French citizens changed the world for ever in 1789 when they revolted against their King Louis XVI. The monarchies of Europe invaded France, trying to crush the young French Republic before its “dangerous” ideas of egalitarianism and liberty could spread.
By the beginning of the 19th century, the French Revolution had transformed France. The most radical of the French governments had destroyed itself with the paranoid massacres of the Terror. More conservative leaders came to power, promising to use the powerful revolutionary armies to make France strong and stable once more.
The Napoleonic Wars raged across the world for over twenty years. France, led by the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, struggled for domination against an alliance of its many enemies, from Britain to Russia. Fighting occurred all over Europe, and in India, North and South America, Egypt, even South Africa. It was truly the first global war.
By 1814, the Napoleonic Wars had been raging for over 20 years. Almost the whole of Europe was united against a France that now seemed bent on conquering the whole continent. Britain, Russia, Austria, Sweden, Spain, Portugal and most of what is now Germany joined forces and invaded France from all directions.
At the beginning of the year 1815, Europe was finally at peace after over 20 years of war. However, all this was to change when the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte escaped from exile and launched a military campaign which would end at the Battle of Waterloo.
Victory at Waterloo brought an end to over twenty years of war, but this meant that tens of thousands of soldiers were now jobless and hungry. The British government feared rebellion, censoring newspapers and banning large political meetings.
The extraordinary new technology of photography became commercially available in 1839 – just one of dozens of inventions that were reshaping people’s lives.
The victors of Waterloo imposed harsh laws across Europe in 1815, hoping to crush the liberal ideas of the French Revolution. The major powers of Austria, Russia, and Prussia formed a “Holy Alliance” to stamp out revolt.