History's revolutions have taken on a distinct shape. Crane Brinton points out this particular
pattern inherent to national revolutions in his book Anatomy of a Revolution. Brinton uses a
wheel to describe the common cycle that most revolutions share. Brinton claims that the starting
block of most revolutions is the societal problems brought forth by the "Old Regime". Brinton
continues his cycle with the isolated and spontaneous events of dissatisfaction that mark the
overthrow of that "Old Regime". Brinton claims this to be the "first stage of revolution". The
"rule of the moderates" is next in line according to Brinton as a "honeymoon" develops with the
formation of the new government. This government is however overthrown once again by the
extremists in the "accession of the extremists" phase of the revolution. A coup d'état is generally
the method used as a new ruler grows in authoritarianism. A loss of individualism ensues in this
"new society" and often a violent and excessive government is formed. The final stage of the
revolution according to Brinton is "the Thermidor". This final stage is marked by a return to
normalcy under the protection of a "strongman" and a gradual reestablishment of a "society in
equilibrium". Crane Brinton's theories concerning revolutions are easily seen when taking a close
look at the English Civil War of the 17th Century, the French Revolution of the 18th Century,
and the Russian Revolution of the 19th Century. By analyzing each revolution according to
Brinton's method one can come to see the both the similarities and differences of those three
historical European revolutions.
English tumults arose with the death of Elizabeth and the arrival of a new Stuart dynasty
with James I in 1603. When James inherited a nearly bankrupt England he began to tax the
nation without much consent from Parliament fueling anti-absolutist feelings in Parliament for
years to come. When Charles I took on the English throne, the country took to an even more
downward spiral. Problems with Scottish revolts led Charles to request money from Parliament
to pay a standing army. When Parliament refused, Charles obtained as many loyalists and
peasants as he could to squash the revolts. England was in a state of disarray and conflicts
between a parliament bent of ultimate power and kings seeking absolute power were to blame.
France's Revolution began much the same way as the English. An Old Regime was
ineffective and forced out. The French Estates General had last met in 1614 when Louis XVI
took the throne in the late 18th Century. The national debt was four billion livres. The privileged
(bourgeoisie and nobility) were exempt from many taxes as the peasants were forced to pay a
taille, or direct tax. When Louis XVI's director of finances Calonne suggested a flat tax on all
landowners, an abolition of internal tariffs, and the confiscation of some church properties, the
Parlements of Paris rejected them. Louis was so frustrated with the state of the economy and the
refusal of the rich to do something about it that he liquidated the Parlements. When Louis needed
money again, the Parlements agreed to provide it if the Estates General was allowed to meet
when Louis refused, violence ensued. However, when Louis did agree to let the Estates General
meet in May of 1789, the bourgeois boycotted leading to a six week deadlock. France's Old
Regime was very much unable to handle the crisis it faced. French society was in debt, hungry
from famine, and unemployed. Louis was unable to raise the money he wanted, and such was
the case of Charles in England. And much like Charles could do nothing to prevent England from
warring amongst itself, Louis XVI could do nothing to stop the events to follow
With World War I well on its way, the Russian government led by a country gentleman
named Tsar Nicholas II needed better leadership. Nicholas wished to maintain the absolute and
supreme royal power that the Tsar was traditionally given. The Duma, Russia's lower house, was
a more moderate group that wished to share some of the power. When Nicholas instead relied
on bureaucratic traditions rather than sharing the political power with the Duma, varies political
parties called for a new form of government. Russia was in disarray as Nicholas disband the
Duma proclaiming that he was headed to the front lines to lead his troops. The Old Regime had
already been through a revolution in 1905 and it was on the verge of another as Nicholas
essentially fled the situation leaving his wife Alexandra in charge of