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Expressionism in Europe 1900-1910
What caused the aesthetic crisis in European art at the beginning of the Twentieth Century? Somewhere around the very first years of the century, around 1904 and 1905, artists became aware that an old century was ending and that a new one was beginning. The question became now what? But the artistic crisis was caused by more than a new uncertainty about the beginning of a new and modern era. After more than five decades, the very basis for art making—the materialistic view of nature—was being interrogated. Philosophers were shifting away from positivism and moving toward a new form of idealism. Idealism returned to the Kantian position that the mind made the world, and, if human cognition played an active part in ordering reality, then naturalism was seen as not “realism” but as a false passivity. The artist could take the position that s/he was a mere transcriber, but was that a valid position?
But it would take more than a shift in philosophical perspectives to move the art world in a new direction. Two major issues emerged. The first problem was that of the prevailing artistic styles. Impressionism was the last “great style,” which was based in the reality of the visible world, upon the unquestioned agreement with external world. For the avant-garde artists, Impressionism was a master style, against which one measured oneself. The Post-Impressionists either accepted and expanded Impressionism, such as van Gogh, or rejected and expanded some of its formal innovations, such as Gauguin. By the beginning of the Twentieth Century, Impressionism was thirty years old and out of date and was ripe to be challenged by new movements led by a new generation. These new movements would confront Impressionism on the grounds of the passivity of empiricism and mere optical response. Romanticism, which had always exulted the subjective over the objective returned in a new form called, “Expressionism.”
The second problem that led to Expressionism was cultural—-the changes of the Twentieth Century that made Impressionism look quaint. Impressionism had been, for the most, part an art of suburban well-being. The city was viewed from a careful distance, as in the bird’s eye paintings of Camille Pissarro. By the beginning of the Twentieth Century, urban living had become the new norm, bringing with it profound feelings of alienation from the community and a sense of being alone within the crowd. The backlash against the materialism of realism caused a profound skepticism and questioning of the true relationship between the self and the world. Faith in the reality of visual impressions and sensual perceptions was now challenged. Objectivity was interrogated and subjectivity was reevaluated. Feelings became more important than outer appearance, and in a sort of neo-Romanticism, the gaze of the artists turned inward with the goal of expressing their personal reactions and feelings.
Stemming from Symbolism, this new tendency in the arts had as its goal the redefinition of representation. To represent was not merely to reproduce nature but to react to the visual in a personal and unique fashion. The job of the artist was now to deal with the dialectic between the inner world of the mind and the outer world of nature. The problem was finding a way beyond the scientism of Impressionism and to free the artist from the tyranny of a passive response to reality. The solution was suggested by the critic Émile Zola was that of “nature, as seen through a corner of the temperament,” meaning that the artist’s personality would shape the content. Another solution was suggested by the art of Vincent van Gogh: to use the medium itself to express emotions. The “Nocturnes” of James Whistler were case in point. The artist used thin, almost murky paint, layered wetly onto a canvas. The indistinct quality of foggy London on the banks of the Thames was captured, not in an act of illustration but in an act of painting.
This new cultivation of personal sensibilities had its precedents in the Symbolists and the Aesthetic movement, some artists and writers using drugs, alcohol, religion, or magic as paths to creativity. But most artists were more rational in their quest for new subject matter and new methods of expressing new content. The Fauve movement extended and exaggerated certain Post-Impressionist artists, such as the expressive line of van Gogh and the symbolic color of Gauguin and the color relationships of Seurat to explore the ability of line and color to convey feeling through form. The artists of the Blue Rider movement in Germany discovered the “irrational” and “primitive” art of tribes, popular art of the lower classes, caricature, children’s art. The outsider artist, the dounier, Henri Rousseau, opened the minds of avant-garde artists to other possibilities in art. By the beginning of the new century, realism was effectively defunct and expressionism surged forward to replace it.
By 1910, the formal elements were manipulated beyond the currently accepted aesthetic conventions of the late Nineteenth-century in order for painting to become more personal and more expressive. In a reversal of the Academy hierarchy, there is a new emphasis on color at expense of line. Color was considered to be very suspect and dangerous, possessing the uncanny ability to arouse sexually within the innocent viewer. Women especially were, of course, very susceptible to the blandishments of intense hues. But the artists who began to favor color had other thoughts on their minds. First, they sought a reduction of dependence upon objective reality for the absolute validity of a personal vision. Very quickly, some artists, such as Vasily Kandinsky and Georgia O’Keeffe, would dispense with reality entirely, leading to abstract art. For O’Keeffe, her Blue Lines (1916) are a projection of artist’s inner experience, an aggressive and courageous response to music, her anguished but lyrical revolt against rationalism.
The first movement of the new century after Art Nouveau was Fauvism, named after the “fauves,” meaning wild beasts. The large group of artists was supposedly led by Henri Matisse but was more indicative of shifts to expressiveness through formal means. The name “Fauve” was derived from a critical condemnation uttered by the startled art critic, Louis Vauxcelles. He was horrified by a room full of paintings that were, in his conservative opinion, too brightly colored for the safety of art. The Fauve artists were leading what was an essentially technical revolution involving the liberation of color from description and the direct use of color to express feelings. Accustomed to mimetic realism, the public was shocked by the use of non-local color—the purple tree trunks by André Derain—and the critics offended by the uninhibited use of color to define form and feeling—the heaving and striving colored lines of Maurice de Vlaminck. But regardless of the conservative factions, the new emphasis in the art world had shifted to the inner world and towards the subjective personality of artist.
The Second movement in Expressionism took place in two distinct sites in Germany. Located in the south, the Blue Rider, Der Blaue Reiter, just outside of Munich, and in the northern city of Dresden, the Bridge, Die Brücke, these were two different and distinct parts of the shift towards subjectivity in northern Europe. Germany had a long tradition of art based upon strong feelings, such as the Isenheim Altarpiece (15056-15)by Matthias Grünewald, and a long history of wood carving, equally expressive, dating back to the medieval period. But only Die Brücke, not Der Blaue Reiter, was interested in this indigenous inheritance. Led by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Die Brücke was nationalistic and sought the essence of all that was Germanic, cleaving close to the forests around their home base of Dresden and venturing into “primitive” carved polychromed wood sculptures. Based in the south, closer to France, Der Blaue Reiter was a more internationally inclined group that learned a great deal from French art. The leader of Der Blaue Reiter, a Russian expatriate named Vasily Kandinsky, had, like so many of his generation, out of Art nouveau and the Post-Impressionists of France. From both French movements, Der Blaue Reiter borrowed the curvilinear line, the non-local use of color, and the large forms filled in with bright colors. Under the influence of Theosophy, Kandinsky moved quickly into complete abstraction, but the other members of the group remained representational artists.
The single most important factor in development of the Expressionist movement was the new demand for audience participation. Stemming from Symbolist poetry, the interaction of the reader forced the reader to be active and to creatively “make” the poem. Painting demanded a similar empathy or leap of faith from the viewer. The Norwegian artist, Edvard Munch, freed himself of the task of recording reality in order to express a reality engendered from the artist himself. If the public must be prepared to accept the artist’s subjective vision, then the artist him (or her) self had to be prepared to assert that he/she spoke for his/her audience. The artist no longer showed reality to the public, no longer demonstrated or illustrated the artist had to go much deeper into the subjective. Exposed, the artist took on the role of a medium through whom the feelings of his (or her) time flowed towards the audience.
The Northern European artists, such as Edvard Munch in Norway and James Ensor in Belgium, and the Germans in Dresden were concerned more with content than form. In other words, form was in the service of content, the artistic elements were tasked with expressing the feelings of the artist for which the content was merely the carrier. The Germans wanted to penetrate behind inert objects to disclose the underlying significance beneath appearances. The German artists emphasized voyages of discovery of the self, as seen in the auto-portraits of Kirchner, who is the leading player in the theater of his own emotions. The artist Emile Nolde, briefly aligned with Die Brücke, was a rarity in the Twentieth-century, carrying on the faded tradition of religious art. He was involved with the spiritual but sought the primal impulse that led to religion. Nolde was uninterested in doctrines or Church teachings and looked to pagan impulses, to mystery “religions,” resulting in paintings alive with psychological tension and ecstatic physical distortion. The Last Supper (1909) is one of the great religious paintings of the new century, far more profound than any work by his Russian counterpart, Marc Chagall.
Expressionism, especially in Die Brücke asserted the innermost self and the right of art to be ugly and grotesque. Ugliness, naked fears and neuroses appear unmasked in the work of Kirchner, especially after the group moved to the modern city of Berlin. Compared to the French, the Germans were comfortable with a more savage, angular, aggressive, nervous and brutal style. For the northern Germans, Expression was their prime aim to evoke pictorial passions whether ecstatic and pleasurable or shimmering with anxiety. French Expression, or Fauvism, was, in contrast, an art of purity of strong colors, decorative balance and sensual repose. The French were escaping the new century while the Germans were meeting modernism head on, probing the troubling undercurrents. For Die Brücke, for instance, personal expression had to fuse with a now activated object, meaning that art was subordinated to experience. For Fauves, the approach to the concern for the object was completely the opposite: there was balance between sentiment and form, between emotion and composition, but the art had to be an experience, with the experience being subordinated to form and its expressive possibilities.
Both Germans and Fauves looked to Gauguin, van Gogh, Seurat, Munch and Toulouse-Lautrec, and the so-called “primitive cultures” but the two nationalities developed in different directions. The Fauves, including André Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck, had came together around Matisse around 1903 but by 1907 the group fell under the very different spell of Paul Cézanne. For a time, Matisse’s colors, as seen in The Blue Nude of 1907, became darker, echoing the limited color palette of Cézanne with its dull blues. Derain was attracted to the art of African tribes and fused Cézanne’s dark colors with clumsy nudes, hacked into shapes of sharp angles and hard edges. Georges Braque fell under the spell of Matisse’s great rival, Pablo Picasso, and with his new colleague began a prolonged study of Cézanne, an absorption of the master’s thought process that would lead to Cubism. After a few years, Fauvism was dispersed by the new interest in tribal art and Cézanne, but German expressionism took up where Fauves left off and would continue with the representation of personal points of view until 1933 when a man named Adolph Hitler put an end to “degenerate art.”
Europe's first great war of the twentieth century had roots deep in history: conquerors holding that they had the right to rule people without their consent and that the gods approved or had directed the conquest. It was a heritage that belonged to much of Europe.
Across millennia the world going into the twentieth century was at a high point in technological development, which would impact the character of the coming war. Growing populations made the possibility of massive conscript armies that changed warfare. From an army chasing another army across an expanse of territory – like Alexander the Great chased Darius III – there would now be long warfare fronts. By now, warfare among industrialized societies would involve the productive and financial capacities of an entire society. And modern communications accompanied a rising nationalism, which was an ingredient in the coming war's creation. Regarding war, it was a new world that was challenging Europe's intellectual life.
From Vienna the Habsburg monarch, Franz Joseph I (Francis-Joseph I), ruled by right of birth – an ages-old institution. Like other monarchs the Habsburgs had extended their rule where they could and called themselves emperors. Franz Joseph and other monarchs thought this right and proper, the monarchs reinforcing the rightness of it for each of them. And there was the approval of their loyal subjects who were awed by the tradition and grandeur. Some looked upon their king, or emperor, as a father figure. And helping Franz Joseph in seeing himself as right and good was supported by his church, which blessed and dignified him and saw him as defending and spreading the faith.
Emperor Franz Joseph, Vienna, circa 1910. Despite his sense of propriety, he was foremost in bringing the worst war yet to the world.
The imperialism of emperors conflicted with nationalism and people wishing to be rid of foreign rule &ndash especially strong in the late 1800s and early 1900s and extended into the twentieth century &ndash to be called the century of hate.
Peace benefited trade and a nation's economy, but emperors were not dominated by the idea of maintaining peace for the sake of economic well-being. The imperial tradition glorified warfare, and at this point in history a lot of influential people still saw warfare as providing their fellow countrymen with the manly spirit necessary for national success.
As for empires, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia had an empire that extended to Germany's border and included Turkic peoples. The Habsburg monarch Franz Joseph ruled over an empire that included Germans, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks, Slovenes, Croats, some Poles, Ukrainians and Serbs. And Turkey controlled an empire that included Arabia, Palestine and North Africa.
As men of power by accident of birth, monarchs were not always the brightest of men or equipped to challenge tradition. Franz Joseph wasn't thought of as intellectually bright or accomplished. People were judging their leaders by other standards. Franz Joseph had always worked diligently, rising to attend to his duties before dawn. He was courteous and kind to those around him. He loved his wife and was fervently devout.
Franz Joseph was moved to keep his empire as great as it was when he had inherited it. In the 1860s, after a short and bloody war against Italians and the French, he was forced to give up rule in northern Italy, but he never accepted the loss of his Italian lands, and to compensate for that loss he decided to extend his rule into Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Bosnia and Herzegovina had been a part of Turkey's Empire. In 1878, Europe was taking charge of some of Turkey's European empire. With the approval of the Congress of Berlin, the Roman Catholic Franz Joseph sent an army of 200,000 men under banners with the image of the Virgin Mary, into Bosnia and Herzegovina, believing that he was subduing an inferior people. The Catholic minority in Bosnia welcomed Franz Joseph's army, while Muslims and Orthodox Christians fought the invasion. In Sarajevo the fighting was from house to house and hand to hand. After two months of fighting, Franz Joseph's army overwhelmed its opponents, while suffering more than 5,200 killed in action &ndash sacrifices for the glory of God and the Habsburg Empire. The Congress of Berlin recognized Franz Joseph as having temporary control over Bosnia and Herzegovina while the area was to remain nominally a part of Turkey's empire. Franz Joseph had succeeded in extending his empire to what he saw as its rightful size. He had pushed into an area where for centuries Roman Catholicism had been in bitter rivalry with Eastern Orthodox Christianity.
Franz Joseph had not only won Bosnia and Herzegovina, he had won an unending conflict with the Serbs, including the nation of Serbia, whose independence had been formally recognized at the Congress of Berlin. The people of Serbia believed that their fellow Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina should be allowed to be a part of a greater Serb nation.
Complicating what would be a continuing conflict between the sentiments of Serbs and the interests of Emperor Franz Joseph was an alliance game among Europe's major powers.
The emergence of the industrial state
During the second half of the 19th century, politics and socioeconomic conditions became increasingly intertwined in Europe, producing a new definition of government functions, including a greatly expanded state and a new political spectrum. Linkage to cultural trends also showed through an interest in hard-headed realism. Predictably, political conditions in eastern Europe, though mirroring some of the general developments, remained distinctive.
The decades between 1850 and 1870 served as a crucial turning point in European politics and diplomacy, somewhat surprisingly given the apparent victory of conservative forces over the revolutions of 1848. Reactionary impulses did surface during these years. A Conservative Party eager to hold the line against further change emerged in Prussia. A number of governments made new arrangements with the Roman Catholic church to encourage religion against political attacks. Pope Pius IX, who had been chased from Rome during the final surge of agitation in 1848, turned adamantly against new political ideas. In the Syllabus of Errors accompanying the encyclical Quanta cura (“With What Great Care,” 1864), he denounced liberalism and nationalism and insisted on the duty of Roman Catholic rulers to protect the established church, even against religious toleration. The proclamation of papal infallibility (1870) was widely seen as another move to firm up church authority against change.
Many conservative leaders, however, saw the victory over revolution as a chance to innovate within the framework of the established order. They were aided by a pragmatic current among liberals, many of whom were convinced that compromise, not revolution, was the only way to win reform. Thus, in Britain Benjamin Disraeli, the Conservative leader in the House of Commons, in 1867 sponsored a new suffrage measure, which granted the vote to most urban workers Disraeli hoped that the new voters would support his party, and some of them did so. In France Emperor Napoleon III, who had insisted on an authoritarian regime during the 1850s, began to sponsor major industrial development while maintaining an active foreign policy, designed to win growing support for the state. In the 1860s, pressed by diplomatic setbacks, Napoleon also granted liberal concessions, expanding parliamentary power and tolerating more freedom of press and speech. The Habsburg monarchy promoted an efficient, largely German bureaucracy to replace the defunct manorial regime and in the 1860s sought to make peace with the leading nationalist movement. In the Ausgleich (“Compromise”) of 1867, Hungary was granted substantial autonomy, and separate parliaments, though based on limited suffrage, were established in Austria and Hungary. This result enraged Slavic nationalists, but it signaled an important departure from previous policies bent on holding the line against any dilution of imperial power.
The key centres of dynamic conservatism, however, were Italy and Germany. In the Italian state of Piedmont during the early 1850s, the able prime minister, Camillo di Cavour, conciliated liberals by sponsoring economic development and granting new personal freedoms. Cavour worked especially to capture the current of Italian nationalism. By a series of diplomatic maneuvers, he won an alliance with France against Austria and, in a war fought in 1859, drove Austria from the province of Lombardy. Nationalist risings followed elsewhere in Italy, and Cavour was able to join these to a new Italian state under the Piedmontese king. The resultant new state had a parliament, and it vigorously attacked the power of the Roman Catholic church in a liberal-nationalist combination that could win support from various political groups.
Inspired in part by Italian example, a young chief minister in Prussia, Otto von Bismarck, began a still more important campaign of limited political reform and nationalist aggrandizement. The goal was to unite Germany under Prussia and to defuse liberal and radical agitation. In a series of carefully calculated wars during the 1860s, Bismarck first defeated Denmark and won control over German-speaking provinces. He then provoked Austria, Prussia’s chief rival in Germany, and to general surprise won handily, relying on Prussia’s well-organized military might. A Prussian-dominated union of northern German states was formed. A final war with France, in 1870–71, again resulted in Prussian victory. This time the prize was the province of Alsace and part of Lorraine and agreement with the southern German states to form a single German empire under the Prussian ruler. This new state had a national parliament with a lower house based on universal manhood suffrage but an upper house dominated by Prussia, whose own parliament was elected by a voting system that assured the political power of the wealthiest elements of society. As in Italy, appointment of ministers lay with the crown, not parliament. Freedoms of press and speech were extended and religious liberty expanded to include Jews, but the government periodically intervened against dissident political groups.
These developments radically changed Europe’s map, eliminating two traditional vacuums of power that had been dominated by a welter of smaller states. Nationalism was triumphant in central Europe. At the same time, regimes had been created that, buoyed by nationalist success, appealed to moderate liberal and conservative elements alike while fully contenting neither group. The old regime, attacked for so many decades, was gone, as parliamentary politics and a party system predominated through western and central Europe. Concurrently, important powers for throne and aristocracy remained, as liberals either compromised their policies or went into sullen, usually ineffective, opposition.
A slightly different version of the politics of compromise emerged in France in the 1870s. Defeated by Prussia, the empire of Napoleon III collapsed. A variety of political forces, including various monarchist groups, contended for succession after a radical rising, the Paris Commune, failed in 1871. Eventually, through a piecemeal series of laws, conservative republicans triumphed, winning a parliamentary majority through elections and proclaiming the Third Republic. This was a clearly liberal regime, in which parliament dominated the executive branch amid frequent changes of ministry. Freedoms of press, speech, and association were widely upheld, and the regime attacked the powers of the church in education and other areas. At the same time, dominant liberals pledged to avoid significant social change, winning peasant and middle-class support on this basis.
With the emergence of the Third Republic, the constitutional structure of western Europe was largely set for the remainder of the 19th century. All the major nations (except Spain, which continued to oscillate between periods of liberalism and conservative authoritarianism) had parliaments and a multiparty system, and most had granted universal manhood suffrage. Britain completed this process by a final electoral reform in the mid-1880s. Belgium, Italy, and Austria held out for a longer time, experiencing considerable popular unrest as a result, though voting reforms for men were completed before 1914. Important political crises still surfaced. Bismarck warred with the Roman Catholic church and the Catholic Centre Party during the 1870s before reaching a compromise agreement. He then tried virtually to outlaw the socialist party, which remained on the defensive until a liberalization after he fell from power in 1890. During the 1890s, France faced a major constitutional crisis in the Dreyfus affair. The imprisonment of Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish army officer falsely accused of treason, triggered a battle between conservative, Catholic, and military forces, all bent on defending the authority of army and state, and a more radical republican group joined by socialists, who saw the future of the republic at stake. The winning pro-Dreyfus forces forced the separation of church and state by 1905, reducing Catholicism’s claims on the French government and limiting the role of religion as a political issue.
The politics of compromise also affected organized religion, partly because of attacks from various states. A number of Protestant leaders took up social issues, seeking new ways to reach the urban poor and to alleviate distress. The Salvation Army, founded in Britain in 1878, expressed the social mission idea, whereby practical measures were used in the service of God. Under a new pope, Leo XIII, the Roman Catholic church moved more formally to accommodate to modern politics. The encyclical Rerum Novarum (“Of New Things,” 1891) urged Catholics to accept political institutions such as parliaments and universal suffrage it proclaimed sympathy for working people against the excesses of capitalism, justifying moderate trade union action though vigorously denouncing socialism. Steps such as this muted religious issues in politics, while on the whole relegating organized religion to a more modest public role.
In general, the resolution of major constitutional issues led to an alternation of moderate conservative and liberal forces in power between 1870 and 1914. Conservatives, when in charge, tended to push a more openly nationalistic foreign policy than did liberals liberals, as the Dreyfus affair suggested in France, tended to be more concerned about limiting the role of religion in political life. Both movements, however, agreed on many basic goals, including political structure itself. Both were capable of promoting some modest social reforms, though neither wished to go too far. In Italy, conservatives and liberals were so similar that commentators noted a process of transformism (trasformismo), by which parliamentary deputies, regardless of their electoral platforms, were transformed into virtually identical power seekers once in Rome.
As the range of dispute between conservatives and liberals narrowed (save for fringe movements of the radical right that distrusted parliamentary politics altogether), the most striking innovation in the political spectrum was the rise of socialist parties, based primarily on working-class support though with scattered rural and middle-class backing as well. Formal socialist parties began to take shape in the 1860s. They differed from previous socialist movements in focusing primarily on winning electoral support earlier socialist leaders either had been openly revolutionary or had favoured setting up model communities that, they thought, would produce change through example. Most of the socialist parties established in the 1860s and ’70s derived their inspiration from Karl Marx. They argued that revolution was essential and that capitalists and workers were locked in a historic battle that must affect all social institutions. The goal of socialist action was to seize the state, establishing proletarian control and unseating the exploitative powers of capitalism. In practice, however, most socialist parties worked through the political process (with support for trade union activities), diluting orthodox Marxism. Universal manhood suffrage created a climate ripe for socialist gains, especially since, in most countries, these parties were the first to realize the nature of mass politics. They set up permanent organizations to woo support even apart from election campaigns and sponsored impassioned political rallies rather than working behind the scenes to manipulate voters. Newspapers, educational efforts, and social activities supplemented the formal political message.
By the 1880s the German socialist party was clearly winning working-class support away from the liberal movement despite Bismarck’s antisocialist laws. By 1900 the party was a major political force, gaining about two million votes in key elections and seating a large minority of parliamentary deputies. By 1913 the German party was polling four million votes in national elections and was the largest single political force in the nation. Socialist parties in Austria, Scandinavia, and the Low Countries won similar success. Socialism in France and Italy, divided among various ideological factions, was somewhat slower to coalesce, but it too gained ground steadily. In 1899 a socialist entered the French Cabinet as part of the Dreyfusard coalition, shocking orthodox Marxists who argued against collaboration with bourgeois politicians. By 1913 the French party had more than a hundred delegates in parliament. British socialism grew later and with less attention to formal ideology. The Labour Party was formed in the 1890s with strong trade union connections it long lagged behind the Liberals in winning workers’ votes. Nevertheless, even in Britain the party was a strong third force by 1914. In many countries socialists not only formed a large national minority capable of pressing government coalitions but also won control of many municipal governments, where they increased welfare benefits and regulated urban conditions for the benefit of their constituents.
The rise of socialism put what was called “the social question” at the forefront of domestic policy in the late 19th century, replacing debates about formal constitutional structure. Fear of socialism strengthened the hand of ruling conservative or liberal coalitions. At the same time, success mellowed many socialist leaders. In Germany about 1900 a revisionist movement arose that judged that revolution was not necessary it was thought that Marxism should be modified to allow for piecemeal political gains and cooperation with middle-class reformers. Most parties officially denounced revisionism in favour of stricter Marxism, but in fact they behaved in a revisionist fashion.
Gay Conversion Therapy's Disturbing 19th-Century Origins
In 1899, a German psychiatrist electrified the audience at a conference on hypnosis with a bold claim: He had turned a gay man straight.
All it took was 45 hypnosis sessions and a few trips to a brothel, Albert von Schrenck-Notzingragged. Through hypnosis, he claimed, he had manipulated the man’s sexual impulses, diverting them from his interest in men to a lasting desire for women.
He didn’t know it, but he had just kicked off a phenomenon that would later be known as 𠇌onversion therapy”𠅊 set of pseudoscientific techniques designed to quash LGBTQ people’s sexuality and make them conform to society’s expectations of how they should behave. Though it’s dismissed by the medical establishment today, conversion therapy was widely practiced throughout the 20th century, leaving shame, pain and self-hatred in its wake.
Homosexuality, especially same-sex relationships between men, was considered deviant, sinful and even criminal for centuries. In the late 19th century, psychiatrists and doctors began to address homosexuality, too. They labeled same-sex desire in medical terms𠅊nd started looking for ways to reverse it.
German doctor Eugen Steinach. (Credit: Imagno/Getty Images)
There were plenty of theories as to why people were homosexual. For Eugen Steinach, a pioneering Austrian endocrinologist, homosexuality was rooted in a man’s testicles. This theory led to testicle transplantationxperiments in the 1920s during which gay men were castrated, then given “heterosexual” testicles.”
Others theorized that homosexuality was a psychological disorder instead. Sigmund Freud hypothesized that humans are born innately bisexual and that homosexual people become gay because of their conditioning. But though Freud emphasized that homosexuality wasn’t a disease, per se, some of his colleagues didn’t agree. They began to use new psychiatric interventions in an attempt to 𠇌ure” gay people.
Some LGBTQ people were given electroconvulsive therapy, but others were subjected to even more extreme techniques like lobotomies. Other “treatments” included shocks administered through electrodes that were implanted directly into the brain. Robert Galbraith Heath, a psychiatrist in New Orleans who pioneered the technique, used this form of brain stimulation, along with hired prostitutes and heterosexual pornography, to 𠇌hange” the sexual orientation of gay men. But though Heath contended he was able to actually turn gay men straight, his work has since been challenged and criticized for its methodology.
An offshoot of these techniques was 𠇊version therapy,” which was founded on the premise that if LGBTQ people became disgusted by homosexuality, they would no longer experience same-sex desire. Under medical supervision, people were given chemicals that made them vomit when they, for example, looked at photos of their lovers. Others were given electrical shocks—sometimes to their genitals—while they looked at gay pornography or cross-dressed.
EUROPE: A GLOBAL POWER
The 19th century was a revolutionary period for European history and a time of great transformation in all spheres of life. Human and civil rights, democracy and nationalism, industrialisation and free market systems, all ushered in a period of change and chance.
By the end of the century Europe had reached the peak of its global power. Social and national tensions as well as international rivalries festered however - all exploding in conflict at the beginning of the 20th century.
The 19th century – an age of revolutions! Taking inspiration from the French Revolution of 1789, people across Europe challenged aristocratic ruling classes and fought for the development of civil and human rights, democracy and national independence.
Nationalism emerged as a revolutionary claim promising citizens more involvement in democracy, but it was exclusive, imagining a world of national territories inhabited by ethnically similar people. Some visionary Europeans, however, hoped for the unity of the continent beyond national allegiances.
The revolutionaries across Europe challenged aristocratic privileges and traditional orders. In particular, the revolutions of 1848-1849 were a milestone in the fight for equality, self-determination and human rights, goals which have strong echoes for our own times.
The French Revolution of 1789 was a turning point in European history. Existing political systems were undermined as the ideals of ‘freedom, equality and fraternity’ swept across the continent. The French revolutionaries’ attack on the Bastille prison in Paris on 14 July 1789 has become a famous symbol of resistance to corrupt rule and aristocratic privilege.
Legends, myths and a glorious past all became important elements for national movements trying to forge a national identity – an identity that was imagined as separate and unique from others. Flags, anthems and symbols were just some of the devices used by national movements to achieve these goals and enhance their self-image.
Steam, smoke, factories, noise – all announced the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain. To different degrees manufacturing then spread across Europe turning the continent into the world centre of industrialisation, finance and commerce. New technical innovations initiated industrial progress with steam power driving the development of heavy industry. Methods of production were totally transformed and large factories with thousands of workers mass produced industrial and consumer goods.
Workers in the 19th century were wage labourers who did not have legal protection or social security. They often had to work and live in appalling conditions. Only at the end of the century did their situation improve with the gradual attainment of voting rights.
Industrialisation and the introduction of mechanised manufacturing utterly changed working conditions for people across Europe.
Originating from the French language, the word bourgeoisie describes a new social category of people who emerged out of the changes in society brought about by the Industrial Revolution. Economically independent, educated and gaining political rights, they were the driving force behind economic and political changes.
Speed, dynamism and a belief in progress defined Europe at the end of the 19th century. Railways, electricity, cinema, photography and new theories in science and medicine affirmed Europe’s leading role in this technological coming of age. A time of optimism beckoned.
The arrival of the age of railways demonstrated Europe’s advance as an assured technological world leader. Industrialisation expanded and long-distance travel became possible across all social classes.
Railways altered European landscapes with the introduction of tunnels, viaducts and bridges over previously impassable obstacles. What was then the longest tunnel in the world opened in 1882 with the completion of the 15-kilometre Gotthard rail tunnel connecting northern and southern Europe. Railways brought mass transit and tourism.
The telegraph allowed almost instant communication between distant places. A crime committed in one city could be rapidly reported in another, as could world commodity prices. Undersea cables made communication global.
Late 19th century national rivalries and international tensions were obvious within the Universal Exhibition of 1900, with galleries displaying weapons of war and colonial villages. Such rivalry would dramatically shape the following century.
The 19th century witnessed a globally dominant Europe. Empires expanded, colonies amassed – all pushed energetically forward by the Industrial Revolution. Colonies provided the raw materials and luxury commodities to meet rising consumer demand, in return promising vast markets for European products. Abuse and inequality were excused as a necessary part of ‘civilising’ savage peoples. The gradual ending of slavery was followed by new forms of intolerance and racism.
By 1914 European countries ruled about 30 % of the world’s population. Europe had been involved in overseas exploration and trade for centuries, but the benefits of the Industrial Revolution enabled Europe to tighten its grip on other continents.
The participants at the Berlin Conference (1884-1885) established the ground rules for partitioning the continent of Africa among European powers, without any input from Africans themselves. By the end of 1900 only three states remained independent. European powers would also divide up the map of Asia.
New European technology created tools, such as machine guns, that were decisive in advancing colonialism. Even with superior numbers, indigenous resistance was futile against a weapon that could fire 50 times faster than a standard rifle.
Within Europe itself, certain peoples were regarded as being racially ‘less evolved’ than others. According to such racist concepts, these societies were usually described as being on the geographical and social margins of Europe and were often seen as the living ancestors of 19th‑century Europe’s more highly developed races.
Europe-1900 - History
After the depression of the 1890s, immigration jumped from a low of 3.5 million in that decade to a high of 9 million in the first decade of the new century. Immigrants from Northern and Western Europe continued coming as they had for three centuries, but in decreasing numbers. After the 1880s, immigrants increasingly came from Eastern and Southern European countries, as well as Canada and Latin America. By 1910, Eastern and Southern Europeans made up 70 percent of the immigrants entering the country. After 1914, immigration dropped off because of the war, and later because of immigration restrictions imposed in the 1920s.
The reasons these new immigrants made the journey to America differed little from those of their predecessors. Escaping religious, racial, and political persecution, or seeking relief from a lack of economic opportunity or famine still pushed many immigrants out of their homelands. Many were pulled here by contract labor agreements offered by recruiting agents, known as padrones to Italian and Greek laborers. Hungarians, Poles, Slovaks, Bohemians, and Italians flocked to the coal mines or steel mills, Greeks preferred the textile mills, Russian and Polish Jews worked the needle trades or pushcart markets of New York. Railroad companies advertised the availability of free or cheap farmland overseas in pamphlets distributed in many languages, bringing a handful of agricultural workers to western farmlands. But the vast majority of immigrants crowded into the growing cities, searching for their chance to make a better life for themselves.
Immigrants entering the United States who could not afford first or second-class passage came through the processing center at Ellis Island, New York. Built in 1892, the center handled some 12 million European immigrants, herding thousands of them a day through the barn-like structure during the peak years for screening. Government inspectors asked a list of twenty-nine probing questions, such as: Have you money, relatives or a job in the United States? Are you a polygamist? An anarchist? Next, the doctors and nurses poked
|Medical examination |
Ellis Island, 1910
For the newcomers arriving without family, some solace could be found in the ethnic neighborhoods populated by their fellow countrymen. Here they could converse in their native tongue, practice their religion, and take part in cultural celebrations that helped ease the loneliness. Often, though, life for all was not easy. Most industries offered hazardous conditions and very low wages--lowered further after the padrone took out his share. Urban housing was overcrowded and unsanitary. Many found it very difficult to accept. An old Italian saying summed up the disillusionment felt by many: "I came to America because I heard the streets were paved with gold. When I got here, found out three things: First, the streets weren't paved with gold second, they weren't paved at all: and third, I was expected to pave them." In spite of the difficulties, few gave up and returned home.
Kraut, Alan, The Huddled Masses: The Immigrant in American Society, 1880-1921 (1982) Handlin, Oscar, The Uprooted (1951).
Background Sources (Online)
- This article by UCLA history professor Ellen Dubois further explains the women’s suffrage movement of the nineteenth century. Dubois explains the radicalist nature of the suffrage movement that was needed in order for others to take notice of the movement and not push it aside.
- By Dr. Anne Scott for her class Europe 1700-1914: A Continent Transformed” at Birkback University of London. As one can see by Scott’s article, she is clearly knowledgeable on feminism. With the help of Michael Rapport’s Nineteenth-Century Europe and John Belchem and Richard Price’s A Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century History, Scott goes into detail with socialism and anarchism and their relation to feminism. This goes hand in hand with Barbara Taylor’s Eve and the New Jerusalem, which I previously mentioned in the text portion of my background sources.
- Professor Penny Welch created this culmination of feminist information for her class Women in Europe at the University of Wolverhampton in England. It outlines the waves of feminism and includes several lists of bibliographies for different European countries so students can research more on feminism in a certain area. The outline for her course includes pertinent information for nineteenth century European feminism.
The Black Presence in Pre-20th Century Europe: A Hidden History
In the following account, Professor Allison Blakely of Boston University describes the presence of blacks in Early Modern Europe. His article reminds us that persons of African ancestry resided across Europe. Their numbers ranged from a few hundred scattered across Germany, Scandinavia and Russia in the period between the 16th and 18th Centuries to approximately 150,000 on the Iberian peninsula. His discussion below is excerpted from a larger article written for the American Historical Society in 1999.
There is a risk in asking 20th-century questions of earlier times because today’s terms of discourse may not find a meaningful context there. It is likewise problematic to project onto European history social and cultural constructs that have evolved in the United States, and perhaps nowhere else, in quite the same form. Such is the dilemma we face in considering the influence of blacks in European history for a primarily American audience.
A discussion of the influence of black Africans on Europe and on Europeans is complicated by the absence of a universal definition of black. In general, the designation black in Europe, unlike in the United States, has been reserved for those of dark color, not the broader definition based on known black African ancestry. Consequently, awareness of a black population in Europe has been limited by the fact that when interracial marriage occurred, subsequent light-complexioned generations might never be referred to again as black. Hence the debate over whether Alexandre Dumas père, who had African ancestry through his father and paternal grandmother, was black. Consistent with the predominant European attitude, he emphatically rejected the notion that he was. Besides, in his France—as in all the other European societies—class was far more important than color, at least until the 20th century. The great Russian poet, Alexander Pushkin, who took pride in his African ancestry, shrugged off aspersions cast on that score, but took great offense at those who did not respect the centuries of nobility on his father’s side.
Is it legitimate, therefore, for a historian to count these two 19th-century literary giants as evidence of an African influence? Has racial thought in Europe had the same degree of significance as in the United States? Have blacks in Europe experienced a kind of positive “invisibility” in contrast to the destructive American type chronicled by Ralph Ellison? On the surface the European racial definition seems more egalitarian. However, the history in question suggests also the possibility of an attempt to ignore or minimize the influence of a group considered sufficiently undesirable to have been excluded by law from European countries at various times. For teachers and students of history a resultant practical problem is the absence of clear references to race in documents such as census data where it might be quite useful. Moreover, among scholars, few have found the experience of blacks in Europe to merit special attention and even those few of African descent who have achieved high status have done so by following the accepted conventions and by avoiding drawing attention to either their African heritage or to African characteristics in their societies. This has been left to blacks in former colonies, not in Europe.
This brief essay uses selected examples from continental European societies to discuss some of the issues that must be confronted in studying the influence of Africa and Africans on continental Europe.
Africa and Africans have had an influence on European thought and culture far disproportionate to the size of the small black population (which, for example, approached 150,000 in the Iberian peninsula in the 16th century, and by the 18th Century amounted to just several thousand in France, a few thousand in the Netherlands, and several hundred scattered through Germany, Scandinavia, and Russia. Only in the 20th century would the combined numbers reach the hundreds of thousands. The most striking example of that disproportionate influence can be seen in the 20th century, in Soviet Russia, which as part of its messianic role chose Black Africa and blacks in America as symbols for the Communist championing of the downtrodden elected blacks as honorary members of the Moscow City Council and named a mountain after Paul Robeson.
Three interesting examples of people of African ancestry who had distinguished careers in Germany, Russia and the Netherlands suggest the ways in which race is mediated in Modern Europe. The first, Anthony William Amo, gained fame in Germany for his philosophical studies. Born on the Gold Coast around 1700, he was taken to Amsterdam by the West India Company when he was about 10 years old and was presented to the Duke of Wolfenbüttel. He was baptized in Wolfenbüttel in 1707 and given the names Anton and Wilhelm in honor of the reigning duke and his son. A grant from the duke allowed Amo to be educated to a point where he was able to enter the universities at Halle, in 1727, and Wittenberg, in 1730, where he became skilled in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, French, German, and Dutch and concentrated on philosophy. In 1734 he was awarded the doctorate degree from the University of Wittenberg with a dissertation on “De humanae mentis apatheia” (“On Apathy in the Human Mind”). In his philosophical work he was a rationalist, devoting special attention to mathematical and medical knowledge in the context of Enlightenment thought. He became a lecturer at the University of Halle and later at the University of Jena until the 1750s.
Among the few fairly prominent black figures in Dutch history who at least briefly caught the public eye, the earliest was the former slave Jacobus Capitein, so named because a Dutch captain brought him to Leiden, where he was put into school, mastered several European languages, and eventually became a predicant (preacher) after completing theological training at the University of Leiden in 1742. He became famous as author of a treatise that defended slavery as an avenue to redemption for Africans. His portrait, circulated widely, advertising that blacks could be transformed by Christianity and Western civilization. Prior to going off to what was to prove a disastrous mission in his homeland on the Gold Coast, he preached a number of times in Holland to audiences who flocked to see this novelty.
The first black to attain high recognition in Russia was Abram Hannibal, the African slave who became a favorite of Tsar Peter the Great and was the maternal great-grandfather of Pushkin, the single most revered figure in all of Russian culture. Brought to Russia at the beginning of the 18th century as part of a group of young black prospective servants, Hannibal, under the tsar’s sponsorship, went on to attain a high level of education in France and, after returning to Russia, eventually advanced to the rank of major general in the army engineers. He brought back to Russia a personal library of 400 books, one of the largest and most up-to-date in the empire, and himself published a two-volume compilation on geometry and construction techniques. The owner of several estates, complete with serf labor, he served from 1743 to 1751 as Commandant of the city of Reval (in Estonia) on the Baltic. He later directed major canal and other construction projects.
There were persons of African ancestry who achieved distinction in Moorish Iberia and later in Spain and Portugal, the European societies that first saw a large influx of blacks. Most of these notables were mulattos: for example, Cristóbol de Meneses, a Dominican priest the painters Juan de Pareja and Sebastian Gomez and Leonardo Ortiz, a lawyer. Among the few dark-skinned blacks who achieved high status was Juan Latino, a slave from Africa who through his master’s benevolence was educated at the University of Granada. There were also some other signs of respect for blacks during these centuries. In 1306 an Ethiopian delegation came to Europe to seek an alliance with the “King of the Spains” against the Moslems. King Anfós IV of Aragon considered arranging a double marriage with the Negus of Ethiopia in 1428. And the Portuguese sent Pedro de Corvilhao to Ethiopia in 1487 on a similar mission.
Meanwhile the actual living experience of blacks in Europe appeared to be marked by smooth integration into European society, with the role of lower-class blacks determined very much by that of their masters or employers. The 140,000 slaves imported into Europe from Africa between 1450 and 1505 were a welcome new labor force in the wake of the Bubonic Plague. On the whole, blacks in Christian Iberia were not limited to servile roles but they were also not influential as a group. The new slave population in Portugal worked in agriculture and fishing. Free blacks living in Loulé and Lagos in the southern edge of Portugal owned houses and worked as day laborers, midwives, bakers, and servants. Most were domestic servants, laborers (including those on ships and river craft), and petty tradesmen. Some free blacks, especially women, became innkeepers. Blacks in Spain served as stevedores, factory workers, farm laborers, footmen, coachmen, and butlers. Male and female domestics apparently lived well compared to other lower-class people. Slaves could work in all the crafts, but could not join the guilds. A few Africans active in the Americas during the early Iberian expansion were among returnees to Portugal and Spain from America and Africa from the 16th to the 18th centuries. These included free mulatto students, clerics, free and slave household servants, sailors, and some who attained gentlemen’s status. The use of many black women slaves as domestics and concubines led to mulatto offspring who received favored treatment, and in some instances, attained middle-class and even aristocratic status.
In surveying the later experience of blacks in the northern, central, and eastern European societies, there is a striking similarity to the patterns in Iberia, but with smaller populations before the 20th century. In those societies it became fashionable for the wealthy to employ blacks as house servants and in ceremonial roles such as military musicians. The Dutch entry into the African slave trade, beginning in the 17th century which eventually accounted for the removal of about half a million Africans to the Americas, magnified the image of blacks as a servile race in Dutch society. This was one of the factors increasingly reinforcing a low esteem for blacks in other parts of Europe as well by the 18th century.
The basis for denigration of blacks must also be sought, however, in underlying notions within European cultures. Images of blacks and attitudes about blacks were present in Europe long before there was a significant physical presence. In visual arts, religion, epics, and legends, the Middle Ages provide a fascinating array of vivid illustrations of this point. There is a persistent pattern of ambivalence in the attitudes of white Europeans toward blacks that has survived over the centuries, always containing both positive and negative features, but usually tilting toward the latter. Imagery based upon religious themes illustrates especially well the ambivalence in question. Black saints were proclaimed in parts of medieval Europe when the Holy Roman Emperors, beginning with Charles IV’s ascension in 1346, adopted blacks into the iconography of their realm. The statue of St. Maurice in the chapel of St. Kilian at Magdeburg and the 17th-century bust of St. Gregory the Moor at the church of St. Gereon in Cologne testify to the strength of these notions. This special recognition aimed not only to acknowledge the contribution of African martyrs to the Christian cause, but also to amplify the scope of the German emperor’s realm and affirm the relevance of Christianity to all peoples.
Yet even some of the most beautiful art depicting blacks had darker undertones. The Adoration of the Magi was the single most popular religious theme featuring blacks in European art. The black king, handsome with noble bearing, was usually depicted as the youngest, presumably symbolizing Africa as the continent just beginning to participate in world affairs. This hint at backwardness is of course the negative aspect. Another biblical theme with a similarly ambiguous message was that surrounding the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch, described in a passage of the Book of Acts. Although this may be interpreted as celebrating a missionary role for Christianity, it also implies European cultural superiority. Moreover, this theme becomes even more negative when it is associated with a popular symbol derived from a passage in the Old Testament Book of Jeremiah, where the impossibility of an Ethiopian changing his color is mentioned in a discussion of sin and punishment (Jeremiah 13: 22-25). In the emblematic tradition widely published in western Europe during the early modern period, a “washed Moor” was the symbol for futility.
The Hamitic legend is an older and better known religious theme bearing a negative connotation for blacks. The convergence of this legend (as well as that on the Ethiopian baptism) with the rise of the African slave trade represents just the type of historical fusion that can help explain the depth of modern racism’s roots: that is, myth seemingly confirmed by experience. Other imagery concerning blacks drawn more from the historical experience than from imagination might be cited from epics, legends, and literature. An illustrative medieval literary work is Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzifal, drawn from the legend of King Arthur and his court, which evolved for centuries in England, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. The images of the blacks in the story are at times positive and at others negative, sometimes noble, at others ridiculous. Also, precursing a familiar theme of the present day, the males have uncontrollable sexual appetites. The depiction of blacks as tormentors and sexual symbols was also popular. Among Satan’s titles in literature and folklore were the names “black knight,” “black man,” “big Negro,” “black Jehovah,” and “black Ethiopian.” Such figures as Ruprecht and Black Pete (Zwarte Piet), the sometimes benevolent bogeymen who accompany the Saint Nicholas figure in the Christmas celebrations in Germany and the Netherlands, show that the ambivalence persists.
In the 19th and 20th centuries the apparent assumed inferiority of blacks would become cloaked in supposedly scientific racist theories, such as those of Joseph Gobineau and Adolf Hitler. Reservations about the character of blacks, even when not spoken, have been among the reasons for limiting entry of blacks into Europe and for opposing racial mixture. The ambivalence of Europeans, like their white American counterparts, toward equal acceptance of blacks in few fields other than sports or music reflect deeply embedded stereotypes that have continued to overshadow the real role of blacks in European history and culture.
Reformation Europeca. 1500-1650
|primary powers||Spain, France, Austria|
|growing religious conflict |
|Protestant-Catholic conflict grows, between and within nations|
|Thirty Years' War |
|the German states (aided by France, Denmark, and Sweden) successfully|
battle Austria (aided by Spain) for political/religious autonomy
The Reformation featured constant religion-based conflict (namely Catholic-Protestant conflict) within and between the nations of Western Europe. Religious fervour was, of course, often entangled with political interests.
The most powerful nations of Reformation Europe were Spain (the mightiest), France, and Austria. Alliances of the Reformation generally coincided with religion: Protestant regions on one side (Germany, Netherlands, England, Scandinavia), Catholic regions on the other (Spain, Holy Roman Empire). The chief exception was France, which despite being Catholic was determined to break the power of the Habsburgs.
The Reformation can be divided into two parts: a period of escalating conflict between Protestants and Roman Catholics (ca. 1500-1618) and the Thirty Years' War (ca. 1618-48).
The primary struggles of the "escalating conflict" period were the Italian Wars and the Dutch Revolt, both of which lasted decades. The Italian Wars , fought between Spain and France over Italian territory, ended in Spanish victory. In the Dutch Revolt (aka the Eighty Years' War), the Netherlands won independence from Spanish rule. (The final three decades of the the Dutch Revolt overlap with the Thirty Years' War.)
The region of "the Netherlands" comprises the northern half of the Low Countries. While the Low Countries were largely independent during the Middle Ages, they became a firm Habsburg possession ca. 1500. The Netherlands broke free during the Reformation, while the southern Low Countries (now Belgium) would not achieve independence until the nineteenth century.
The Thirty Years' War (1618-1648), fought mainly in Germany, centred on the struggle of the German states against Austria for political and religious autonomy. (While Germany officially belonged to the Holy Roman Empire, the region was actually a patchwork of small, semi-independent states.) Austria was aided by Spain, while the German states were supported chiefly by Denmark, Sweden, and France. Over seven million were killed in the Thirty Years' War, making it the bloodiest conflict in Europe prior to the First World War. K262-263,8
The Thirty Years' War initially erupted in Bohemia (part of Austrian territory), when enraged Protestants (a strong minority group in that region) burst into the king's palace and hurled several officials through a window: an event referred to as the Defenestration of Prague . War subsequently raged in Bohemia (for the first few years of the war), then primarily Germany (for the remainder). Austria was ultimately defeated, with the treaty that ended the war (the Peace of Westphalia ) granting religious and political autonomy to the German states. (In Bohemia, however, the Protestant rebellion was quelled, and Austrian control of the region remained firm.) 8,9
Under the Tudor dynasty (ca. 1500-1600), England bloomed into a major power. The conversion of England to Protestantism was initiated by Henry VIII (the second Tudor), who proclaimed himself head of Catholicism in England (instead of the pope) in response to the pope's refusal to grant him a divorce. Over the Tudor period, England came to abandon Catholicism altogether, with Protestantism being permanently established as the state religion of England by Elizabeth I (the last Tudor). 67
The Tudors were succeeded by the Stuart dynasty. Its first two members were James I and Charles I , both of whom provoked civil unrest via brutal anti-Catholicism, heavy taxation, and contempt for Parliament. Under James' reign, this unrest culminated in the Gunpowder Plot , a Catholic attempt to blow up Parliament. Under Charles' reign, unrest finally erupted into the English Revolution . 68
The period known as the English Revolution (ca. 1640-60) had two phases. The first half of this period was spanned by the English Civil War, which ultimately deposed Charles I. The second half was spanned by the Commonwealth (a dictatorship ruled by Oliver Cromwell), during which civil conflict continued. In 1660, the Stuart monarchy was restored.
The English Civil War was fought between the Royalists (supporters of the king, composed primarily of high-ranking nobles) and the Parliamentarians (supporters of Parliament, composed primarily of lesser nobles and the middle class). The war ended in Parliamentarian victory and Charles' execution. 70
Parliament was the representative assembly of England. (A representative assembly is a body of representatives from across a country, who gather to participate in the governance of that country.) While representative assemblies emerged in various Western European states during the Middle Ages, most remained mere advisory bodies only Parliament achieved real political power, such that it could significantly limit the actions of the monarch (see History of Democracy).
While Parliament was initially dominated by the nobility, throughout the Reformation it increasingly became the political voice of the middle class. 70 Members of Parliament were elected, albeit only by a fraction of the population (due to property requirements for suffrage). Nonetheless, this was the starting-point of modern democracy, and Parliament is the ancestor of all modern democratic governments.
For most of Europe, the Enlightenment was the age of absolutism, during which monarchs achieved an unprecedented degree of absolute rule over their nations. Thanks to Parliament, England was the chief exception to this rule. The restoration of the monarchy in 1660 came with strong conditions, namely that monarchs would recognize the legal authority Parliament had obtained up to that point, as well as some additional power. Thus does the English Revolution mark the decisive, permanent end of absolutism in England. (This was reaffirmed a few decades later by the brief Glorious Revolution, in which another Stuart king with absolutist ambitions was deposed by Parliamentary forces.) A296-97,79
England thus became the first major power to feature representative government (i.e. government in which significant political power is held by a representative assembly). This did not go unnoticed: from the English Revolution onward, demand for representative government was constant throughout the Western world. 78 Representative government (and British culture generally) also spread via exportation from Britain to its colonies, including the United States (which, some two centuries after the English Revolution, would become the world's first true democracy).
Enlightenment Europeca. 1650-1800
|Early Enlightenment |
|France, under Louis XIV, flourishes as the mightiest European nation|
the Early Enlightenment concludes with the War of the Spanish Succession
|Late Enlightenment |
|a five-way balance of power prevails in Europe|
Britain wins the Seven Years' War, thereby becoming the global colonial superpower
the Enlightenment concludes with the French Revolution
During the period from the Enlightenment to World War I (ca. 1650-WWI), the primary powers of Europe were France, England, Austria, Prussia (later Germany), and Russia. During the Early Enlightenment (ca. 1648-1715), France waxed as the most powerful nation of the five (under Louis XIV). During the Late Enlightenment (ca. 1715-1800), the five nations were more evenly matched, comprising a five-way "balance of power". 2
Note that the Ottoman Empire was also a major force in European politics for the whole of its existence (ca. 1300-WWI).
The reign of the French king Louis XIV (aka the "Sun King") spanned the entire Early Enlightenment. Louis' reign was characterized by extensive patronage of the arts, ruthless persecution of the Huguenots (which virtually ended Protestantism in France), and constant wars of attempted expansion. 51 These attempts compelled other European powers to unite into an anti-French coalition, whose membership fluctuated throughout the decades (but was consistently led by England and Austria).
The foremost conflict of the Early Enlightenment was the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-14), which spanned the final years of Louis XIV's reign. This conflict resulted from the extinction of the Habsburg dynasty in Spain, which caused Louis' grandson Philip to inherit the Spanish throne left unchecked, this would eventually have led to the union of France and Spain under a single monarch. The anti-French coalition averted this danger by attacking and defeating both nations in the resulting peace settlement, France and Spain were forbidden from ever uniting, and both were stripped of significant territories. 52,53
The foremost conflict of the Late Enlightenment (along with the American and French Revolutions) was the Seven Years' War (1756-63), which involved most of Europe. Fighting took place both in Europe itself and throughout the world, between the European empires. Indeed, the Seven Years' War is often cited as the first global conflict.
At the core of this conflict was the British-French struggle for world supremacy. The Enlightenment period witnessed a string of wars between these nations over control of India, North America, and the Caribbean. More often than not, Britain claimed victory in these wars, such that French territory was slowly eroded.
Victory in the Seven Years' War allowed the British Empire to absorb New France (French territory in North America) and ejected the French from India. The Seven Years' War thus marks the rise of the British Empire as the supreme global colonial power. By imposing new taxes on colonies (due to massive war debts), however, Britain spurred the American Revolution , which France was only too eager to support. 73
Russia and Prussia
The history of Russia began ca. 1500, when Ivan the Great founded the nation by freeing his East Slavic land (known as Muscovy) from Turkic domination. Russian territory expanded steadily throughout the Early Modern period, especially eastward. Ivan the Great was succeeded by Ivan the Terrible , the first Russian ruler to be titled tsar . Soon after, the Romanov dynasty came to power, remaining there until the position of tsar was terminated during WWI. 41,42
The foremost monarch of Enlightenment Russia was Peter the Great , who effected an ambitious program of "Westernization" to bring Russian government, military, and technology up to Western standards. He established Russian naval power by founding St Petersburg on the Baltic coast, which served as the nation's capital until World War I. 42
The Enlightenment also witnessed the emergence of the nation of Prussia. "Prussia" was originally a state centred on modern-day northeast Poland, established by the Teutonic Knights during the later Middle Ages. Poland conquered the region soon afterward, but allowed the Knights to keep part of it as a duchy. During the Reformation, this duchy was inherited by the prince of Brandenburg (one of the small German states under the Holy Roman Empire) during the Enlightenment, Prussia broke free as an independent kingdom and expanded rapidly, joining up with Brandenburg to form a single great power.
The Enlightenment concluded with the French Revolution (1789-99), effected by the French peasantry and middle class in response to heavy regressive taxation. 2 Taxes on food, for instance, were so high as to bring about famine among the lower classes. Escalating civil unrest forced Louis XVI to summon the Estates-General in a desperate bid to implement satisfactory political reforms, including an acceptable system of taxation (which was needed to manage the towering national debt). 58
The Estates-General was, like England's Parliament, a representative assembly established during the Middle Ages. Unlike Parliament, the Estates-General had never attained significant political power, and so had remained chiefly advisory.
The Estates-General consisted of representatives from three groups: nobility, clergy, and commoners (known as the three "estates"). Though discussions ensued, the commoners lost patience and demanded control of the nation, dubbing themselves the National Assembly . Before long, the king reluctantly acknowledged the National Assembly as the new government of France. 58
The new regime would not be established peacefully, however: in 1789, fears of a noble plot to restore the monarchy drove the commoners to storm the Bastille (a prison fortress) for weapons. This act is considered the beginning of the French Revolution. 58
The Revolution featured a series of failed attempts at establishing democratic government. Meanwhile, violence raged both within France (against counter-revolutionaries and between rival revolutionary factions) and against other European nations in the French Revolutionary Wars , through which France expanded eastward. Thousands of perceived enemies of the Revolution were beheaded, including Louis XVI and his queen, Marie Antoinette. 58
The Revolution ended when Napoleon, a celebrated military officer of the French Revolutionary Wars, seized control of the nation in 1799. Though not declared "emperor" for some years, his rule was dictatorial from the start. War with Europe continued the French Revolutionary Wars simply became the Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815). 58,74
While the French Revolution did not succeed in founding democratic government, it did initiate the downfall of absolutism in France. The Revolution also bolstered a range of freedoms in French society, including freedom of speech and religion. The ideals and reforms of the French Revolution proved widely influential, especially across Continental Europe. A327