1848 (Revolutionary Europe)

revolutions of 1848

revolutions of 1848, in European history. The February Revolution in France gave impetus to a series of revolutionary explosions in Western and Central Europe. However the new French Republic did not support these movements. The stage was set when the unrest caused by the economic effects of severe crop failures in 1846–47 merged with the discontent caused by political repression of liberal and nationalist aspirations. In the German states, popular demonstrations and uprisings (Feb.–Mar., 1848) led to the dismissal of unpopular ministers and the calling of a national parliament (see Frankfurt Parliament) to draft a constitution for a united Germany. While the constitution was debated at length, rulers of the German states were able to recover their authority. By 1849, the Frankfurt Parliament and the provisional government it established had collapsed and the old order was restored. The revolution within the Austrian empire was one of initial success and subsequent defeat. In contrast to the situation in Germany, however, revolutionists in the Hapsburg domains (see Austria, Hungary, and Bohemia) demanded less central authority and a more autonomous role for the national groups. Lack of cooperation among the revolutionary movements and the loyalty of the armies to old authorities permitted the suppression of the insurgents by armed might. In Italy (see Risorgimento) the demand for expulsion of the Austrians and for national unification found a champion in King Charles Albert of Sardinia, but again the revolutions were put down by Austrian armies. The revolutions of 1848 failed notably because three kinds of demands—social and economic, liberal, and national—were not easily reconciled. This is illustrated in France by the Socialists Blanc and Albert on the one side, and the Liberal Republicans Marie and Arago on the other. Middle-class moderates like Lamartine gained control of the revolutionary movements and resisted the more radical demands of the lower classes, thus losing much of the popular support that was essential to their success. The results of the uprisings were the spread of parliamentary governments, the extension of manhood suffrage in France (and briefly in Austria), the abolition of manorialism in Central Europe, the beginnings of the German and Italian unification movements, and the establishment of Hungary as an equal partner with Austria under Hapsburg rule.

See studies by Sir L. B. Namier (1948), P. N. Stearns (1974), M. Agulhon (1983), and M. Rapport (2009).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

1848: The Revolutionary Tide in Europe
Peter N. Stearns.
W. W. Norton, 1974
1848: A Turning Point?
Melvin Kranzberg.
D. C. Heath, 1959
Revolution and Reaction, 1848-1852: A Mid-Century Watershed
Geoffrey Bruun; Louis L. Snyder.
Van Nostrand, 1958
Story of a Year, 1848
Raymond Postgate.
Oxford University Press, 1956
The Age of Revolution: Europe, 1789-1848
E. J. Hobsbawm.
Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1962
Manin and the Venetian Revolution of 1848
George Macaulay Trevelyan.
Longmans, Green and Co., 1923
The Italian Problem in European Diplomacy, 1847-1849
A. J. P. Taylor.
Manchester University Press, 1970
Barricades and Borders: Europe 1800-1914
Robert Gildea.
Oxford University Press, 1996 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "The Revolutions of 1848" and Chap. 8 "Revolution Contained"
The Class Struggles in France, 1848-1850
Karl Marx.
International Publishers, 1964
A Year of Revolutions: Fanny Lewald's Recollections of 1848
Hanna Ballin Lewis; Fanny Lewald; Hanna Ballin Lewis.
Berghahn Books, 1997
Pilgrims of '48: One Man's Part in the Austrian Revolution of 1848; and a Family Migration to America
Josephine Goldmark.
Yale University Press, 1930
The Students of Paris and the Revolution of 1848
John G. Gallaher.
Southern Illinois University Press, 1980
Gunboat Liberalism? Palmerston, Europe and 1848
Kingston, Klari.
History Today, Vol. 47, No. 2, February 1997
The German National Question and 1848
Breuilly, John.
History Today, Vol. 48, No. 5, May 1998
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