Sections in page:

A. The "Age of Revolutions"

B. Comparing Declarations of Independence

C. United States

D. France

E. Haiti


A. The "Age of Revolutions"


Between 1776 and 1804, three nations declared their independence and rejected their imperial or monarchical governments. The revolutions of France, Haiti, and the United States were united by the Atlantic Ocean and many of the same ideas circulating across the world. None of these revolutions happened alone without the influence of the others. They all acted upon ideas of the Enlightenment and created new governments that brought those ideas to life.
Rousseau Statute in Geneva
Rousseau Statute in Geneva

Important Enlightenment thinkers that contributed to the Age of Revolutions were:

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  • John Locke, whose "Social Contract" theory stated that people can be trusted to choose their own governments, and that any government - even monarchies - can rule if they keep the interest of the people at heart.
  • Baron de Montesquieu, who wrote in The Spirit of Laws that governments should balance power in several factions.
  • Others include: Thomas Hobbes; Jean-Jacques Rousseau

rotating gif.gifFor more on the Enlightenment, see standards WHI.34 and WHI.35


external image 200px-Hebrew_timeline.svg.png Age of Revolutions Timeline

external image Red_apple.jpg Age of Revolutions lesson plan

primary_sources.PNG Primary sources detailing the relationship between Jefferson and the French Revolution

For more information on the relationship between the American and Haitian Revolutions, click here or here.


B. Comparing Declarations of Independence


During the Age of Revolutions, "declaring" independence became the status quo. Comparing these revolutionary documents creates excellent opportunities for understanding their ideals and circumstantial differences.

Background on America's Declaration of Independence
primary_sources.PNGRead America's Declaration of Independence

Background on France's Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen
primary_sources.PNGRead France's Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen

Background on Haiti's Declaration of Independence
primary_sources.PNGRead Haiti's Declaration of Independence


C. United States


The American Revolution began in 1776 with the Declaration of Independence. For decades, colonoists had been growing frustrated with the financial burden placed on them by the English monarch. Tension grew to a breaking point following the Stamp Act, Towshend Acts, Boston Tea Party, and Boston Massacre. With the help of France - and even Haiti - the United States won its independence in 1783 and set out to create a government that could embody the ideals of popular sovereignty, the social contract, and the balance of powers. Unlike in Haiti and France, however, the slave system remained in place.

external image Red_apple.jpg Lesson plan: Images of the American Revolution

external image Red_apple.jpg Lesson plan: Causes of the American Revolution

rotating gif.gif For more on the American Revolution, see US History I standards.


D. France


The French Revolution was a result of class struggle and increasing frustration with the monarchy. As King Louis XV and King Louis XVI spent exorbitant sums on wars and self-serving projects, the middle and lower classes were burdened with most of the cost. At a meeting of the Estates General, the Third Estate, which represented the majority of the nation that were not clergy or nobles, formed its own National Assembly and resolved to form their own constitution. Out of it came the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen. The revolution gave way to terror, however. King Louis XVI was executed, and the chaos made way for the rise of Napoleon.

external image Red_apple.jpg Lesson plan: The French Revolution (1)

external image Red_apple.jpg Lesson plan: The French Revolution (2)

Multimedia.png Comparing the American and French Revolutions

rotating gif.gif For more on the French Revolution, see standards WHII.3 and WHII.4


E. Haiti


The Haitian Revolution is simultaneously very similar - and very different from - the American and French Revolutions. In 1791, a slave rebellion in the French colony of Saint-Domingue turned into a revolution, as a unified front fought to eliminate the slave system. With England and Spain involved, the Caribbean became a stage for greater imperial conflict. The Haitian Revolution provoked France to abolish slavery in its colonies, but they still lost Saint-Domingue. In 1804, Haiti became the first free black nation and the first country to fully abolish slavery.

external image Red_apple.jpg Lesson plan: The Haitian Revolution (1)

external image Red_apple.jpg Lesson plan: The Haitian Revolution (2)

Multimedia.png The Haitian Revolution & the End of the Slave Trade

Multimedia.png Historian Laurent Dubois on the relationship between the Haitian and American revolutions

rotating gif.gif For more on the Haitian Revolution, see the special page on Toussaint L'Ouverture and the Haitian Revolution