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4 Examples of Revolution

A revolution is a sudden change to society. This implies conflict and extremely turbulent changes to the structure of a society. The following are common types of revolution with examples of each.


Revolutions that gain independence from a foreign imperialist power. Historically, there have been hundreds of such conflicts. The large number of independence movements in the period around WWI and WWII are largely credited with collapsing major empires such as the British Empire. The following are a few examples of revolutions that can be classified as independence movements.
TimeRevolutionImperialist Power
1568 – 1648Eighty Years War (Independence of the Netherlands from Spain)Spanish Empire
1775 – 1783American RevolutionBritish Crown
1822 – 1824Brazilian War of IndependencePortuguese Empire
1919 - 1921Irish War of IndependenceUnited Kingdom
1940 – 1944French ResistanceNazi Germany
1945 – 1949Indonesian National RevolutionDutch Empire
1946 – 1954First Indochina War (Independence of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from France)French Colonial Empire

Civil War

A civil war often result from domestic independence movements or political revolutions that are popularly resisted. These are tragic events whereby civility breaks down to such an extent that war erupts amongst people who used to be neighbors, coworkers, friends and family. For example:
TimeConflictAssociated Political Issue
1861 – 1865American Civil War (United States)Abolition of Slavery
1868 - 1869Boshin War (Japan)Westernization of Japan
1899 - 1901Boxer Rebellion (China)Revolution against foreign imperialist influence in China
1927 - 1949Chinese Civil WarCommunism
1950 – 1953Korean WarCommunism
1955 - 1975Vietnam WarCommunism

Power Struggle

A revolution that replaces one leadership structure with another without any remarkable changes to the political system. Thousands of these have occurred historically whereby one autocrat overthrows another. This can occur as a popular revolution or as a coup d'état that represents a seizure of power by a political faction often using military force. Globally, there were 457 coup attempts from 1950 to 2010 with 227 of these being successful in grabbing power. There is nothing in the definition of revolution that requires popular participation such that a coup d'état is a type of revolution.

Political Revolution

A revolution that seeks to completely replace a socioeconomic system.
TimeRevolutionResulting System
1789 – 1799French RevolutionConstitutional monarchy that included many of the principles that now underlie modern liberal democracies.
1917Russian RevolutionCommunism
1908Young Turk Revolution (Ottoman Empire)Restoration of multi-party politics and constitution
1960April Revolution (South Korea)Democracy (overthrow of an autocratic regime)


Historically there have been thousands of revolutions such that the examples above represent a very small sample.


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Powell, Jonathan M., and Clayton L. Thyne. "Global instances of coups from 1950 to 2010: A new dataset." Journal of Peace Research 48.2 (2011): 249-259.


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