturally based areas. At this time, Europe also experienced a significant change in labor and employment laws. The owners of capital recognized the important role played by the laborers in economic production. The society witnessed the emergence of trade unions and labor movements that sought to protect the rights of workers against exploitation by the owners of capital.
At the same time, Europe was also experiencing a change in its political ideologies because of the industrial revolution. The industrialists advocated an ideology referred to as the Laissez Faire. The ideology used Adam Smith’s proposals in the Wealth of Nations. The proposal resulted in the field of economics, which changed the manner in which industries related with the governments throughout the continent. The industrialists argued that the prosperity of nations depended on the autonomous operations of the economic sector where there were little regulations and supervision from the government. As such, most of the nations allowed their industrial sectors to operate without the intervention of the political class unless it was necessary to maximize their utility.
At the beginning of the 19th century, there were significant changes in the social, political, and economic attributes of the continental Europe. It is important to note that it took several years for the effects pf the transformation take effect given that tools of the transformation were already in play years before early 1789. A good example of such prepared was the agrarian revolution, which gave way to the industrial revolution later.


Lualdi, K. J. Sources of The making of the West: Peoples and cultures. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2012.

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