Unit 4: Spread of Democracy

An Age of Democracy and Progress, 1815–1914

Unit 4

From 1815 to 1914, the world underwent a dramatic transformation. Countries moved towards democracy by expanding suffrage. Europe in particular saw large gains in achieving equality and political participation for all its citizens. For example, British reforms gave all men the right to vote and ensured that Parliament would be composed of a more accurate cross section of society. A republic was proclaimed in France, but did little to end the political conflict plaguing the country since Napoleon’s exile. The move towards democracy and freedom included some British colonies which won the right to govern themselves. However the struggle for that right was not easy in Ireland as the complex religious, historic and political landscape made Irish independence a difficult proposition.  The United States also made progress during this time by taking a large step towards the goals upon which it was founded. The United States engaged in a bloody civil war that finally put an end to slavery. Society was also changed by the new inventions and scientific advances made during this century. Inventions such as the radio, movies and cameras made life more healthful and enjoyable.

Essential Questions:

  1. Contrast the spread of democracy in Britain with that in France.
  2. Compare the development of self-rule in the different colonies of Britain.
  3. How did the United States change during the 1800s?
  4. What important inventions were made in the late 1800s and early 1900s? Which one do you think was most important?
  5. How did new medical and scientific discoveries and ideas from the late 1800s change life?

Key Themes

  • Liberalism
  • Autonomy
  • Democracy
  • Suffrage
  • Technological advancements



  1. Democratic Reform and Activism
  2. Self-Rule for British Colonies
  3. Expansion and Crisis in the United States
  4. Nineteenth Century Progress