The Strength of the Streets: The 12 Most Important Protests in Human History

The Strength of the Streets: The 12 Most Important Protests in Human History

Mike Wood - September 12, 2017

As long as there have been governments, there have been protests against them. From the earliest days of human history, we have heard tales of the masses rising against the powers that be with the goal of changing their ways: there are stories of strikes by workers building the pyramids of Egypt, of popular leaders such as Spartacus and of slave revolts all over the Ancient World. The nature of feudal society did not lend itself to successful protest – those who questioned authority were often the swiftest victims of it, a trend that has continued to this day – but there has always been movement from below through which people have endeavored to collectively act in defense of their rights.

There have been non-violent actions, designed to show dissent and dignity, there have been symbolic actions, crafted to make a point that stands for a larger whole – and of course, there have been full on rebellions, dedicated to using all means necessary to wrest power by force. Our list of the most important protests in human history takes in them all – let us talk you through some of the most influential and most lasting popular demonstrations that have shaped the world that we live in today.

There have been non-violent actions, designed to show dissent and dignity, there have been symbolic actions, crafted to make a point that stands for a larger whole – and of course, there have been full on rebellions, dedicated to using all means necessary to wrest power by force. Our list of the most important protests in human history takes in them all – let us talk you through some of the most influential and most lasting popular demonstrations that have shaped the world that we live in today.

The Strength of the Streets: The 12 Most Important Protests in Human History
King Edward faces the peasants. BBC

1. The Peasants’ Revolt

The earliest example of a popular protest is hard to pin down. Some will cite the slave revolts mentioned in The Bible, or uprisings against monarchical dynasties in China. We can’t verify them and thus we leave them to speculation: instead, we begin our journey through protest in Mediaeval England.

Life in 14th century England was, to quote Hobbes, nasty, brutish and short. It was particularly unpleasant if you happened to be poor, which the vast, vast majority of the population was. Most people worked the land as serfs, beholden to one landowner and required to work the land for that matter, with only a small portion on the side with which they could feed themselves.

There were masters and there were villains, and if you were a villain then your life revolved around doing basically whatever the lord of the manor fancied you to do. Villeins were indentured slaves, taxed to the hilt and unable to work or move freely. All you wanted was a plot of land to call your own and the right to farm freely.

What you didn’t want was the Black Death, either, which arrived in 1348 and killed somewhere around half of all peasants. While this was bad for those killed (obviously), it did hand the surviving villeins a decent hand economically speaking. With 50% fewer villeins around and the same amount of land, they could maneuver against the masters for a better deal.

In 1381, they did just that. When the King’s official, John Brampton, attempted to take poll taxes from peasants in Essex to pay for the ongoing war in France, he was met with resistance by locals. The rebellion spread and suddenly villains had taken arms and were burning all records of their bondage, emptying the jails and attacking anyone with a whiff of royalty about them.

The mob, lead by serf Wat Tyler, marched towards London and managed to take the Tower of London, destroying the Savoy Palace and killing the Lord Chancellor and the Lord High Treasurer. They were met at Mile End by the King himself, aged just 14. He agreed to abolish serfdom.

The next day, however, he met with Wat Tyler, wherein a battle ensued and Tyler was killed by one of Richard’s entourage. With the leader slain, the King’s forces began to roll back the concessions they had granted and, in the end, the Peasant’s Revolt was put down with thousands killed across England. The influence of the revolt would be lasting, however, with future monarchs reticent to ever raise taxes on the peasantry and always aware that consent of some form was required to govern the people.

The Strength of the Streets: The 12 Most Important Protests in Human History
Martin Luther nails his demands to the Wittenberg cathedral door. Sutori

2. The Protestant Reformation

Where Wat Tyler’s war was violent, Martin Luther’s would be much more symbolic. Well, to begin with at least. Some 500 years ago this year in the small German city of Wittenberg, the founder of Protestantism nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Cathedral in defiance of the Catholic order of the time, which he saw as debased, decadent and corrupt.

He was particularly peeved by the selling of plenary indulgences – wherein one could give money to the Church in exchange for the forgiveness of sins – which Luther saw as tantamount to buying the grace of God. Priests were often those who could buy positions, rather than those best qualified for the role, and in a world where few spoke Latin and thus needed clergy to translate the scriptures, this lead to severe variations in teaching.

Luther’s goal was to bring religion to the masses and to return the Church to piety: his Reformation, as it became known, was an attempt to reform the Church to its prior state. What emerged, however, was a revolution, in which those who were disenfranchised by the religious status quo flocked to the new Protestantism, in which all were equal before God, and against the hierarchical nature of Catholicism.

What had begun with a symbolic act designed to spark an academic debate of the nature of the Church had mushroomed into a movement that could challenge the dominance of Rome. The printing press, which had only recently been invented, allowing for the dissemination of ideas in the vernacular tongue, which in turn gave thousands the opportunity to read the scriptures for themselves for the very first time.

Huge wars broke out between those who had adopted Protestant ideas and those loyal to the Catholic Church, with the whole of Europe split. To this day, countries like the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic remain predominantly Protestant – not to mention the thousands of Protestant Pilgrims who moved to the United States in this period – while other states such as Ireland, France, Spain and Italy are Catholic.

The Protestant Reformation was a protest against the prevailing order of the time, an exercise of ideas against authority, and one that used the technological developments of the age – specifically the printed word – to spread a new ideology, one that has gone on to have a monumental impact on the way in which the modern world worships.

The Strength of the Streets: The 12 Most Important Protests in Human History
The Boston Tea Party. Wikipedia

3. The Boston Tea Party

Now that we have mentioned the United States, it is time for us to jump on the boat alongside the Pilgrim Fathers and join them in the New World. While the Reformation provoked thousands of people, predominantly from England and the Netherlands, to find their fortunes on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, it was not necessarily the reason that they left.

Many of those who made a new home in America were as loyal subjects to the British crown as one could have hoped to have found anywhere, and initially, there was no desire for the colonists to break from the mother country and strike out on their own. From the arrival of the Mayflower in 1620 to the Revolution in 1777, there were severe demographic, economic and political changes that occurred that made the latter event possible and indeed, inevitable.

Firstly, the passage of time weakened bonds to the motherland, as more and more Americans were born in the New World and thus had never visited Europe. Secondly, the material conditions of the Thirteen Colonies were different to those of Britain: it was more sensible, for example, for the colonies to trade with other colonies in America, such as those of France and Spain, rather than exclusively with other British possessions, which were often far further away. Thirdly, the politics of administering a colony thousands of miles away were grating on the Americans, as they lacked adequate representation commensurate to the taxes they paid.

These factors came to a head in 1773, when the British imposed a tax on tea. The Americans refused to pay it – “No taxation without representation!” being the slogan – and instead began smuggling tea into the colonies. (They were still at some level English and could not survive without tea).

As a protest, a group of American radicals, lead by future Founding Father Samuel Adams, dressed as Native Americans and dumped boxes of tea into Boston Harbour. The British cracked down on the Massachusetts colony, closing the Harbour until the Bostonians paid for the tea that they had destroyed. It would be one of the first acts in the gradual drive towards war with Britain and the splitting off of the Thirteen Colonies from the mother country: two years later, the American Revolutionary War would start and, by 1776, the Constitution would be in place that still exists in the United States of America to this day.

The Strength of the Streets: The 12 Most Important Protests in Human History
The Storming of the Bastille. New Historian

4. The Storming of the Bastille

Those who dumped boxes of tea into the water of Massachusetts Bay were far from the only ones harboring ambitions of changing the way that society was ordered in the late 18th century. Back in the Old World, there were rumblings too.

In France, the example of the United States was fairly well known – in fact, the French had fought alongside the Americans against the British – and the ideas that had underpinned the Revolution of 1776 were about to return to Europe for the Revolution of 1789.

Before the French Revolution, French society was divided between the so-called Three Estates: the First, made up of the Catholic Church and its clergy, the Second, comprising the King and his nobility and the Third Estate, basically everyone else. The First Estate owned basically all the land, the Second Estate, owned pretty much everything else and the Third Estate, despite being by far the poorest, paid all the taxes. No taxation without representation, then, seemed as good an idea to most of the French as it had to the Americans.

Furthermore, France was broke. Indulging in wars in America and elsewhere had not done much for the national finances and with neither the nobles or the Church willing to pay any taxes, the King resolved to tax the Third Estate more. An Estates-General, where all three met, was called, but the Third Estate received far less voting power than the other two: in fact, despite representing nearly all the people, the entire Third Estate got one vote while each individual member of the First and Second Estates got one for themselves. In response, the Third Estate split away and formed the National Assembly.

They met in a nearby tennis court – no joke, the door to the Salle d’Etats meeting room was locked and they couldn’t find the key to open it – and swore to create a constitution. When the King threatened the National Assembly, the people of Paris rose in their defense, storming the fortress of the Bastille and setting the stage for the French Revolution. Granted, the act of storming the Bastille was not that important strategically – there were only 7 prisoners inside, including one who thought he was Julius Caesar – but the symbolism of the people smashing the historic bastion of the Ancien Regime was one that would make a lasting impression on French and European politics forever.

The Strength of the Streets: The 12 Most Important Protests in Human History
A slave owner is lynched in Saint-Domingue. Brown University Library

5. The Haitian Revolution

If you think that the Storming of the Bastille was the most dramatic act of the French Revolution, then you’re well mistaken. Thousands of miles away, another revolt was brewing that would have just as long-lasting an effect on the way that society was to be governed in the future, and just like in Paris, it would stem from the power of the people rather than the wisdom of governments.

Though the island of Saint-Domingue is thousands of miles away from Metropolitan France, politically speaking it was completely contingent with the rest of the nation. France administered its colonies in the same manner as it did its provinces and thus, as far as the government was concerned, Saint-Domingue might as well have been floating off the Cote d’Azur instead of in the Caribbean Sea.

The economy of Saint-Domingue was both simple and brutal. The whole colony – which shared the island of Hispaniola with the Spanish colony of Domenica – was a huge sugar plantation, feeding the European demand for white gold with African slave labor. While many European colonial powers had slaves, few were as dependent on theirs as France was in Saint-Domingue.

It was the most profitable colony in the whole world and up to 5% of the entire French economy was dependent on it. 90% of the island’s population were slaves and it was the policy of plantation owners to work their slaves to death before tropical disease killed them first. Suffice, to say, conditions were ripe for revolt.

Back in France, a negligible act of the French Revolution would have huge ramifications in Saint-Domingue. When the National Assembly passed the Declarations of the Rights of Man, many in Saint-Domingue thought that it had freed them too. Certainly, they weren’t going to wait to find out. Lead by freed slaves Toussaint Louverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines, they rose against the white masters and overthrew them. The uprising was characterized by extreme violence – their flag read “Liberty or Death” – and resulted in the foundation of the Republic of Haiti, the first free republic founded by Africans and the second republic in the Western Hemisphere.

As far as protests go, the transformation from the brutal conditions of disease and oppression in Saint-Domingue to the independent, free nation of Haiti, run by ex-slaves, is one of the most spectacular of all time.

The Strength of the Streets: The 12 Most Important Protests in Human History
The People’s Charter. Looking at History

6. Chartist Movement

Protest can come in many forms. We have covered the violent uprisings of Wat Tyler and Toussaint Louverture, as well as the religious protests of Martin Luther and the symbolic gestures of Samuel Adams and the Boston Tea Party and now we can move on to one of the most enduring of all protest methods: the petition.

The humble petition as a demonstration of public feeling is not a new idea, but it first came to mass prominence through the Chartists, a reform movement in the North of England in the mid-19th century. The Chartists represented the first genuine mass movement of the Industrial Age, a group that had been brought together as much by their social class and their collective bargaining power as they were by their shared political goals or their shared backgrounds.

They drew their strength from their numbers and used the petition as a method of demonstrating those numbers to the powerful in the most theatrical manner possible. Their demands were simple. They wanted one man one vote in elections, rather than the property qualifications that disenfranchised the majority of working-class people, as well as a secret ballot, to dissuade intimidation and electoral fraud. They wanted elected members to be paid, in order that working-class people have the means to contest elections, and that constituencies be equal in size, to bring the creaking British parliament in line with the new population centers that had sprung up with the Industrial Revolution.

From the heart of industry in Manchester and outwards, they collected signatures and presented them to Parliament: in 1839 the “People’s Charter” featured 1.3 million signatures, but Members of Parliament ignored it. In 1842, they held mass strikes in industrial areas in the Midlands, the North, and Scotland, and there were attacks of sabotage against the means of production. In 1848 mass demonstrations were held, among the first-ever protest marches that we would recognize today, with 150,000 gathering on Kennington Common in London to hand over a petition that organizers claimed numbered 6 million signatures.

The Chartists were eventually smashed by the state: hundreds of leaders were imprisoned or transported to Australia, while countless more suffered repression. The demands of the Charter would go unfulfilled until the 20th century, but the effect that the movement had would persist, not just on the composition of British society but also in the manner by which the working classes of all industrial societies could represent themselves.

The Strength of the Streets: The 12 Most Important Protests in Human History

7. Russian Revolution

As the Chartist leaders met in the north of England in the 1840s, they would not have known the effect that their actions would have on the world to come. One particular observer was the son of a mill owner, a German, resident in Manchester at the time. Fredrich Engels, together with his friend Karl Marx, would take influences from the ideas of the people around them in England and write The Communist Manifesto, written in Manchester and published in 1848. It would not register too highly on the political Richter Scale at the time of its publication, but nearly 60 years later, it would become the foundational document for one of the greatest revolutions of all time.

As ever with these discussions, one must consider the balance of forces between the protestors and those in authority. In Russia in 1917, the state was in disarray: abroad, the autocratic Tsar Nicholas II had taken the nation into a war that they could not win and at home, the working classes of the cities were at breaking point and the peasants in the countryside were starving. 3 million Russians had died in the war and those at the front simply wanted to go home.

The people had won concessions towards democracy in protest in 1906, but the Tsar had dismissed the Duma, the parliament, on several occasions. Having proven catastrophically incapable of leading his nation, pressure grew on the Tsar to abdicate. Workers in the capital, Petrograd, struck against the war and on March 15, Nicholas handed power over to the Provisional Government.

That was far from the end of it. While political power rested in the Provisional Government, economic power lay with the Petrograd Soviet, which controlled the industrial output. Within that, the Bolshevik Party emerged as the major force. They were expelled by the Provisional Government but were invited back to avert a right-wing coup attempt. Using the popular slogan “Peace, Bread & Land” to appeal to the major power blocks of disillusioned soldiers, hungry workers and disempowered peasants, the Bolsheviks under Lenin and Trotsky grew from strength to strength.

Now emboldened and armed, they took to the streets to wrest power for themselves, beginning the first explicitly Marxist and socialist revolution in human history. They had their own Bastille moment, storming the Winter Palace that had once housed the Tsar and turning it over to the people. They would be immediately attacked by a coterie of other nations – the United States, United Kingdom, and France in particular – but the Soviet Union, as it was now known, would survive all the way through until 1990.

The Strength of the Streets: The 12 Most Important Protests in Human History
Gandhi at Dandi beach. PeacePower

8. Gandhi’s Salt March

Given the previous problems that imposing restrictive taxes on their colonies had caused for the British Empire, one would have expected them to learn something, but if the protests that occurred in India in 1930 are anything to go by, they learned nothing at all.

Britain had been in control of India since 1858 – though their influence dates back far further than that – and over the 80 or so years of the Raj, it had become their most valuable colony. It encompassed the modern-day states of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar, with a population that ran into the hundreds of millions.

The movement for independence in India had been rumbling along, but it would be changed – as would the nature of protest worldwide – by the actions of Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi had been born in India, qualified as a lawyer in England and worked in South Africa. While in South Africa, he had been exposed to the inequalities in that country – he was continually discriminated against because of his skin color – and began to build movements against racism.

When he moved back to India in 1915, he brought some of the non-violence tactics that he had used in South Africa to build a peaceful movement against British colonial occupation. One of the key moments in the drive for independence would be the 1930 Salt March. Britain had imposed a tax on salt production. This greatly affected Indians of all classes and particularly the poorest: Gandhi said that, after air and water, salt was the most important greatest necessity in life.

To protest this tax, Gandhi lead a march to the sea at the village of Dandi, and symbolically picked up a handful of salt from the shore. With the media on hand to witness the moment and 100,000 people at his back, he said “With this, I am shaking the foundations of the British Empire.”

Across India, thousands followed suit, creating illegal salt in defiance of the British. The response was swift, with 60,000 arrested and a march in Peshawar, modern-day Pakistan, attacked by the British with an estimated 250 deaths. Still, the principles of non-violence were adhered to and Indians stayed calm.

The resonance of the protest showed not only the power of non-violence but also the power of the media. Newsreel footage beamed Gandhi’s image around the world and created a PR disaster for the British. When independence was attained 18 years later, many would date the success of the movement back to Gandhi, Dandi and a few grains of salt.

The Strength of the Streets: The 12 Most Important Protests in Human History
Rosa Parks on a Montgomery bus. NPR

9. Montgomery Bus Boycott

Gandhi had paved the way in the use of civil disobedience as a protest tactic, and his example did not go unnoticed. The power of non-violence and symbolic rule-breaking would be used to great effect in the struggle for civil rights in the United States as well, beginning with the simple actions of one woman on a bus in Alabama.

Rosa Parks is one of the most revered people in America, and her actions on December 1 1955, would change the USA, and the world, forever. Ms. Parks was far from a novice in the arena of civil rights protest: she had been a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for several years and had even studied nonviolent civil disobedience. When she was told to get up off her seat and move to the back of the bus on that December day in Montgomery, it was not a new experience – in fact, she had been kicked off a bus by the same bus driver some twelve years before – but it would be the last one that she was willing to take.

At the time, segregation in the South was at its height. In Montgomery, Alabama, there were no black bus drivers, black people were often forced to give up their seats to white people and were required to sit at the back. When Rosa Parks refused to move, she was arrested, found guilty and fined $14. In response, the black community, who made up 75% of passengers, decided to boycott the buses. They arranged to carpool and to offer rides to those who needed to work, taxi drivers charged the price of the bus, people walked and some even rode mules: soon, the bus system was suffering major financial distress.

The whites of Montgomery began to attack black churches and the campaign leaders, Martin Luther King Jr and Ralph Abernathy, had their houses firebombed. 90 people, including King, were arrested for “conspiring to interfere with a business” and instead of evading capture, proudly handed themselves in. Dr King was jailed and gained national press attention.

After just over a year, the boycott was successful after the Supreme Court declared bus segregation was illegal. While black passengers could now sit almost everywhere on the bus, that faced a backlash of violence from the white community: snipers fired at buses, black churches were destroyed and a man, Willie Edwards was lynched. Yet, Montgomery had set the tone for the nation.

The Civil Rights movement, led by Dr. King, would grow from strength to strength. Civil Rights Acts were passed in 1957, 1960, 1964, 1965 and 1968 after constant pressure from below that forced the authorities to act.

The Strength of the Streets: The 12 Most Important Protests in Human History
Rare Historical Photos

10. Thich Quang-Duc

As the Civil Rights Movement was in full swing in America, on the other side of the world in Vietnam, the United States was beginning to involve itself in a war that would devastate the whole country. A whole entry for this list could be written about the role of anti-war protests in ending that war, but instead our focus is on one of the defining moments of the start of the conflict.

While Gandhi and Dr. King used non-violent civil disobedience to make their stands, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc used self-inflicted violence to raise awareness of his cause, creating a lasting image perfectly designed to capture the attention of the world’s media.

Thich Quang Duc was a Buddhist monk and as such, totally opposed to violence of any kind. The vast majority of Vietnamese were Buddhists, but the President, Ngo Dinh Diem, was a Catholic and was widely seen to favor Catholics in positions of office and prominence within the military and civil service. While government events often saw the Vatican flag fly alongside that of Vietnam, Buddhist symbols were banned and when Buddhist activists protested against the government, nine people were killed. The Buddhist hierarchy decided that something had to be done and Quang Duc, a leading monk, volunteered.

Media organizations, particularly from the United States, who were the largest backers of the Diem regime, were informed that something was to happen outside the Cambodian embassy in Saigon on June 10. As Duc sat in the traditional position of meditation, he was doused in petrol and set alight. He quickly burned to death, but not before photographer Malcolm Browne had taken what would go on to become one of the most iconic photographs of all time.

Duc left a note that explained the reasoning behind his protest, stating simply: “Before closing my eyes and moving towards the vision of the Buddha, I respectfully plead to President Ngô Đình Diệm to take a mind of compassion towards the people of the nation and implement religious equality to maintain the strength of the homeland eternally.”

It had the intended effect. The self-immolation, combined with coordinated protests, lead to the US increased pressure on Duc and eventually, to the Buddhist community receiving concessions from the regime. Thich Quang Duc instantly became a revered figure among Buddhists: his heart, which was never burned in the incident and then survived a second cremation, has become a relic for Vietnamese Buddhists and the then US President John F Kennedy remarked that “no news picture in history has generated so much emotion around the world as that one.”

The Strength of the Streets: The 12 Most Important Protests in Human History
Long angle view of an unknown Beijing man facing down a line of tanks in Tiananmen Square. Reddit

11. Tiananmen Square

For our penultimate protest, we are staying in East Asia, but moving to the North. What to call our next protest is debated and depends on where you are and what your pre-existing opinion is. Known in the West as either the Tiananmen Square Massacre and in China as the June Fourth Incident, the events of June 4, 1989, have become one of the defining political moments of recent years, a watershed (or bloodshed) for nascent political dissent in China and something of a forebearer of things to follow.

The end of the 1980s represented the biggest sea change in world politics since the great uprisings of 1968 and a landmark moment in which the world balance of power shifted. The so-called “second world” communist societies had begun market-orientated reforms throughout the Eighties and from Gdansk to East Berlin to Moscow and Beijing, people were taking advantage of liberalized freedom of speech laws and the political weakness of the state to challenge the long-held orthodoxies.

While the protests in Eastern Europe would ultimately see the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain, in the Far East, the government dealt with dissent in a far more decisive manner. In China, there was growing anger, particularly among the young, about the way that the country was headed. Market liberalization had benefitted some, but plenty of others, especially students and recent graduates, could not see where they fitted into the new China. In Tiananmen Square, Beijing’s central plaza, hundreds of thousands had gathered to demand more democracy and accountability in government.

Initially, the authorities let it run, but as the summer continued, it became clear that the protestors were not giving up. Students began a hunger strike and were joined by counterparts in 400 other cities. The regime declared martial law and began plans to send the troops in to clear out Tiananmen. On the evening of June 4, the action started. Soldiers were met by opposition sympathizers, who ignored TV messages telling them to stay home for their own safety, and opened fire. By midnight, troops were in the square and by the end of the night, anywhere between hundreds and thousands lay dead.

The image that endures from Tiananmen Square is that of the lone man standing before the line of tanks comes from June 5, by which point the army was in total control. In the coming months, mass arrests were carried out and many more executed. China still suppresses talk of Tiananmen Square and June Fourth and resisted the regime changes that would be seen in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and elsewhere.

The Strength of the Streets: The 12 Most Important Protests in Human History
The Media Co-op

12. Arab Spring

Our most final famous protest is our most recent and, arguably, is still ongoing. The revolutions that broke out in the Arab World in late 2010 have defined the last decade or so of history, with regime changes and the fallout from the mass protests still being felt in the region and beyond.

Like so many of our protests, the Arab Spring began with the actions of just one individual and ballooned into mass movements that changed the face of society. The small individual that sparked the revolutions – quite literally, in this case – was Mohamed Bouazizi. A Tunisian street vendor who had been targetted by police and unable to sell his wares, he burned himself to death in front of the local governor’s office in the town of Sidi Bouzid. Protests against his treatment were instant and after weeks of solid demonstrations, the autocratic President of Tunisia was forced to flee after 23 years in power.

It was just the beginning. Demonstrations in neighboring Egypt began, with hundreds of thousands filling Cairo’s Tahrir Square to demand the fall of dictator Hosni Mubarak. Within three weeks, the power of the streets had spoken and Mubarak, who had been in charge of the North African nation for 30 years, had left the country. Nearly 900 people were killed in clashes between protesters and government forces, but eventually, the regime fell.

No sooner was Mubarak forced into exile than protests had begun in Libya, where strongman Muammar Gaddafi had been dictator since 1969. His hold on power weakened but was not totally overthrown: a civil war began between the opposition and government forces that would result in Gaddafi’s eventual demise in August of 2011 when he was killed by rebels in the city of Sirte.

As the war raged in Libya, a similar conflagration had begun in Syria, where President Bashar Al-Assad and his Ba’ath Party had held power since the early 1960s. Again, the war in Syria had begun as street protests demanding more democracy, economic reform and anti-corruption reforms, but in Syria, the waters would become murkier and murkier. The government reacted violently to protests and sparked the war, but after 6 and a half years, the situation has deteriorated and diversified into a conflict with multiple parties and no end in sight, not to mention a huge refugee crisis and untold misery.

The biggest political issues of our time – refugees, terrorism, lack of democracy, energy economics – do not stem from the Arab Spring, but the injection of local protests into the autocracies of the region has completely transfigured the way that we see the Middle East and North African region and cannot be underestimated.


Keep Reading:

History Collection – 12 of History’s Greatest Peasant Revolts

History Collection – Uprisings of the Common Man: 4 Bloody Peasant Revolts

History Collection – The Fall of The Bastille

History Collection – Jamaican Slave Uprising that Led to Revolution

History Collection – Violent Rebellion: 8 Times American Slaves Revolted

History Collection – 20 Times Americans Rebelled Against Their Government

History Collection – 6 Violent American Labor Protests

History Collection – 9 Pivotal Slave Rebellions from Ancient Times to the 19th Century

History Collection – 12 Historic Little-Known Rebellions with Tragic and Bloody Ends


Sources For Further Reading:

BBC – The Peasants’ Revolt

Historic UK – Wat Tyler and the Peasants Revolt

History Channel – Martin Luther Posts His 95 Theses

History Channel – The Reformation

The Conversation – Five of The Most Violent Moments of The Reformation

Plimoth Museum – Mayflower and Mayflower Compact

BBC UK – A Summary of The Chartist Movement

Time Magazine – What Actually Happened on the Original Bastille Day

We Forum – Who was Mahatma Gandhi and what impact did he have on India?

History Channel – When Gandhi’s Salt March Rattled British Colonial Rule

Finding Dulcinea – Supreme Court Outlaws Bus Segregation

Rare Historical Photo – The Burning Monk, 1963

BBC – Tiananmen Square: What Happened in The Protests Of 1989?

PBS – Timeline: What Led to the Tiananmen Square Massacre