War and Peace: The 19th Century In Europe – Coursework Assessments

Submitted to Carl Wade, Tutor
War and Peace: The 19th Century in Europe
Oxford University
Department for Continuing Education
Andrew Becker
Roger M. Jones Fellow Abroad, The University of Michigan
Hillary 2009

Oxford University Department for Continuing Education



George Cruikshank published this cartoon in 1851.What major demographic change in Nineteenth Century Europe does it refer to? Could you suggest two main reasons why this accelerated so much more rapidly in the Nineteenth Century than in earlier times?

The demographic change Cruikshank refers to in the cartoon is population growth. During the 19th century the population of Europe doubled, having previously doubled during the 18th century. The artist references this with details such as the hot air “balloon buildings” at the top of the frame and the “suspension villas”, imaginary circumstances under which people have been forced to live due to crowding. There are also huge throngs of people overcrowded on tops of buildings and boats in the harbour. London seems to be bursting at the seams with people.

Population growth in Europe accelerated due to a combination of better medical and public health knowledge and a more robust food supply, combating epidemics of disease and famine. While families were still in the mindset of combating a high death rate with a high birth rate these societal advances drove down the death rate, leading to an explosion in population growth.

Generally speaking, the improvements in medicine and food supply are associated with the Industrial Revolution, now known as the Industrialization Process. The related British Agricultural Revolution meant increased productivity in farming due to developments like enclosure, and “freed up” (made redundant) labourers to do other work. Many of them found work in the new factories in the cities (manufacturing medicines and soap, among other things) and building infrastructure like roads and canals that made the food supply chain more robust and aided the flow of information. At the same time, new social rules such as border enforcement also helped put an end to epidemic outbreaks of disease.



Considering the map of Europe in 1800, which had been so greatly affected by the advance of Napoleon’s power, can you name two major effects on the politics and society of 19th Century Europe that resulted from the French Revolution?

The French Revolution replaced the absolutist monarchy of France with a republic based on principles of the Enlightenment such as the inalienable rights of man. This touched off a time of great change for France including two restorations of the monarchy, the Napoleonic wars, and two more revolutions. Two major effects resulting from the French Revolution and echoing across Europe were the rise of nationalism and emergence of more serious class conflict.

The rise of nationalism and romantic notions of national identity spread quickly in the wake of the French Revolution. The success of the revolutionaries in dismantling the old power structure and uniting in liberalism caused individuals in other absolutist states to attempt to do the same. In some cases this meant national unification of fractious small states, and in others independence from what came to be seen as an occupying foreign power. Notably for unification, between 1859 and 1861 Italy became unified, and Germany did the same from 1866-71. Greece fought a war of independence against the Ottoman Empire from 1821-1829 and Hungary received its autonomy in 1867. The transition from monarchical rule to more liberal nation-states in the wake of the French Revolution transformed Europe into the familiar modern landscape.

At the same time, the violence of the French Revolution and the wars that it spawned foreshadowed the coming class conflict across Europe. The revolutionary elements such as the Jacobins called for “liberty, equality and brotherhood”, which threatened the longstanding autocratic status quo and led to both armed struggle and nonviolent political / propaganda conflict. Enfranchisement was a major issue, with the common people demanding a greater say in the rule of law, starting with voting rights for property owning males and eventually leading to demands for the enfranchisement of the poor, women, and minorities as well. Attempts to subdue these revolutionary movements forced them underground, but made them martyrs in the eyes of the John Bull public.


By 1900 European countries had colonised a large portion of countries outside the European continent. Name two developments in the history of Nineteenth-Century Europe that made this possible, and suggest a reason why each development occurred.

The 19th century colonization of the world by European powers was directly linked to changes in the European economies brought about by the industrial revolution and also changes in the balance of European power brought about by various wars and revolutions.

The industrial revolution, with its increased productivity and dependence on technology, forced many labourers off their lands and into the cities, which they found to be overcrowded. At the same time, the industrialization lead to redistribution of the way private capital was allocated in the European countries, making colonization efforts for slave trading and other industries possible and extremely lucrative. The result was that many lower income persons sought a better life in the colonies, often starting off as indentured servants. The new technologies brought about by the industrial revolution, along with the greater pace of development due to better infrastructure and a more open society helped the European nations into a position of dominance over the indigenous societies they colonized.

At the same time, the European wars meant increased competition among the European nations for control of the seas and the territories of the whole world. The exploitation of colonies abroad could help fund war efforts at home, and the war efforts lead to the development of ever more lethal war technologies, useful for the further suppression of indigenous cultures. The wars at home also created refugees, who were especially likely to take the opportunity to flee to the new world.


‘Liberalism was the triumphant ideology of the 19th Century in Europe’

Do you either agree or disagree with this statement? Justify your decision with at least one argument.

Liberalism was indeed the triumphant ideology of the 19th Century in Europe, as evidenced by the emergence of the British Empire and the United States of America as the dominant global powers at the end of that century amid the decline of absolutism.

The beginning of the 19th Century really began with the French Revolution, culminating around 1799. This was the great catalyst for liberal thought throughout the world, but while the French were the first (and perhaps because of it) they were unable to maintain a continuous liberal republic.

The United States, formed at the end of the 18th Century, was the first liberal democracy and fared extremely well during the 19th Century, including the “Gilded Age” beginning around 1876 and continuing into the 1900s. The British Empire as well, enjoyed the “Imperial Century” until around 1914. While the United States is not technically a part of Europe, it can easily be seen as an extension of Europe at least in the context of this period.

While the more liberal U.S, British, and German empires were rising, the Spanish and Ottoman empires were in decline, and the absolutist states were more or less abolished. Liberalism, at least in modified form, was the triumphant ideology.


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