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Latin American independence movements

A series of independence movements in the Americas in the late 1700s and early 1800s are sparked by the Enlightenment and conflict in Europe. This includes revolutions that will lead to the United States, Haiti, Mexico, Venezuela, Columbia, Panama, Bolivia, Peru, Equador, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina.

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Video transcript

- This is a map of what the Americas looked like at around the year 1750. And as you can see, it was for the most part, divided as colonies by a bunch of European powers. Most prominent is Spain. You can see in this peach brownish color, it had control all the way south as modern-day Chile and Argentina and all the way as far north as modern-day Texas and California. You also see significant control by the Portuguese in what will eventually be Brazil. The French have at this point some territory, especially in North America and in several islands in the Caribbean and the British, of course, have control along the east coast of North America. And they also have several islands in the Caribbean and the Atlantic. As we fast forward 100 years, we're going to see a dramatic change. Notice roughly a hundred years later, most of what used to be these European colonies have now achieved independence. In other videos, we go in some depth from 1776 to 1783. You have the American War for Independence. You see on this map now the United States is an independent country. From 1791 to 1804, you have Toussaint Louveture lead the revolt against French control, eventually gaining independence and establishing Haiti. From 1807 to 1830, you have a series of revolutions in Latin America, many of which were led by Simon Bolivar, who was a Crejo, or Creole, Venezuelan. The term Creole has many meanings in modern-day language, but in this context, it refers to someone of mostly Spanish descent who was born in the New World. And Simon Bolivar plays an active role in achieving independence from Spain for Venezuela, what will eventually be Columbia and Panama, Ecuador, Peru, and the country that will eventually be named for him, Bolivia. So there is an interesting question here. What led to all of these revolutions? The map that I showed you before, that colonial map of the Americas, these colonies had been in place for several hundred years before these revolutions. Why did all of these revolutions happen roughly at the same time? Well, one overarching idea is that as we enter into the 1700s, you have the intellectual movement known as the Enlightenment. There were many authors and many publications involved in the Enlightenment, but perhaps most famous is the Encyclopedie in French, or Encyclopedia, which said the intent of collecting much of the scientific and political science, knowledge of the time and is considered one of the central texts of the Enlightenment. And it was a series of articles published from the 1750s all the way until the 1770s. And to get a sense of it, here is an excerpt of an article by one of the authors, Denis Diderot, considered one of the primary actors in the Enlightenment. "No man has received from nature "the right to command others. "Liberty is gift from heaven, and each individual "of the same species has the right to enjoy "it as soon as he enjoys the use of reason." And so when we get into the Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson, he borrows heavily from these ideas of the Enlightenment. Now, the Haitian Revolution was partially inspired by these ideas of the Enlightenment, but they were also helped by the fact that France was undergoing its own revolution at the time and it was not in the position to exert strong control over a far flung colony. The French Revolution lasts from 1789 to 1799 at which point Napoleon Bonaparte takes control of France and starts the Napoleonic Wars. Napoleon tries to keep control of what would eventually be Haiti, was an incredibly valuable resource. It produced a good chunk of coffee and sugar in the world. It was incredibly profitable for the plantation owners and for France as a nation. But between the ideas of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, the slaves of Haiti led initially by Toussaint Louverture, were able to overthrow and set up their own nation, which is the first time that this has happened from a successful slave revolt. This is a map of the empire that Napoleon establishes at its peak and as you can see, you see France, but he's able to take over much of modern-day Germany, Italy, he goes to war with Portugal and then eventually Spain as well. Both significant colonial powers in South America. So it's in this context, you have the Enlightenment as we get into the 1700s. You already have the example of the American War for Independence. 13 colonies being able to declare independence from one of the largest powers at the time. Then a successful slave revolt to establish their own country against another significant power. And once Spain and Portugal are fighting Napoleon coupled with the ideas of the Enlightenment and the examples of the United States and Haiti, it inspires a whole other series of revolts in Latin America, many of which were led by Simon Bolivar. And so by the time we get to 1850, much of the European imperialism in the Americas has come to an end.