In terms of their origins, what did the American, English, and French Revolutions have in common? Why were they significant to the development of the modern world?

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All three revolutions--the English Revolution of 1642, the American Revolution that broke out in 1775, and the French Revolution of 1789--were caused by the growing power of parliamentary or other representative bodies that challenged the divine or unchallenged right of kings. Underpinning all the revolutions was the growing idea that monarchs had to listen to the needs and abide by the rights of those they governed. Many people developed this idea, sometimes referred to as the "social contract," including Thomas Hobbes and John Locke in the 17th century. These ideas developed in part because of the Enlightenment and its focus on reason and the way in which people were governed.

The English Revolution broke out in part because the Stuart kings were Catholic in a Protestant nation, and the Stuart kings also attempted to rule without summoning Parliament. The American Revolution was in part a protest against the right of the British monarchs to impose taxes on the American colonies without the consent of the colonies or the direct representation of the colonies in the British Parliament. The French Revolution arose because the French kings, including Louis XVI, refused to summon the Estates General, or the parliamentary body, until they were faced with immense debt. The members of the English and French Parliaments and the American colonists expected monarchs to provide them with a say in the governing of the country, and the age of the divine right of kings was over. Enlightenment ideas about the natural rights of man ("man" was the term they used to refer to all people) influenced all three revolutions, as people began to believe that they had certain rights to representation that no monarch could take away from them. 

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