Historical Characters of Modern Europe

    French Revolution     Napoleonic Wars     Republican France     Unification of Italy     Rise of Prussia     German Empire     Tsarist Russia     Great War



French Revolution—1715 to 1794

Reign of Louis XV to Death of Robespierre


Character/Date Short Biography

Enlightenment Philosophers

Voltaire
1694–1778
Controversial "free-thinker", satirist, essayist, and Enlightenment philosopher.
Rousseau
1712–1778
Romantic Political Philosopher who influenced both the American and the French Revolutions.
Abbe Sieyes
1748–1836
Apostate abbot with republican leanings. Leading thinker of early years of the revolution, who was exiled during the most radical phase

Revolutionary Leaders

Jean-Paul Marat
1743–1793
Radical Doctor who became Leader of the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution.
Toussaint L'Ouverture
1743–1803
Former slave who became the leader of rebel slaves seeking to overthrow the French government in Haiti.
Mirabeau
1749–1791
Moderate leader of the French Revolution who died before he could effect a compromise.
Duke of Orleans
1747–1793
Liberal cousin of Louis XVI who volted to execute the king, but was later beheaded by the Paris mob.
Robespierre
1758–1794
Key figure of the French Revolution. Leader of the Reign of Terror.
Georges Danton
1759–1794
Key figure of the French Revolution who was eventually lost his head.
Camille Desmoulins
1760–1794
Lawyer, journalist, and associate of Danton. Ralleyed the Paris mob in early days of the revolution. Leader of Cordelier club. Beheaded during the terror
Talleyrand
1754–1838
Apostate bishop who organized Civil Constitution of Clergy. Stayed in favor during regime changes from the Estates General to the Restoration.

Monarchs

Louis XVI
1754–1793
King during the French revolution. Beheaded by republicans who sought to overthrow the monarchy.
Louis XVII
1785–1795
Dauphin of France, son of Marie Antoinette. Seperated from his family, tortured, and murdered during reign of terror.
Maria Antoinette
1755–1793
Extravagant Queen of France. Beheaded during French Revolution.

Heroes and Martyrs

Madame Roland
1754–1793
Secretary of the Girondists party during the French Revolution. She was not considered republican enough by radicals and executed during the reign of terror
Lafayette
1757–1834
French soldier who fought in American Revolution, and early leader of French Revolution.
Charlotte Corday
1768–1793
Sacrificed her own life to kill the tyrant Jean-Paul Marat.
Charles Dumouriez
1739–1823
French Revolutionary General and hero of the battle of Valmy. Deserted the cause after the execution of the king and joined the royalist allies



Napoleonic Wars—1795 to 1815

French Directory to Battle of Waterloo


Character/Date Short Biography

Napoleon family

Napoleon
1769–1821
Victorious general who rose to power during the French Revolution. Crowned himself Emperor and restored France to greatness.
Josephine de Beauharnais
1763–1814
Aristocratic wife of Napoloeon Bonaparte.
Joseph Bonaparte
1768–1844
Older brother of Napoleon who was crowned first, King of Naples, and then later, King of Spain.
Eugene de Beauharnais
1781–1824
Stepson of Napoleon, who accompanied him on all his early campaigns. Later Prince of Italy.

Generals

Michel Ney
1769–1815
One of Napoleon's most trusted generals and hero of many French battles. Executed for treason after Waterloo.
Marshal Blucher
1742–1819
Prussian Field Marshall who opposed Napoleon at Leipzig and Waterloo. (At age 72!)
Duke of Wellington
1769–1852
Napoleonic war general who fought in Spain and Portugal. Defeated Napoleon at Waterloo.
Horatio Nelson
1758–1805
Great Naval hero of his age; victor at the Battle of the Nile, Copenhagen, and Trafalgar.
General Janssens
1762–1838
Dutch General who surrendered Cape Town to the British after the Battle of Blaauwberg.
Alexander I
1777–1825
Leader of Russia during the Napoleonic Wars.

Statesment and Diplomats

Talleyrand
1754–1838
Apostate bishop who organized Civil Constitution of Clergy. Stayed in favor during regime changes from the Estates General to the Restoration.
Metternich
1773–1848
Austrian statesman who was influential in bringing about a long lasting peace in Europe after the Napoleonic Wars. Hosted Congresss of Vienna.
Louise of Prussia
1776–1810
Queen of Prussia who inspired Germany to resist Napoleon. Greatly honored in Prussia.
Pope Pius VII
1742–1823
Pope during the reign of Napoleon and the early restoration period.

Arts and Science

Jacques-Louis David
1748–1825
Neoclassical French painter of the revolutionary era famous for his historical subjects.
Georges Cuvier
1769–1832
World expert on fossils and prehistoric animals. Proponent of catastrophism in contrast to uniformism.



Republican France—1815 to 1914

Restoration of Bourbons to First World War


Character/Date Short Biography

Last Kings of France

Louis XVIII
1755–1824
French monarch restored to the throne after the collapse of Napoleon's empire. Brother of Louis XVI killed during revolution.
Charles X
1757–1836
Last French Bourbon King. Abdicated the throne during the Revolution of 1830.
Louis Philippe
1773–1850
French prince with liberal sympathies. Proclaimed king after abdication of Charles X.
Maximilian of Austria
1832–1867
Archduke who was proclaimed Emperor of Mexico. Overthrown and executed by Liberal republicans.

Bonapartists

Napoleon III
1808–1873
Nephew of Napoleon, elected emperor of France after revolution of 1848. Deposed after disastrous Franco-Prussian War.
Eugene de Beauharnais
1781–1824
Stepson of Napoleon, who accompanied him on all his early campaigns. Later Prince of Italy.
Hortense de Beauharnais
1783–1837
Step-daughter, and sister-in-law of Napolean Bonaparte, and mother of Napoleon III of France.
Empress Eugenie
1826–1920
Wife of Napoleon III and Empress of France. Influential figure in society and fashion as well as politics.

Statesmen

Leon Gambetta
1838–1882
Radical Republican politician who came to prominance after the Franco-Prussian War. Served briefly as Prime Minister.
Patrice MacMahon
1808–1893
First elected president of the Third French Republic. Conservative popular with both Monarchists and Bonapartists.
Adolphe Thiers
1797–1877
Respected minister during reign of Louis Philippe, and chosen first president of the Third Republic.
Francois Guizot
1787–1874
Served as a minister to Louis Philippe. Influential in establishing Publich education in France.
Ferdinand de Lesseps
1805–1894
French diplomat in charge of development of the Suez canal. His canal project in Panama failed with great loss.

Notable Citizens

Alfred Dreyfus
1859–1935
Jewish artillery officer, falsely accused of treason. Subject of international anti-semite scandal.
Louis Pasteur
1822–1895
Renowned scientist in bacteriology. Helped develop germ theory of disease and pasteurization process.
Madame Curie
1867–1934
A pioneer in the field of radioactivity, and first female winner of the Nobel prize in physics.
Victor Hugo
1802–1885
French novelist, known for classics such as Les Miserables and Hunchback of Notre Dame.



Unification of Italy—1792 to 1925

Napoleonic Wars to Mussolini


Character/Date Short Biography

Napoleonic Era

Eugene de Beauharnais
1781–1824
Stepson of Napoleon, who accompanied him on all his early campaigns. Later Prince of Italy.
Alexander Suvorov
1729–1800
Renowned general who won victories for Russia against Turks, Napoleon, and Polish rebels.
Napoleon
1769–1821
Victorious general who rose to power during the French Revolution. Crowned himself Emperor and restored France to greatness.
Joseph Bonaparte
1768–1844
Older brother of Napoleon who was crowned first, King of Naples, and then later, King of Spain.
Joachim Murat
1767–1815
Leading general of Napoleonic Wars, brother-in-law of Napoleon. Appointed king of Naples after Joseph was installed as king of Spain.
Pope Pius VII
1742–1823
Pope during the reign of Napoleon and the early restoration period.
Antonio Canova
1757–1822
Renowned sculptor who showed talent at an early age by carving a lion out of butter.

Rigorgimento

Garibaldi
1807–1882
Led several campaigns in the Wars of Italian Unification. Renowned as a hero patriot of Italy.
Pope Pius IX
1792–1878
Long serving pope who reigned during the unification of Italy. Famous for Vatican I, papal infallibility doctrine, and Syllabus of Errors.
Mazzini
1805–1872
Italian journalist and political activist who worked for the Unification of Italy and advocated popular democracy throughout Europe.
Cavour
1810–1861
Prime minister of Sardinia who used skill and diplomacy to unite Italy under the rule of the Piedmont king.
Napoleon III
1808–1873
Nephew of Napoleon, elected emperor of France after revolution of 1848. Deposed after disastrous Franco-Prussian War.
Victor Emmanuel II
1820–1878
Became first king of a United Italy after Garibaldi handed over control of Naples. Previously Savoyard King of Sardinia.

After Unification

Saint Pius X
1835–1914
Popular pope who resisted modernism and promoted the eucharist and classical philosophy.
Alexander Volta
1745–1827
Invented the first usable electrical storage battery.
Guglielmo Marconi
1874–1937
Inventor of a wireless telegraphy system, first used on ships.



Rise of Prussia—1740 to 1848

Frederick the Great to Revolutions of 1848


Character/Date Short Biography

Prussian Leaders

Great Elector
1620–1688
Calvinist Duke of Prussia and Elector of Brandenburg who made commercial and domestic reforms and laid the groundwork for the rise of Prussia.
Frederick William I
1688–1740
Father of Frederick the Great who reformed the Prussian economy and built a strong standing army.
Frederick the Great
1712–1786
Great Prussian military leader in the War of the Austrian Succession and Seven Years War.
Frederick William III
1770–1840
Prussian king during and after the Napoleonic Wars. Reformed government and military after the neglect of his father's reign.
Louise of Prussia
1776–1810
Queen of Prussia who inspired Germany to resist Napoleon. Greatly honored in Prussia.
Marshal Blucher
1742–1819
Prussian Field Marshall who opposed Napoleon at Leipzig and Waterloo. (At age 72!)

Polish Leaders

Thaddeus Kosciusko
1746–1817
Polish national who fought in the American Revolution, and later led a Polish uprising against Russia.

Austrian Leaders

Eugene of Savoy
1663–1736
One of the Greatest generals of the Hapsburg Empire. Led Austria during the War of Spanish Succession.
Maria Theresa
1717–1780
Head of Hapsburg Dynasty. Ruled over much of Eastern Europe. Opposed Frederick the Great.
Joseph II
1741–1790
Eldest son of Maria Theresa who attempted to make dramatic changes to "modernize" Austria, with limited success.
Francis II
1768–1835
Emperor of Austria during the Napoleonic Wars; last Holy Roman Emperor.
Andreas Hofer
1767–1810
Patriot of the Austrian Tyrol who held Austria for the Hapsburgs against Napoleon's allies.
Metternich
1773–1848
Austrian statesman who was influential in bringing about a long lasting peace in Europe after the Napoleonic Wars. Hosted Congresss of Vienna.
Archduke Charles
1771–1847
Younger brother of Francis II. Important general of the Austrian army during the Napoleonic Wars.

German Arts, science, and Literature

Bach
1685–1750
German composer associated with Baroque classical music.
Handel
1685–1759
Composer of Baroque Symphonies and Operas. Major influence on Beethoven and Mozart.
Goethe
1749–1831
Influential literary persona of the 18th century. Wrote Faust.
Joseph Haydn
1732–1809
Very influential composer from Vienna who was an associate of Mozart, and a teacher of Beethoven.
Mozart
1756–1791
One of the most popular classical composers in history. Composed over 600 works including symphonies, operas, and chamber music.



German Empire—1862 to 1912

Bismarck Prime Minister to Balkan Wars


Character/Date Short Biography

Prussian kings and statesmen

Frederick William III
1770–1840
Prussian king during and after the Napoleonic Wars. Reformed government and military after the neglect of his father's reign.
Kaiser William I
1797–1888
First Kaiser of a United German Empire. With Bismarck as Chancellor, defeated Austria and France.
Kaiser William II
1859–1941
Second Kaiser built up a strong navy, , and bumbled into disastrous World War.
Helmuth von Moltke
1800–1891
Military mastermind of the Austro-Prussian, and Franco-Prussian Wars.
Otto von Bismarck
1815–1898
Prussian statesman and mastermind of German Unification. Strategically provoked wars against Austria and France.
General Hindenburg
1847–1934
Field Marshal during WWI, and German Statesman. President of Germany after the War.

Austrian kings and statesmen

Louis Kossuth
1802–1894
Patriot hero of Hungary who nearly won independence before being crushed by Austria-Russia.
Elizabeth of Barvaria
1837–1898
Empress of Austria who was influential in 19th century society and known as a free spirit.
Francis II
1768–1835
Emperor of Austria during the Napoleonic Wars; last Holy Roman Emperor.
Franz Joseph I
1830–1916
Emperor of Austria during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Metternich
1773–1848
Austrian statesman who was influential in bringing about a long lasting peace in Europe after the Napoleonic Wars. Hosted Congresss of Vienna.
Cavour
1810–1861
Prime minister of Sardinia who used skill and diplomacy to unite Italy under the rule of the Piedmont king.
Napoleon III
1808–1873
Nephew of Napoleon, elected emperor of France after revolution of 1848. Deposed after disastrous Franco-Prussian War.

German Arts, Science, and literature

Baron Humboldt
1769–1859
Studied South American geology, climate, and plant and animal life, and other aspects of natural science
Beethoven
1770–1827
One of the most brilliant classical composers of all time. Continued to compose, perform, and conduct, even when deaf.
Werner von Siemens
1816–1892
Invented electronic telegraph and electromechanical transducer. Founded a German industrial complex.
Friedrich Nietzsche
1844–1900
German philosopher of the 19th century, associated with nihilism, the 'Will to Power', the superman theory of history, and post-modern ethics.



Tsarist Russia—1682 to 1917

Peter the Great to Bolshevik Revolution


Character/Date Short Biography

Tsars and Regents

Tsarevna Sophia
1657–1704
Regent of Russia during the youth of Peter the Great. Resisted her brothers reforms.
Peter the Great
1672–1725
Modernized Russia in spite of great resistance. Improved the army. Won coastal territory.
Catherine I
1684–1727
Wife of Peter the Great who rose from a low station to help Peter govern Russia, and succeeded him on his death.
Elizabeth of Russia
1709–1762
Daughter of Peter the Great, who as empress was patron of the arts and the Orthodox Church and opposed Frederick the Great in Prussia.
Catherine the Great
1729–1796
German Princess who was proclaimed Empress after the murder of her husband Peter III. Favored modernization and progressive policies.
Alexander I
1777–1825
Leader of Russia during the Napoleonic Wars.
Nicholas I
1796–1855
Russian czar who ruled Russia as an Autocracy after nearly being overthrown early in his reign.
Alexander II
1818–1881
Nineteenth century Russian Czar who instituted many reforms, but was assassinated by Nihilists.
Alexander III
1845–1894
Ascended to the throne of Russia after the assassination of his father, and rescinded reforms in progress.
Nicholas II
1868–1918
Last Czar of Russia. Forced to resign during the Russian revolution, and eventually executed with his family.

Statesmen and Generals

John III Sobieski
1629–1696
King of Poland who rescued Vienna from the Ottoman Turks during the Siege of Vienna.
Alexander Menzikoff
1673–1729
Advisor of Peter the Great who rose from a low station to unofficial regent of all of Russia under Peter's successor.
Charles XII
1682–1718
Arch-rival of Peter the Great. Defeated the Russians in several battles before falling at the Battle of Pultowa.
Alexander Suvorov
1729–1800
Renowned general who won victories for Russia against Turks, Napoleon, and Polish rebels.
Gregory Potemkin
1739–1791
Leading minister of Catherine the Great who was influenced by 'enlightenment' ideas. Famous for building 'Potemkin villages' along Dneiper river.
Barclay de Tolly
1761–1818
Leading Russian General during the Napoleonic Wars. Mastermind of the 'scorched earth' policy.

Scientists, explorers, authors

Vitus Bering
1681–1741
Russian explorer who had boats built in Siberia, explored the North Seas, and discovered Alaska.
Carolus Linnaeus
1707–1778
Great Taxonomist, who initiated naming conventions and classification of plants and animals.
Gustav Kirchhoff
1824–1887
Known for his work in electrical circuit and spectroscopy. Discovered black body radiation.
Leo Tolstoy
1828–1910
19th century Russian novelist, author of War and Peace, known for his dedication to social reform, asceticism, and pacifism.
Gregory Rasputin
1869–1916
Controversial faith-healers and advisor to the Tsarina, wife of Nicholas II, during the Great War.

Pre-revolutionary Rebel Leaders

Mazeppa
1644–1709
Polish exile who became the leader of the Cossacks, under Peter the Great.
Yemelyan Pugachev
1740–1775
Leader of a wide spread Cossack rebellion against Catherine the Great.
Thaddeus Kosciusko
1746–1817
Polish national who fought in the American Revolution, and later led a Polish uprising against Russia.
Schamyl
1797–1871
Leader of the Muslim tribes of the Caucuses. Led a series of Rebellions against the early 19th century Tsars.
Sophia Perovskya
1853–1881
Leading member of a Nihilist conspiracy which succeeded in assassinating Alexander II.

Revolutionary Leaders

Vladimer Lenin
2870–1924
Communist revolutionary and leader of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia. Organized October Revolution and established Soviet Union.
Leon Trotsky
1879–1940
Prominent Bolshevik organizer, author, leader of the Red army and politburo member. Eventually split with Stalin and was assassinated.
Nikolai Bukharin
1888–1938
Bolshevik author and organizer. Powerful member of politburo and editor of "Pravda" communist party newsletter. Prominent victim of Stalin's purges in the 1930s.
Alexander Kerensky
1881–1970
Prominent leader of the February Revolution of 1917 that overthrew the Czar and established a moderate socialist government. Overthrown by Bolsheviks in October Revolution.
Joseph Stalin
1878–1953
Leader of the Soviet Union from the death of Lenin to the 1950s. Ruthless dictator who established slave-labor camps and purged all oppositon.



Great War—1914 to 1918

Assassination of Archduke to Armistice


Character/Date Short Biography
Ferdinand Foch
1851–1929
Military theorist and teacher who became Field Marshall of the Allies during the Great War.
Joseph Joffre
1852–1931
Commander and chief of the French army during the early years of the Great War.
Kaiser William II
1859–1941
Second Kaiser built up a strong navy, , and bumbled into disastrous World War.
General Hindenburg
1847–1934
Field Marshal during WWI, and German Statesman. President of Germany after the War.
Horatio Kitchener
1850–1916
Military hero of the late 19th century, first in Sudan, and later in the Boer Wars
Lawrence of Arabia
1888–1935
Middle east archeologist and historian who served with the British and Arab irregulars during WWI.