The Story of Democraczy: Chapter Eleven
by Martin Gantman
Revolution 1,775 AD
Enlightenment 1,700 AD
Very Early Modern 1,500 AD
Late Middle Ages 1,300 AD
High Middle Ages 1,000 AD
Early Middle Ages 400 AD
Pericles: 450 BC
Ephialtes: 465 BC
Cleisthenes: 500 BC
Solon: 600 BC
Hammurabi: 1,800 BC
Ur Nammu: 2,000 BC
Gilgamesh: 2,500 BC
Sumeria: 5,300 BC
Lascaux: 30,000 BC
Religious activity: 100,000 BC
Homo sapiens: 130,000 BC
Homo erectus: 1,500,000 BC
Homo habilis: 2,500,000 BC
I have alluded somewhat vaguely to the merits of democracy. One of them is quite obvious: it is, perhaps, the most charming form of government ever devised by man. The reason is not far to seek. It is based upon propositions that are palpably not true and what is not true, as everyone knows, is always immensely more fascinating and satisfying . . . . . . H. L. Mencken
This is the juncture of a narrative that has spanned at least several thousands of years. Clearly, from the list you can browse below, the American, as followed by the French, Revolution was not the first popular rebellion or revolt; but it was, at the very least, a high point in the evolution of human rights. The authors of the period of enlightenment, having drawn from the continual outcry of a multi-millennial chronicle, released a pent-up reserve that resulted in a new level of humans’ heretofore little realized expression of their desire for participation in their own destiny.
The American Revolution was induced by an array of actions that constrained the economic activity and viability of colonists and also had the effect of limiting their participation in governance. This control on the part of their British rulers was enough to cause these colonists to decide to put their bodies, and their lives, at peril. One must stand in awe of the decision to take such a step (though the commitment varied within the colonies, to wit the Virginia gentry’s willingness to be indignant about the limitations placed on them, but their hesitance, almost refusal, to offer themselves to the potential of physical risk). Still, it is important to try to apprehend the conditions that aligned in order for people to resolve to defiantly alter their circumstances.
But the story of democracy does not stop at the successful conclusion of these one or two Revolutions – immense as they were. The system of republican democracy, for it is that – a system, only began then. It was what those people determined to be appropriate toward the accomplishment of their goals . . . . and desires. We, each generation of Americans, since this system was initiated, are the beneficiaries of their determination; and each successive generation had/has the ability, if not the obligation, to look at this institution anew – as if never before seen. We get to parse it and to understand how it applies to us in the present – over 200 years later, when, as compared to the original states, the population has multiplied 100 times, the occupied land has at least quadrupled, most of us will never personally see or have a conversation with our federal representatives (much less our local ones), and the world’s opposite longitude is reached physically in hours and electronically in microseconds.
Have we, as J. L. Mencken laughingly put it, been presented a magic trick, a sleight of hand that we believe in, as in a sacred cow, without knowing whether it actually works toward attaining those markers that we attribute to it? Is it supplying us with benefits that no other known or yet unknown system can provide? Does it fulfill the desire that we project as necessary to having a satisfactory life – that is, the existence that we attained when we each achieved original consciousness?
The History of Popular Rebellions
- c. 2380 BC (short chronology): A popular revolt in the Sumerian city of Lagash deposes King Lugalanda and puts the reformer Urukagina on the throne.
- 842 BC: After the Compatriots Rebellion exiled King Li of Zhou, China was ruled by the Gonghe Regency until the king died in exile.
- 615 BC: The Babylonians revolt against rule from the Assyrian empire.
- 570 BC: A revolt broke out among native Egyptian soldiers, giving Amasis II opportunity to seize the throne.
- 508/7 BC: The Athenian Revolution establishing democracy in Athens.
- 499–493 BC: The Ionian Revolt. Most of the Greek cities occupied by the Persians in Asia Minor and Cyprus rose up against their Persian rulers.
- 464 BC: The Helot slaves revolt against their Spartan masters.
- 460 BC: The Inarus revolted against the Persians in Egypt with the help of his Athenian allies.
- 206 BC: Ziying, last ruler of the Qin Dynasty of China surrenders himself to Liu Bang, leader of a popular revolt and founder of the Han Dynasty.
- 181–174 BC: The Celtiberian revolt in Spain; Romans eventually subdue the Celtiberians.
- 167–160 BC: The Jews revolt, in the Hasmonean Revolt, against the Seleucid Empire because of the Hellenization of Judea and the high taxes; Leader of the rebellion is Judah the Maccabi, achieving independence as the Hasmonean kingdom of Judah.
- 154 BC: The failed Rebellion of the Seven States by members of the royal family of the Han Dynasty.
- 153–133 BC: The Celtiberians again revolted, and were not finally overcome until the capture of Numantia.
- 147–139 BC: The Lusitanian Rebellion against the Roman forces in modern day Portugal, led by Lusitanian leader named Viriathus.
- 73–71 BC: The failed Roman slave rebellion, led by the gladiator Spartacus.
- 52–51 BC: The revolt of the Celtic Gauls, led by Vercingetorix, was crushed by Julius Caesar.
- 49–45 BC: Julius Caesar crossed the river Rubicon heading part of the Roman army and marched on Rome. After overthrowing and assuming control of Pompeian government, he was proclaimed “dictator in perpetuity”.
- 6–9: The Great Illyrian Revolt of various Illyrian tribes against the Roman Empire
- 9: The Arminius revolt against the Roman Empire; alliance of Germanic tribes led by Arminius ambushed and annihilated three Roman legions led by Publius Quinctilius Varus in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest.
- 18–25: The Red Eyebrow Rebellion and Green Forest Rebellion against Xin Dynasty in China, in which the Green Forest Army later defeated Red Eyebrow Army and restored Han Dynasty.
- 60–61: Boudica, queen of the Celtic Iceni people of Norfolk in Roman-occupied Britain, led a major uprising of the Briton tribes against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire.
- 66–70: The Great Jewish Revolt, the first of three Jewish-Roman wars that took place in Iudaea Province against the Roman Empire.
- 69–70: The Batavian rebellion in the Roman province of Germania Inferior.
- 115–117: The Kitos War, the second of the Jewish-Roman wars.
- 132–135: Bar Kokhba’s revolt, the third and last of the Jewish-Roman wars.
- 184: Zhang Jiao led an unsuccessful peasant revolt called the Yellow Turban Rebellion during the later Han dynasty, which later collapsed due to destabilization and lack of co-ordination with other Yellow Turban forces across China.
- 286: Rebels in Gaul, known as Bagaudae, are crushed by the Caesar Maximian and his subordinate Carausius, working for Augustus Diocletian.
- 251, 255, 257–258: Three Rebellions in Shouchun are 3 failed attempts to remove the Sima clan from power in Cao Wei Dynasty in the Three Kingdoms period of China.
- 291–306: War of the Eight Princes in Jin Dynasty of China
- 351–352: Jewish revolt against Gallus
- 484: First Samaritan Revolt
- 496: Mazdak led a Persian socialistic movement and overthrew Shahanshah Kavadh I of the Persian empire.
- 529: Julian ben Sabar Revolt
- 532: The Nika revolt in Constantinople.
- 555: Fourth Samaritan Revolt
- 613: A rebellion by Yang Xuangan in China was crushed by the Sui Dynasty.
- 614–625: Jewish revolt against Heraclius
- 623: An uprising of Slavs led by Samo against Avars.
- 685–699: The Azraqi Khariji revolt in Iraq and Iran against the Umayyad Caliphate.
- 740: The Zaidi revolt against the Umayyad dynasty.
- 740–743: The Great Berber Revolt in Maghreb against the Umayyads marked the first successful secession from the Arab caliphate (ruled from Damascus).
- 747–750: The Abbasid Revolt overthrew the Umayyad dynasty. When Abbasids declared amnesty for members of the Umayyad family, eighty gathered to receive pardons, and all were massacred.
- 755: Abd ar-Rahman I landed at Almuñécar in al-Andalus. Abd ar-Rahman I was the founder of a Muslim dynasty that ruled the greater part of Iberia for nearly three centuries.
- 755–763: The Rebellion by powerful Jiedushi An Lushan in Tang Dynasty, which caused heavy damage in China in terms of population and economy.
- 762: Muhammad ibn Abdallah led a failed rebellion in Medina against the second Abbasid Caliph, Al-Mansur.
- 782–785: The Saxon revolt against Charlemagne. Rebellion was part of Saxon Wars.
- 814: Al-Hakam I crushed a rebellion of Iberian Muslims led by clerics in a suburb called al-Ribad on the south bank of the Guadalquivir river.
- 815: Muhammad ibn Ja’far al-Sadiq (Al-Dibaj) lead an unsuccessful revolt against the Abbasid Caliph Al-Ma’mun.
- 817–837: The revolt of the Iranian Khurramites led by Babak Khorramdin.
- 824–836: The revolt of Arab troops in Tunisia against Aghlabids was only put down with the help of the Berbers.
- 828: The failed rebellion by Kim Heon-chang against Silla.
- 845: The rebellion by the famous naval commander Jang Bogo against Silla, ended when Jang was assassinated.
- 861–1003: Ya’qub bin Laith as-Saffar established Saffarid dynasty. He seized control of the Seistan region, conquering modern-day eastern Iran, much of Afghanistan, and parts of Pakistan. Ya’qub bin Laith as-Saffar started his campaign as a bandit and formed his own army.
- 864: Yahya ibn Umar lead an abortive uprising from Kufa against the Abbasid Caliph Al-Musta’in.
- 869–883: The Zanj Rebellion of black African slaves in Iraq. The Zanj Rebellion was crushed in 883 by the Abbasids.
- 875–884: A rebellion by salt smuggler Huang Chao against Tang Dynasty China, which later collapsed due to the destabilization caused by the rebellion.
- 884: Umar ibn Hafsun led anti-Umayyad dynasty forces in southern Spain.
- 899–906: The Qarmatians, an extremist Ismā’īlī Muslim sect centered in eastern Arabia, revolted against Abbasids.
- 923: The revolt against Bulgaria in the frontier region of Bulgaria and Serbia, instigated by Prince Zaharija of Serbia.
- 943–947: The great revolt of Abu Yazid, a Khariji Berber leader who assembled a large tribal coalition against Fatimid rule.
- 982: The great revolt of the pagan Polabian Slavs of the lower Elbe against the Holy Roman Empire.
- 1034–1038: The Serbs’ revolt against the Byzantine Empire led by Vojislav of Duklja.
- 1090: Hassan-i Sabbah Hassan took over Alamut for Hashshashin.
- 1095: Rebellion of northern nobles against William Rufus.
- 1125: The Almohads began a rebellion in the Atlas Mountains.
- 1156: The Hōgen Rebellion succeeded in establishing the dominance of the samurai clans and eventually the first samurai-led government in the history of Japan.
- 1185: The Vlach-Bulgarian Rebellion against Byzantine Empire.
- 1233–1234: The Stedinger revolt in Frisia caused Pope Gregory IX to call on a crusade.
- 1242–1249: The First Prussian Uprising against the Teutonic Knights, which took place during the Northern Crusades.
- 1250: The Mamluks killed the last sultan of the Ayyubid dynasty, and established the Bahri dynasty.
- 1282: The Sicilian Vespers, an uprising against the rule of the French/Angevin king Charles I on the island resulting in thousands of dead French occupiers and a shift in European power.
- 1296–1328: The First of the Wars of Scottish Independence between Scotland and England, leading to renewed Scottish independence in 1328.
- 1332–1357: The second instalment of the Wars of Scottish Independence, leading again to renewed Scottish independence from England and the Treaty of Berwick.
- 1302: The Battle of the Golden Spurs in Flanders, after which the French were ousted.
- 1323–1328: Beginning as a series of scattered rural riots in late 1323, the Peasant revolt in Flanders escalated into a full-scale rebellion and ended with the Battle of Cassel.
- 1343–1345: the St. George’s Night Uprising in Estonia.
- 1354: The revolt of Cola di Rienzi in Rome.
- 1356–1358: Jacquerie: a peasant revolt in northern France, during the Hundred Years’ War.
- 1368: Zhu Yuanzhang led peasant Han Chinese in a rebellion against the Mongol Yuan dynasty, establishing the Ming dynasty.
- 1378: The Revolt of the Ciompi in Florence.
- 1381: The Peasants’ Revolt, or the Great Rising of 1381, in England.
- 1390s: The revolts that broke out all over Persia while Timur Lenk was away were repressed with ruthless vigour; whole cities were destroyed, their populations massacred, and towers built of their skulls.
- 1400–1415 The Welsh revolt led by Owain Glyndŵr.
- 1418–1427: Vietnamese led by Lê Lợi revolted against Chinese occupation.
- 1420: The Bohemian Hussites begin a rebellion against both Catholicism and the Holy Roman Empire. The wars that ensue are known as the Hussite Wars.
- 1434: A Swedish peasant rebellion breaks out against the Danes.
- 1431–1435: First Irmandiño War in Galicia.
- 1437: The Bobâlna (Bábolna) revolt in Transylvania, using military tactics inspired by the Hussites wars.
- 1444–1468: Skenderbeg‘s rebellion in Ottoman-ruled Albania.
- 1450: The Kent rebellion led by Jack Cade.
- 1462–1485: The Rebellion of the Remences in Catalonia.
- 1467–1470: Second Irmandiño War in Galicia.
- 1497: The Cornish Rebellion of 1497 in England.
- 1514: A peasants’ war led by György Dózsa in the Kingdom of Hungary.
- 1515: The Slovenian peasant revolt.
- 1515–1523: The Frisian rebellion of the Arumer Black Heap, led by Pier Gerlofs Donia and Wijard Jelckama.
- 1519–1523: The first Revolta de les Germanies in Valencia, an anti-monarchist, anti-feudal autonomist movement inspired by the Italian republics.
- 1519–1610: The Jelali revolts in Anatolia against the authority of the Ottoman Empire.
- 1520–1522: The Revolt of the Comuneros against the rule of Spanish king and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.
- 1524–1525: The German Peasants’ War of in the Holy Roman Empire.
- 1542: The Dacke War in Sweden.
- 1549: The Prayer Book Rebellion in Cornwall and Devon, United Kingdom.
- 1549: Kett’s Rebellion.
- 1566–1648: Eighty Years’ War; revolt of the Low Countries against Spain.
- 1567–1799 and beyond: Philippine revolts against Spain.
- 1568–1571: The Morisco Revolt by the remnants of the Morisco community (Spanish Christian converts from Islam [“crypto-Muslims”]) in Granada, Spain.
- 1573: The Croatian and Slovenian peasant revolt.
- 1594–1603: The Nine Years War or Tyrone’s Rebellion in Ulster, Ireland against English rule in Ireland.
- 1596: The Club War uprising in Finland.
- 1606–1607: The Bolotnikov rebellion for the abolition of serfdom, which was part of the Time of Troubles in Russia.
- 1618–1625: The Bohemian Revolt against the Habsburgs. Rebellion was part of Thirty Years’ War.
- 1637–1638: The Shimabara Rebellion of Japanese Christians.
- 1640: The Portuguese Revolt against Spanish Empire.
- 1640–1652: The Catalan Revolt.
- 1640–1644: The Vlach uprising against Habsburg rule in Moravia.
- 1641: The Irish Rebellion of 1641.
- 1642–1660: The English Revolution, commencing as a civil war between Parliament and the King, and culminating in the execution of Charles I and the establishment of a republican Commonwealth, which was succeeded several years later by the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell.
- 1644: The Li Zicheng rebellion overthrew the Ming Dynasty.
- 1647: The Naples Revolt.
- 1648: The Khmelnytsky Uprising of Cossacks in Ukraine against Polish nobility in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
- 1648–1653: The Fronde, in France.
- 1664–1670: The Zrinski, Wesselényi and Frankopan uprising against the Habsburgs.
- 1668: The Sikhs in the Anandpur revolted against the Mughal Empire.
- 1668–1676: The Solovetsky Monastery Uprising.
- 1669: The Jat uprising under Gokula. The Hindu Jats in the Agra district revolted against the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb.
- 1672: The Pasthun rebellion against the Mughals.
- 1672–1674: The Lipka Rebellion, an uprising of Polish Tatars against the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
- 1672–1678: The Messina Revolt. The Sicilian revolt against Spanish rule took place during the Franco-Dutch War of Louis XIV; the rebels were supported by France.
- 1675–1676: King Philip’s War between Indians and English settlers, sometimes called Metacom’s Rebellion.
- 1676: The Bashkir Rebellion against Russian rule.
- 1680–1692: The Pueblo Revolt against Spanish settlers in New Mexico.
- 1682: The Moscow Uprising of the Moscow Streltsy regiments.
- 1688: The Siamese revolution (1688) the overthrow of pro-foreign Siamese king Narai by Mandarin Petracha.
- 1688: The Glorious Revolution in England overthrew King James II and established a Whig-dominated Protestant constitutional monarchy.
- 1688–1746: The Jacobite Risings were a series of uprisings, rebellions, and wars in the British Isles occurring between 1688 and 1746.
- 1689: Karposh’s Rebellion against Ottoman Empire.
- 1693: The second Revolta de les Germanies in Valencia, prompted by feudal taxation.
- 1698: The Streltsy Uprising in Russia.
- 1702–1715: The Camisard Rebellion in France.
- 1703–1711: The Rákóczi Uprising against the Habsburgs.
- 1707–1709: The Bulavin Rebellion in Imperial Russia.
- 1709: Mir Wais Hotak, an Afghani tribal leader, led a successful rebellion against Gurgin Khan, the Persian governor of Kandahar.
- 1715: The First Jacobite Rebellion in the north of England and in Cornwall, advocating the claims of James Stuart, the Old Pretender against the newly-installed House of Hanover.
- 1722: Afghan rebels defeated Shah Sultan Hossein and ended the Safavid dynasty.
- 1743: The Fourth Dalecarlian Rebellion in Sweden.
- 1744–1829: The Dagohoy Rebellion in the Philippines that lasted for 85 years.
- 1745–1746: The Jacobite Rising in Scotland.
- 1763–1766: Pontiac’s Rebellion by numerous North American Indian tribes who joined the uprising in an effort to drive British soldiers and settlers out of the Great Lakes region.
- 1768: The Rebellion of 1768 by Creole and German settlers objecting to the turnover of the Louisiana Territory from New France to New Spain.
- 1770: The Orlov Revolt in Peloponnese.
- 1773–1775: Pugachev’s Rebellion was the largest peasant revolt in Russia’s history. Between the end of the Pugachev rebellion and the beginning of the 19th century, there were hundreds of outbreaks across Russia.