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Overview

The crowning of King George I ushered in the reign of the House of Brunswick in England. The Georgian era, which covers the period between 1714 and 1811, marks the transition from the Reformation to the Enlightenment in Europe. The period witnessed the development of modern democracy and produced brilliant achievements in literature, art and music. The Georgian era is also known as the "Age of Aristocracy" in England, as British aristocrats reached their prominence during this period.

The Georgian period that encompassed three generations of royalty in England was torn by wars and rebellions in Britain and abroad. In 1759, England captured Quebec in a war with France, and gained control of the entire nation of Canada through the Peace of Paris four years later. In Africa, Dutch and British forces continued to wrestle for control of Cape Colony, while Morocco suffered a period of anarchy that lasted three decades. China became embroiled in surpressing revolt in Formosa, invading Tibet, and occupying eastern Turkestan. In 1767, Burmese forces invaded Thailand and ushered in the Chakri Dynasty. In Russia, the Jewish people in Russia experienced the horrors of pogroms.

In America, the Georgian period brought such tumultuous events as the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, and the War of Independence. With the colonies experiencing growing unrest due to "taxation without representation" by Great Britain, King George III sent extra troops in 1774 to monitor the situation. At the same time, the thirteen colonies sent delegates to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to form the First Continental Congress. In April 1775, as the King's troops advanced on Concord, Massachusetts, Paul Revere sounded the alarm that "The British are coming, the British are coming" as he rode his horse through the late night streets. The battle of Concord and its "shot heard round the world" marked the unofficial beginning of the War of Independence. Within weeks, the colonies again sent delegates to the Second Continental Congress. For almost a year, the Congress attempted to resolve its differences with England, without formally declaring war. However, by June 1776, it became clear that their efforts were hopeless and Congress composed a Declaration of Independence. The American Revolution culminated in 1783 and the adoption of the Treaty of Paris, which recognized the independence of the American colonies. In 1789, the nation elected its first president, George Washington, and enacted the U.S. Constitution.

Meanwhile, the storming of the Bastille prison by a discontented mob in Paris launched the French Revolution. From 1791 through 1793, the Girondins aimed at establishing a democratic republic. Fearing foreign intervention on behalf of Louis XVI, they resolved "to tell Europe that if Cabinets engage Kings in a war against peoples, we will engage peoples in a war against Kings." Lacking organization, the Girondins fell and were superseded by the Jacobins, disciples of Jean Jacques Rousseau. Led by Maximilien Robespierre and Jean-Paul Marat, the Jacobins led a bloody "Reign of Terror" during which time 1,368 people were executed by the guillotine, including Marie Antoinette. Their gross cruelty and persistent interference with the rights and property of individuals in the interests of the sovereign people led to reaction. Ultimately, the Jacobins faced defeat and both Marat and Robespierre were executed. The French Revolution resulted in a renewal of French nationalism, the abolition of provinces, the new democratic principle of "government of the people for the people," and an assertion in individual liberty.

One of the commanders in the French Revolution was a man named Napoleon Bonaparte, who soon gained control of France. After his rise to power, Napolean began a quest for world domination, invading far-off countries like Egypt and fighting with such forces as the Austrian and Russian armies. With a flair for publicity, Napoleon attracted popular attention for his battle reports and his ordres de jour. He believed that "moral force wins more victories than mere numbers," and said of the army: "The military are a free masonry and I am their grand master." Under his rule, Napoleon also instituted numerous domestic reforms, including the codification of French law and the establishment of the Civil Code.