In Europe, the revolutionary transformation of the ruling systems
and state structures began with a bang: In 1789 the French
Revolution broke out in Paris, and its motto "Liberte, Egalite,
Fraternite"—Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood—took on an irrepressible
force. A fundamental reorganization of society followed the French
Revolution. The ideas behind the revolution were manifest in
Napoleon's Code Civil, which he imposed on many European nations.
The 19th century also experienced a transformation of society from
another source: The Industrial Revolution established within society
a poorer working class that stood in opposition to the merchant and
trading middle class. The nascent United States was shaken by an
embittered civil war. The economic growth that set in following that
war was accompanied by the development of imperialist endeavors and
its rise to the status of a Great Power.
Liberty Leading the People,
allegory of the 1830 July revolution that deposed the French
with Marianne as the personification of liberty,
contemporary painting by Eugene Delacroix.
England's economic development was almost half a century ahead of
the Continent's due to its early industrialization, but the working
conditions were devastating and led to impoverishment of the workers.
This made worker protection laws necessary, along with the gradual
extension of suffrage to ever-widening sections of the population, to
alleviate the social tensions. Under Queen Victoria, whose reign began
in 1837, the economy flourished at first, but social problems remained
and the worker movement demanded further reforms. The British colonial
empire was gradually restructured in the 19th century to become the
Commonwealth of Nations.