In the first part of the 19th century, Europe was in the shadow of the French Revolution.
The upheaval's remarkable accomplishments, as well as its destructiveness and shocking cruelties, influenced every European country and left many unfinished agendas: on the left, altruistic hopes and dreams, and on the right, bitter resentments and fears.
France had a strong influence over the rest of Europe in the century before 1789.
French literature, art, and fashions were in demand everywhere because the ruling orders of many countries spoke French in preference to their native tongues.
Prussia's population was under 4 million, Britain's around 8 million, the Habsburg Empire's around 11 million, and Russia's around 20 million.
Paris was seen as the cultural and intellectual capital of Europe.
The rest of Europe was bound to be affected by any development in such an influential nation.
France sneezed in the summer of 1789.
It overthrew its existing institutions and executed its king and queen with a new guillotine.
The armies of Europe's leading powers were routed in a series of military campaigns.
France created French-dominated states along the frontiers that it annexed.
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France had ruled for two decades over a large percentage of Europe's population after the French Revolution.
The laws and institutions of the French Revolution were adopted by those not formally annexed into the French Empire.
The Revolution's legacy was enduring.
In areas that never experienced direct French rule, the revolutionary legacy was significant, in part because the leaders of most countries found it necessary to copy at least some French institutions in order to survive.
The revolutionary period, 1789-1815, is one of the most complex periods in history.
Three constitutions were already adopted by 1795.
The Third Estate, which made up 95 percent of the total population, was replaced by the First Estate, which made up the majority of the population.
The first years were marked by a lot of confusion and uncertainty, but the beginning of a long- lasting administrative system was being put into place, one that sought to rationalize and centralize the tottering maze of the Old Regime's administration.
The agenda of reform included a new system of weights and measures, a new calendar with ten-day weeks, and a new monetary system.
Most innovations took some time to be implemented.
The new calendar was so confusing and unpopular that it was abandoned after a few years.
The events of the Revolution are recorded in the way that the new months are remembered.
The political terms "right," "left," and "reactionary" all came from this period.
The legacy of the French Revolution usually includes ideals, goals, visions, and nightmares.
The intellectual elite of Europe was gripped by the revolutionary mystique.
The vision of a transformed human condition affected some Europeans in ways that recall the messianic dreams of the past.
The heroic revolutionary was a model for many parts of the restless youth of Europe, in ways similar to the idealized Christian saint or crusading knight.
Many believed that the Revolution's failures would be fixed in revolutions to come.
The use of the term "revolution" was reminiscent of so many religious terms, oddly vague and inclusive, referring not only to measurable political events but also to a vast historical process, beginning in 1789 and marching ever onward.
The lives of Europe's common people will eventually be freer and more secure as a result of revolutionary reforms, though not immediately.
Revolution had a ghastly dark side.
The vilest instincts of the human heart were awakened by political revolutions, both in revolutionaries and in their opponents.
From the guillotine of the French Revolution to the concentration camps of the Soviet Union, political revolutions have produced oceans of blood and unimaginable human suffering.
There was a similarity between the mystique of revolution and the mystique of religion.
The carnage of the wars of religion in the 17th century turned many, especially among the educated elites, away from religious faith and toward a belief in the power of reason, a belief that seemed to bear fruit by the early twentieth century.
The French Revolution turned against organized religion, the Catholic Church in particular, and against most Christian dogma.
Revolutionaries wanted to replace the bigotry and superstition of the Church with more tolerant and rational beliefs.
The Church's lands were expropriated and used to help finance the Revolution.
A large part of the general population held on to its Christian faith and remained firmly attached to traditional ways of doing things.
The ideals of the Enlightenment were the explicit goals of all revolutionaries, which meant abolishing the privileged or "feudal" estates, considered corrupt, unjust, and inefficient.
The slogan for revolutionaries was the revolutionary trinity: liberty, equality, Fraternity.
Each was full of promise.
The goal was vague and the unity associated with it was fragile because of hopelessly conflicting and self-serving definitions of liberty among the various ranks of the French population.
The Estates General, a legislative assembly of France's "estates" or branches of feudal society, was called for the first time in 1614 after the king's will had been successfully challenged.
A series of poorly coordinated and conflicting protests against the king's efforts to reform taxation led to the emergence of the Revolution.
The process of a chain reaction began when the Estates General met in 1789.
Expectations were awakened by the king's indecisiveness and incompetence.
A potent mix of angry urban mobs, panic in the countryside, and intellectuals intoxicated by Enlightened ideals - soon intensified by the fear of invasion by foreign powers - produced a series of changes that are astonishing in their scope and ambition.