Louis Le Nain, Peasant Family in an Interior, c. 1642 (Louvre Museum, Paris). As the US won their Revolutionary War — based on the Enlightenment ideas of democracy, freedom of religion, and protection of individual rights — Europe's radicals took notes. At aristocratic coffee klatches, the talk was of ideals, but in reality they refused to share power with the lower classes. Peasants toiling in the fields lived as virtual serfs, their lives unchanged since the Dark Ages. The growing urban middle class wanted more power. But the Old Regime lived on, and people were divided by birth, not by ability or wealth, into the rulers and the ruled. The pot simmered.