In my lectures last week, I was exploring the essentials of 18th century France: demography, communications, agriculture, regional loyalties, the centralizing tendencies of the state, and so on. And I posed the question towards the end of those lectures about how we might begin to explain where a revolution came from in such a society. One of the most important explanations of the origins of the French Revolution is being to emphasize that it might be something to do with the world of the Atlantic, the world in which France was involved in terms of its trade and Empire. I mentioned in my lectures last week that one of the most dynamic sectors of the French economy has to do with the colonial trade. On our food in particular to the boom that the great Atlantic sea ports of Nantes, La Rochelle, and Bordeaux are going through in the 18th century with a massive increase in colonial trade. They are part of a very significant trade across the Atlantic that we often call a triangular trade linking the great imperial powers of Western Europe, Britain, France, and Spain in particular, with the colonies across the Caribbean on the eastern seaboard of North America or particularly the Caribbean and South America, and with the slave trade from West Africa. One of the characteristics of the 18th century world is the importance of the Atlantic. We used, in the 21st century, the thinking of the Pacific as being the ocean around which some of the most dynamic economies in the world are situated. In the 18th century, it is the Atlantic. And this triangular trade of humans, of colonial produce, and the produce from the metropolitan centers of Great Britain, France, and Spain is absolutely essential to the dynamics of the world economy. In the case of France, this is an economy which is based particularly in the West Indian colonies, of St-Domingue, Martinique, and Guadalupe. But, certainly St-Domingue is far away the most important of them, were small minorities of white planters, maybe 30,000, another 30,000 mixed race people, dominate half a million African slaves who produce massive amounts of colonial produce such as coffee, rice, tobacco, and plant-based dyes and so on. In the 18th century, France also occupies, at least in theory, a massive area of the North American mainland, the Midwest areas, and also the eastern parts of Canada - a massive colonial empire even though the physical presence of French people is rather light compared to the presence of English and German settlers along the Atlantic seaboard. This is what a map of North America looks like before 1754, at least from a European perspective in terms of the colonial positions. As a result of what Americans call the French and Indian War, what Europeans call the Seven Years' War, France is expelled from the North American mainland. It's one of the most dramatic imperial crisis of the 18th century with extraordinary outcomes. France retains its colonial possessions in the Caribbean, which it sees by the way is much more valuable than those that it had on the North American mainland, but the map of North America has changed forever. Just a few decades later however, the inhabitants on the eastern side of that proclamation line, the black line there, designed to keep Native Americans and white settlers apart. The British colonists along the Atlantic seaboard rebelled against their colonial masters in Britain in the American War of Independence. That too because it's successful, is going to have the most dramatic consequences for the rest of the world. One of the issues for North American colonists is what they call 'no taxation without representation. They refused to be charged taxes for the upkeep of the British colonial empire when they have no representation in the British parliament. But, when the Founding Fathers of the American republic represented in this famous painting from 1819 when they get together and articulate in the declaration of independence as to why they are taking that revolutionary step, they put it in much broader bolder terms than simply being about to taxation. In ringing tones, they say that, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by the Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness. To secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government." You can sense, can't you? How some of the principles of the Enlightenment resonate through that statement. The whole concept of rights, of some form of social contract between governed and government, and the rights of people to change a government if it is seen to be oppressive of those rights. Across the Atlantic in France, there is a reverberation of those principles. The men who had been involved in putting together for example, the encyclopedia, the great work of the Enlightenment, Diderot and d'Alembert the contributors, identified themselves as part of a republic of letters, a contemporary term where people self-consciously see themselves as part of an international movement designed to improve a lot of humanity. In the 1950s, an American historian Robert Palmer and a French historian Jacques Godechot, in fact, articulated the most influential argument that the second half of the 18th century is the age of the Atlantic or democratic revolution where they emphasized the similarities between what the American colonists were after, in that declaration of 1776, and the sorts of government principles and principles of civic liberty that people in other parts of the world, in Western Europe, were also articulating. One of the most significant individuals within that American War of Independence and the new American Republic is this man, Benjamin Franklin, who for almost a decade after the declaration of Independence in 1776 is effectively what we would call today the ambassador of the new United States of America in Paris. He's lionized. He's extraordinarily popular. When this young man, Maximilien Robespierre, a young lawyer, picture here at the age of 25 when he wins he's first great court case. So enthused is he by what he sees as a victory for progress, for liberty, for the Enlightenment, that he sends a copy of his final speech to the court in homage to Benjamin Franklin in Paris. Now, French people were not only involved in the American War of Independence out of sympathy. The French government had decided to involve France militarily in supporting the American colonists in there struggle for freedom. It's a way of achieving revenge on Britain for the loss of North America in 1763, but it's to have extraordinary consequences. In particular, it's to result finally, in the calling of the Estates-General in May 1789, creating the platform on which the French Revolution is to be enacted. And I'm going to explore how this happened in my next lecture.