Saturday, April 16, 2011

French Revolution, Napoleon, and the Pax Europa

The French Revolution was one of the most monumental events in modern history, spreading the promise of democracy and republican ideals as well as launching a precedent for total war and future reigns of terror. To me, a figure like Maximilien Robespierre has come to symbolize the awful confluence of good intentions, revolutionary zeal, and immense political power.  Speaking of megalomaniac!  Napoleon forged a vast empire out of the embers of a dying revolution.  After his defeat, diplomats thought long and hard about ways to redraw the map of Europe in the hope of avoiding another major war.  Arguably, it worked for almost a hundred years.  If we ignore the Crimean War, and the Italian and German wars for national unification in the middle of 19th century, the continent experienced a 99-year Pax Europa (European Peace), not a small achievement for a region of the world prone to enmity and war.  But all good things must come to an end.  I guess we all know that Europeans weren't ready to beat their swords into plowshares in the opening decades of the 20th century. Perhaps we can look forward to a brighter future for humanity at the outset of the present one.