War and Social Upheaval: Specific 19th Century Conflicts

Figure 1.--Boys participated in wars throughout the 19th century. Here we see a pastel painting of a 19th century drummer boy. We are not sure though, when this pastel was executed. Notice the two druming sticks in his chest holder. The artist is unknown. We do not even know the nationality of the boy. We suspect the boy was from the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th century. He wears a white jacket with red epauletts. I'm not sure how to describe the cap. We associate white jackets more with French uniforms, but perhaps HBC readers will gave a better idea about the boy's natuinality.

The 19th century was dominated by two major wars. The first was the Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815) of the early 19th century in which the French Revolutionaly Wars were transformed into a more traditional European war, although with increasingly nationalistic overtones. The French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars ignited the passions of nationalism that so dominated the 19th and 20th centuries. The other major war of the 19th century was the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) which resulted in the unification of Germany and set the stage for the modern wars of the 20st century. It was to be a realtive European side show, however, the Balkan Wars (1879-1913) that would hold the seed for the spark that brought about World War I in the 20th century. Other major events included the continuation of the Industrial Revolution, the Irish Potato Famine, the Revolutions sweeping Europe in 1848, the Criman War, and the Boer War.

Napoleonic Wars (1798-1815)

The French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars ignited the passions of nationalism that so dominated the 19th and 20th centuries. Fashions were largely pan-European before the Napoleonic Wars. After Waterloo (1815) and the Congress of Versailles (1814-15), individual nation satates coalessed and developed theie own values and fashions. One factor was the increasing nationalization of European monarchies. Before the Napoleomioc Wars, there were many royal families which ruled provinces that that spoke different languages and had culturres different than the monarch. Even a large country like England had a series of Dutch and German kings. After the Naopoleonic Wars, nation states began to colaese, Finally Germany and Italy emerged. The monarchs in 19th centurty Europe (although not necesarily therir wives) were identified with the national culturel The English monarch (Victoria), the Czar, the Kaiser, the Italian king. the French kings and emperors were the embodiment of the national image--it would be unimaginable that such monarchs woulod be foreign. At the same time, destinctive national fashionsd became increasingly important. No longer would Europeans accept pan-Europran fashions like the skeleton suit. The impact on Germany and Central Europe after wars of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars need to be examined as much focus is usually on England and France.

Latin American Wars of Independence (1806-1826)

Latin America when the French Revolution erupted in Europe was largely controlled by Portugal and Spain. The Portuguese colony was Brazil with a capital at Rio de Janeiro. Brazil included much of eastern South America and the amazonian Basin. Spain controlled the rest of South America, Central America, Mexico, and a few Caribbean islands. Spanish South America was divided into the three Viceroyalties of New Grenada (Bogotį), of Lima and of Rio de la Plata (Buenos Aires). Spain restricted power in its colonies to a small European born elite, not trusting the criollos, people of European ncestry born in the colonies. The growing number of locally born colonists who had acquired wealth as important landowners and merchants resented the inferior status assigned to them as "criollos". They wanted a share in the governing of the colonies. Unlike English North America, there were no colonial legislstures in Latin America. The mother country also severly restricted economic activity. The colonies were only permitted to trade with the mother countries. And both exports and imports were taxed. The Enlightenment provided a challenge to the legitimacy of monarchies. The American Revolution (1775) and French Revolution (1789) showed agrieved Latin American criollos that change was possible. And than the Napoleonic Wars weakend both Portugal and Spain, giving Latin American criollos the oportunity to seize theur independence, especially when French armies crossed the Pyranees to invade Spain and Portugal. Napoleon deposed the Bourbon monarch in Spain and the Portugesr court fled to Brazil. The result was a two decade struggle involving many fronts on which opposing armies fought on some of the most difficult terraine imaginable.

Greek War of Independence (1821-32)

The Otooman Empire conquered Bzantium including Greece and the Christian kindoms of the Balkans in the 15th centurty. As a result, Greece lived under Ottoman rule for four centuries. The Ottomans allowed the Greek to retain their Orthodox Christianity after the conquest. It was not until the French Revolution that the first real stirings for Greek independence began. The Ottomans were not involved in the Napoleonic Wars. The ideas generated by the Revolution did affect their Christian subjects in the Balkans. A Serbs revolt which was temporatily sucessful inspired the Greeks. The Greek revolt less than a decade after the end of the Napoleonic Wars. It began in of zll places Moldavia, but soon spread to the Peloponnese. From the beginning it was a bloody affair. The revoly was not clearly thought out or centrally led. Greek Christians targeted Muslims, including women and children. The Ottomans responded with massacres of their own. Ottoman excesses were widely reported in the Western press, creating great sympathy for the Greeks. The Greek attrocities were not well reported. The intervention of the Egyptian ruler Ali Pasha almost doomed the Greek rebellion, but the European powers intervened to guarantee Greek independence, eventually insisting that a monarchy be created to govern the country.

Opium War (1840-42)

The Opium War was a war between the United Kingdom and Imperial China. The British objected to China's attempt to limit British shipments of Indian opium to China. The Chinese were reacting to ikncreasingly levels of addition among the Chinese people. It is notable that as late as 1840 that British traders were having difficulty supplying goods that were of interest to the Chinese in exchange for the many Chinese products (especially porcelin and silks) that were in demand in the West. One of the few British products that was in great demand was Indian opium. The War was the British effort to force the Imperial Government to cease its efforts to prevent opium importation. The War ended in 1842 with the Treaty of Nanking which opened specified Chinese ports to foreign trade and the cessiojn by China of the island of Hong Kong to the British.

Irish Potato Famine (1845-50)

The Irish Potato Famine began with a blight of the potato crop. The Irish had come to depend on the potato as a mainstay of their diet. No other crop produced so much food per acre of land. The blight was devestating and spread with amazing speed. Within a year a bountiful crop was reduced to rotting fields. Vast expanses of Irish firelds were ruined by black rot. It would have not been as bad if the Irish diet had been more diverse, but the poor Irish peasantry survived on the potato harvest. Potato crops accross Europe failed, but nowhere in Europe was the poopulation so dependant on the potato. Not only was the potato gone, but the crop failure caused the pricev of other food crops to soar, placing substitute foods beyond the purchasing power of the destitute Irish peasantry. The Irish peasantry were tennantv farmers who eked out a subsistaence existance with the potato not only found their food stocks roting, but were unable tom pay their rents. Soon their British and Irish Protestant landlords were evicting them from their homes. Some of the Prish peasants out of desperation attempted to eat the rotting potatos. Whole villages were devestated by cholera and typhus. Parish priests desperately tried to tend to their congregtions and feed the starving. Inn some cases the dead went unburried. Many were burried without caskets. Englsih relief efforts wre inadequated and even these wereec abandoned in the midst of the famine. Work houses because of inadequate nutrition and unsanitary conditions were death traps. The Irish famine has been seen by many as the greatest humanitarian disasaster of the 19th centuy. This was in part because so many died and others forced emmigrate. Over 1 million are believed to have actually sucumbed to statvation and disease. But most tragic of all was that it was preventable. Throuhout the Famine, Irish, and English landowners were exporting food. One author points out that aquarter of the peers in the House of Lords owned land in Ireland and failed to act. [Wilson]

Revolution (1848)

Revolution swept Europe in 1848. The Revolutions of 1848 were a series of revolts caused by a heady mixture of rising nationalism mixed with the economic change resulting from the Industrial Revolution and political and social represson. The rising middle class created by the Industrial Revolution were demanding liberal reforms. An economic recession further heigtenened tensions. The major participants in the revolutions were the Czechs, Croats, Danes, French, Germans (including the Austrians), Hungarians, Italians, Poles, Slovaks, and the Romanians. Many of these nationalities did not yet have a country. The French monarchy fell. The Austrian monarch was forced to make concessions as did the Prussians. Other German monarchies introduced liberal reforms. In Britain he Chartists failed. Why did Britain prove less succetable to Revolution? Some have argued the Victorian penchant for constructive self criticism. [Wilson] The Revolutions of 1848 did overturn some regimes, although most were soon restored. Onlt the French monarchy was permanretly overturned. The revolutions did demonstrate that that popular unrest could overthrow monarchial government.

Crimean War (1853-56)

The Crimean War was a belicose interlude in a uncharacteristically long period of peace under which Europe flourished and prospered. The war is one of the least studies of the wars between the main European powers. Russian efforts to expand south brought it into conflict with the two great European powers, England and France. The fact that Russia again fought France, headed by a Bonaparte Emperor, Napoleon III is perhaps not to surprising, although this time it was more of a defensive policy on France's part. More srprising is the fact that Prussia abstained from involvement. This was due to Bismark's efforts to separate the Russians and French which was later to lead to German unificatuion. This policy was later was abandoned by Wilhelm II, leading to diisaster in World War I. The Crimean War proved to be the first step in changing Prussia (soon to be Germany) from an English ally to an enemy. The Crimea was the only time the British and Russian's fought--although there was tension growing out of the Great Game in Afganistan and northern India. There was great suffering on both sides. In Russia, war with the European powers brought great strains. Taxes were needed to finance the War. The huge casualties required forced levies. Both mean increased hardship for the already exploited Russian serfs. There were serf uprisings everywhere. Intelectual ferment is oftn stimulated by war and social upheaval. Fashion and art are often affected. It is at this time that Russian blouse styles begin to appear in Europe. Many styles such as baraclavas (ski mask), cardigan sweaters, and raglan sweaters coats later appeared. Russia was also affected. The conditions of Russian serfs worsened from their already exploited condition. The aftermath of war and rebelion appears to have enlived the previously rather static artistic life of Russia. It is in this period that the new school of critical realism is founded. The founder of critical realism is Vasily Perov.

Itlalian Unification (1848-61)

The Italian nationalist movement is known as the "Risorgimento" (Resurgence) and resulted in unification. Italy was the source of the Renaissance which swept over Europe beginning in the 14th century. As a result of the Counter Reformation, however, Italy did not share in the Enligtenment that followed the Reformation. The Church effectively stifled scientific inquiry and other intelectual pursuirs. The country continued to be very traditional and the south virtually feudal. This began to change with the French Revolution when new poliical ideas and and modern concepts of nationalism were introduced to Italy. The great powers divided Italy following Napoleon's defeats in 1814-15 into the Papal States, Austrian duchies, the Kingdom of Sardinia, the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, and several smaller principalities. . The Congress of Vienna sought to reinstate the conservative monrchial regime that had been almost overthrown by the French Revolution and Napoleon. The seeds of Italian national sentiment and the ideals of liberty had been sown in Italy as a result of the French invasion which brought with it the ideals of the French Revolution. Giuseppe Mazzini was a fervent Italian patriot who led the initial Italian national movement. He led the Liberal Movement and sought to create an Italian republic to govern a united Italy. It was to be te House of Savoy, however, that wouls succeed in unifying Italy. While conservative regimes were restored in Italy, Piedmont-Sardinia survived as a constitutional monarchy. King Victor Emanuel appointed Count Camillo di Cavour prime minister of the Kingdom of Sardinia (1852). Cavour was to play a major role in the unification. Under his leadership Italy would be unified under monarchial rule rather than the republic Mazzini so desired. Cavour was no revolutionary, he was, however, a swreud politican. Giuseppe Garibaldi was the nationlist military leader played a more flamboyant rtole and helped complete the unification of Italy.

American Civil War (1861-65)

The American Civil War has been called the first modern war because of the number of men involved, the sweeping movements, the use of trains and telegraphs, and the increasing sophistication of the weaponery including rifled artillery, repeating weapons and iron-clad ships. The Civil War was the defining epoch of the American nation. It has been extensively studied in American history, but except for military scholars little noted outside the United States. The Civil War, however, had profound consequences for world history that were not immediately apparent in 1865. The losses and disruption of the war was staggering. More Americans died in the Civil War than in any other war America has fought--including World War II. This was in part because military tactics had not yet adjusted to the increasing leathality of weaponry. The South was devestated and the economic and social impacts were felt well into the 20th century. The industrial expansion of the north, however, was strongly promoted by the War. We do not know, however, of a major fashion change associated with the war. Military styled outfits such as Zouave outfits were popular, but lasting impacts on boys' fashions seem hard to detect. The Civil War does appear to be the watershead between the first and second half of the centuries. In a general way it also divides the period when long pants were common to the later era when kneepants dominated.

Franco Prussian War (1870-71)

The defeat of Louis Napoleon by the Prussians in 1870 brought the Third Republic to power in 1871. One of the reforms they introduced were smocks for schoolboys, part of the new Republican ideal to reduce the influence of class and privlidge. The two northeastern provinces of France, Alsace-Loraine, were ceded to Germany in the Treaty of Frankfurt. These were both border provinces and there were already large numbers of German-speakers in both provinces, especially Alsace. The population was, however, largely French orientened--even some of the German families. The loss to France was so heart-felt in France that it almost made another war inevitable. One impact on boys' clothing was that when the Third Republic in 1871 mandated smocks in French schools, Alsace-Loraine were no longer part of France.

Scramble for Africa (1870- )

European colonialism began with the Portuguese voyages of exploration along the coast of africa in the 15th century. They were soon followed by the Dutch, English, French, and Spanish. These countries set up trading posts along the coast, but did not move inland to establish actual colonies. The one exception to this was in South Africa where Dutch settlers did establish farms. After the English took over Capetown in 17??, the Dutch moved inland to avoid English domination. The French had moved to establish colonies in North Africa in the mid 19th century. It was not until the 1870s. however, that the Europeans began to carve out colonies in sun-Saharan Africa. It was then that the "Scranble for Africa" began. European imperialism has been blamed, with considerable justification, for many of the problems of modern Africa. Along with the rampant nationalism and desire for profit, however, there was a strong moral aspect to European colonialism in Africa. Those who read about child slavery, child soldiers, female circumcision, the AIDsS epidenmic, and other problems experience some of the main motivations that prompted Victorian imperialists.

Russo-Turkish War (1877-78)

Russian and the Ottomans fought a series of Balkan Wars. In each the Russians gained ground. The Ottoman Empire would have collpased early in the 19th century, had the major European powers not differed on how to carve it up. Concerned about the Russian succeeses, Britain and France intervened in the Crimean War to support Turkey. The last Russo-Turkish War occurred in 1877-78. It was also the most important one. Tsarist Russia in 1877 came to the aid of its fellow Christian Orthodox ally Serbia as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina and Bulgaria in local rebellions against Ottoman rule. The Russians attacked diretly through Bulgaria toward Turkey and gained considerable success. After completing the Siege of Pleven, the Russians advance into Thrace, taking Adrianople (now Edirne, Turkey) in January 1878. The Ottomans conceded and in March 1878 agree to the Treaty of San Stefano with Russia. This treaty liberated Romania, Serbia, and Montenegro from Ottoman rule. It granted autonomy to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and created a Bulgaria (much larger than modern Bulgaria) under Russian protection. The great powers, especially Britain and Austria-Hungary, were concerned with the massive Russian gains confirmed by the treaty. Here the British were coflicted. Public opinion had been aroused against Ottoman attricities against Christians in the Balkans, yet Queen Victorian was stongly anti-Russian and many officials were concerned about the Russians mocing south toward Suez. The great powers this compelled Russia to accept more limited gains under the Treaty of Berlin (July 1878). Russia's gains from the war were sharply reduced.

Balkan Wars (1879-1913)

The series of wars among the various countries and principalities in thE Balkan Peninsula which occurred between their gaining og independence from the Ottomon Empire and the onset of World War I are collectively known as the Balkan Wars. The efforts of Bismarck to settle the political future of the Balkans, in part to avoid great power conflict did not suceed. A series of wars in the Balkans began almost immediately after the Congress of Berlin (1878) which to varing degrees dragged in the Great Powers. The primary conflict was between Austria-Hungary and Russia for dominance in the Balkans with the weigning power of the Ottomon Empire. There were, however, a range of issues dividing the peopke of the Balkans and the borders of the new states and principalities of the region.

First Sino-Japanese War (1894-95)

Japan began using it rising military power to build an overseas empire. The Japanese shocked the Chinese when they emerged victorious in the First Sino-Japanese War. Tension between China and Japan over interests in Korea broke out in war (1894). The War highlighted the decline of the Qing dynasty. It also highlighted the weakness of the Chinese military and the success of the modernization process in Japan. The Yi dynasty in Korea attempted continue its traditional seclusion. Korea had a tributary relationship with China which in exchange had provided military protection. China allowed Japan to recognize Korea as an independent state (1875). Subsequently the situation in Korea became complicated. China attempted to maintain its influence while Japan attempted to expand its influence. The Koreans divided between conservative traditionalists and reformists, many of who supported the Japanese. After the assassination of a reformer, a Korean religious sect, the Tonghak, launched a rebellion. The traditionalist Korean Government asked for Chinese military support. A Japanese military expedition reached Seoul (June 8, 1894), ostensibly to support the reformers. China declared war (August 1) after both land and naval engagements had occurred. The War was a disaster for China. The Japanese Arny mauled the Chinese in battles around Seoul and Pyóngyang. The Chinese retreated north and suffered another defeat at Liaoning. The Japanese then took Port Arthur (Luda) (November 21). The Chinese fared even worse at sea. China's northern fleet was devastated by the Japanese Navy in a battle at the mouth of the Yalu River. The Yalu forms part of the border between China and Korea. The Japanese sank 8 of 12 Chinese ships engaged. The surviving 4 ships withdrew behind the fortifications of the naval base at Weihaiwei. There they were destroyed when the Japanese attacked by land across the Liaodong Peninsula. Japan took Weihaiwei (February 2, 1895). After the harsh Winter weather passed, The Japanese drove into Manchuria. The Chinese finally sued for peace. The Treaty of Shimonoseki ended the War (April 1895). Korea was recognized as a sovereign state, but effectively became a Japanese protectorate. China ceded Formosa (Taiwan), the Liaodong Peninsula, and the Pescadores Islands to Japan. The Japanese set out on a comprehensive program of imposing the Japanese language and culture. China was required to pay an indemnity of 200 million taels. Even more humiliating for China, they were forced to open four more treaty ports to external trade. The outcome of the War, however, was modified by the Triple Intervention (Russia, France, and Germany). They forced Japan to return the Liaodong Peninsula, but China was required to pay an additional 30 million taels to mollify the Japanese. China's defeat outraged Chinese students and strengthened the reform movement in China. Sun Yat-sen founded the revolutionary republican movement which evolved into the Kuomintang.

Boer War (1899-1902)

Shorts pants were not commonly worn by boys before the turn of the century. Some younger boys wore them, but knickers and knee pants were more common. The British Army in South Africa was issued shorts, after which they became increasingly more common. Boer War veteran Lord Baden Powell, based on his Boer War experience launched the Boys Scouts to generations of boys first in Brutain and eventually around the world. Another personality come out of the Boer War was none other than Winston Churchill which led to the beginning of his politicl career.


Wilson, A.N. The Victorians (Norton), 724p.


Navigate the Children in History Website:
[Return to Main specific war essay page]
[Return to Main military style page]
[Introduction] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Climatology] [Clothing] [Disease and Health] [Economics] [Geography] [History] [Human Nature] [Law]
[Nationalism] [Presidents] [Religion] [Royalty] [Science] [Social Class] [Royalty]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]

Created: October 22, 2002
Last updated: 5:57 AM 3/30/2015