Visual History of the World




From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists


The Modern Era

1789 - 1914

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 monarchy,
with Marianne as the personification of liberty,
contemporary painting by Eugene Delacroix.



Portugal and Spain



Economically and politically, 1 the Iberian Peninsula fell behind the rest of Western Europe and suffered a loss of both wealth and prestige as a result of the South American colonies' independence. Portugal was unable to industrialize during the whole of the 19th century, and democratization was achieved only after the turn of the century. In Spain, too, modernization progressed only haltingly after the restoration of the Bourbons; the power of Catholicism, the army, and the absolutist nobility was still too strong. Following the more settled 1870s and 1880s, political colonial conflicts resulted in destabilization that once more put the brakes on liberal reform.

1 Map of the Iberian Peninsula

Portugal: The Liberal Struggle and State Bankruptcy

The struggle between conservative and liberal political forces in Portugal hampered the country's modernization and made land reform impossible. In 1911 Portugal became a republic.


The Portuguese 2 King John VI returned to Portugal from his Brazilian exile in 1821, a year after Portugal had been transformed by a liberal revolution into a constitutional monarchy.

His son, as Emperor Pedro I of Brazil, proclaimed the colony independent to save it for the crown. In Portugal, the queen and her son Miguel attempted a coup against John VI in 1824, which was thwarted with the aid of the English. When John VI died in 1826, Pedro—still in Brazil—took the Portuguese throne as King Pedro IV and strengthened the rights of the king through a new constitution. He then granted a constitutional charter and abdicated in favor of his daughter, Maria da Gloria, but the Holy Alliance forced him to make his brother Miguel regent in 1827. The regent then had himself proclaimed King Miguel I in 1828 and reintroduced absolutism.

Again the English came to Portugal's aid, and Pedro was able to restore his daughter to the throne in 1834 as Queen 3 Maria II.

In the ensuing years, the liberal Septembrists and the conservative Cartists struggled against each other; in 1836 a revolution restored the 1832 Constitution and a people's rebellion in 1846-1847 was suppressed.

The governments of kings Pedro V and 4 Louis I were marked by internal political turmoil in which foreign powers sometimes intervened.

By 1892 the country was also bankrupt.

Under Louis's successor, the weak 5 Charles I, Prime Minister Joao Franco abolished the Cortes—the parliament—in 1907 and set up a dictatorship. In the next year, Charles and his eldest son Louis Philip were both assassinated.

Thereupon the 19-year-old 6 Manuel II ascended the throne.

Despite coalition governments, amnesties and liberal legislation, the inexperienced king of Portugal was driven into exile in Great Britain following a republican coup d'etat. On August 31,1911, a new democratic constitution was proclaimed. In 1916, Portugal entered World War I against Germany. The Portuguese forces suffered heavy losses, but as a victor Portugal obtained some minor colonial territories from the dismantled German Empire in the final peace settlement.

2 John VI, king of Portugal; 3 Maria II da Gloria, queen of Portugal; 4 Louis I, king of Portugal; 5 Charles I, king of Portugal; 6 Manuel II



Spain: Family Feuds and Sluggish Modernization

Carlist wars and rebellions obstructed Spain's progress in the 19th century. The flourishing period that began just after 1876 was already over by the turn of the century.


9 King Ferdinand VII of Spain, even more than most other European monarchs after the end of the Napoleonic wars, pursued a restoration policy of extreme reaction.

After he returned from France in 1814, he restored the Inquisition and then repealed the 1812 constitution that had given the word "liberal" to the world. A popular revolution in 1820 was crushed with French help, and Ferdinand's absolute authority was restored.

In 1831 he designated his newborn daughter 12 Isabella II as the new queen rather than his brother Don Carlos.

This triggered the turmoil of the Carlist wars that lasted more than 40 years, at the end of which Isabella's son 13 Alfonso XII took the throne after the very brief First Republic.

9 Ferdinand VII, king of Spain; 12 Isabella II, queen of Spain; 13 Alfonso XII, king of Spain

Alfonso XII did away with absolutism in the constitution of 1876, which prohibited both the king and the army from interfering in politics. The next two decades were marked by stability and growing prosperity.

Carlist revolts were suppressed, as was 11 the Cuban revolt of 1878, although it flared up again in 1895.

The United States then 10 intervened in Cuba, sparking the Spanish-American War of 1898, in the course of which Spain lost Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam to the United States.

The Spanish defeat produced domestic instability. Anarchist and socialist factions gained in strength, and regionalist movements sought autonomy. The conservative head of government from 1907, Antonio Maura, demonstrated little understanding for the liberals, and in 1909 he attempted to use workers from Barcelona in the conflict over Spain's control of Morocco. A revolt resulted, and Maura was replaced by the more liberal Jose Canalejas ó Mendez; however, his promising reforms were cut short when he was murdered in 1912. Spain remained neutral during World War I, which allowed it to profit from record exports.

8 Zumala-Carregui, commander of
the forces of the royal pretender
Don Carlos, conquers Bilbao in
June 1835, during the Carlist Wars

11 Cubans burn down the sugar refinery at
Los Ingenios, near Trinidad de Cuba,
during the 1878 revolt

10 Spanish cartoon questioning the
motives behind US support for the
1895 anti-Spanish revolt on Cuba:
"I've had my eye on that morsel for
a long time, guess I'll have to take it in!"



The Carlist Wars

The Carlist wars stemmed from the disputed succession of Ferdinand VII, who had designated his daughter Isabella II as heir to the throne. The Carlists, who wished to bring Ferdinand's brother Charles to the throne, waged war against the followers of Isabella's mother, Maria Cristina. The Carlists, whose strength was in rural northern Spain, fought against the more urbanized south.
In 1839, the Carlists were defeated, but Isabella's coronation in 1843 triggered a second Carlist war. Isabella remained in power until the "glorious" revolution of 1868. In 1870 Amadeo, the son of the Italian king, came to the throne, but was forced to step down in 1873.

After the First Republic, a military coup in 1874 placed Isabella's son, Alfonso XII, on the throne and brought an end to the Carlist wars in 1876.

Revolt against Queen Isabella II, Madrid, 1868




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