Which Revolutions Truly Changed their Countries, and Which Merely Changed the Ruling Elite?

Oct 2016
it occurs to me that many 'revolutions' merely replace the top ten percent or so, especially in the government, with a different ten percent, while life goes on with little change for the vast majority of the populace.

traditional Latin American revolutions for example.

Now and then a revolution really and truly changes its country. Cuba for instance; many more than the ruling elite were affected by.


(I don't consider the US a revolution despite its title; more of a rebellion that established independence.)
May 2011
Medieval "revolutions" might offer good examples of this. The Anarchy in 12th century England, brought down the house of Normandy in favour of the Plantagenets.
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Jul 2012
Yes, there are different types of political violence that are used interchangeably, incorrectly.

Revolution - complete change of the socio-economic system that generates a new political class. By definition revolutions are always successful; when unsuccessful they are mere Rebellions. Revolutions need not be violent if the existing ruling class admits progressive changes, but in most cases existing political elites do not willingly hand over advantages to others. Revolutionary action often builds up over a period of time before it comes to its critical point.

Coup d'etat - change of the political leadership by means outside the normal rule of political succession, without any significant changes to the political system or its underlying social and economic environment. Mostly involves the participation of the military.

Rebellion, Uprising, insurrection - a struggle by one section of society over specific issues, directed at the political leadership, usually focussed on righting a perceived wrong. May result in a break-away sovereign state.

Civil War - a revolution, coup d'etat or rebellion that is carried out in formal military style. Usually one side is the existing state and the other seeking to change it or separate from it, and may or may not be coherently organised. May result in a takeover of the existing political system or in a break-away sovereign state.

Civil disturbance - a reaction brought on by the effects of an existing policy. Less organised than a rebellion and does not challenge the legitimacy of existing political authorities. If not addressed may progress to one of the other forms of political violence.

Brigandry - community of people that have been made outcasts by the existing political system that resort to criminal activity for survival.

Organised Crime - an organised parallel society around activities defined by existing laws as illegal. Violence is used in place of a legal system to maintain "order".


Ad Honorem
Feb 2010
Canary Islands-Spain
Most of revolutions are just changes of the name of the ruling elite.

The French and Russian revolutions were not. An even deeper revolution, probably the most radical in history, was that of the Meiji in Japan.
Sep 2016
As motorbike pointed out, people often don't use term ,, Revolution '' correctly and often call that any uprising that happened. Just changing ruling elite is not Revolution. England had a revolution in 1640's, France had revolution in 1790's and Russia in 1917. Historians also often consider Meiji Restoration as Revolution, since after that Japan started to take a different path with modernization, westernization and other reforms to change society.
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