Europe in the Nineteenth Century: A Documentary Analysis of Change and Conflict

Europe in the Nineteenth Century: A Documentary Analysis of Change and Conflict

Europe in the Nineteenth Century: A Documentary Analysis of Change and Conflict

Europe in the Nineteenth Century: A Documentary Analysis of Change and Conflict

Excerpt

The nineteenth century of European history lies between two long periods of war and revolution. Much of the character of the century derives from the continued reaction of society to the French Revolution and the Napoleonic expansion and from the complications leading to the wars and revolutions of the present century. Since the conflicts of 1789 to 1815 had affected all aspects of life, the way to reorganize society continued to be argued, especially before 1870, within the framework of the ideals and practices of the French Revolution and its opponents. At about the same time that Germany and Italy completed their political unification and the Balkan peoples asserted their national independence, the industrial revolution began to expand on the continent, modifying and often aggravating older sources of controversy, creating new bonds of social unity, engendering profound problems. Change and resistance to change in the internal affairs of each country characterize the century. The brief continental wars were as much civil wars as international conflicts; social reform was often both cause and effect.

I. THE PERIOD FROM 1815 TO 1870

The issues provoked by the French Revolution dominated European society before 1870, and even after the events associated with 1870 their influence persisted. The servile peasantry demanded emancipation and in this period, legally speaking, gained its freedom (Readings 1, 12, and 13). Many landed aristocrats struggled to preserve the way of life of the Old Régime, including serfdom and privilege (Reading 2). Royalty, many nobles, and members of other social groups endeavored to maintain the status quo by preventing further revolution (Readings 3 and 4). To achieve their end they compelled the services of the bureaucracy, the church, and the educational system, thereby rendering crucial to all reformers the issue of civil rights (Reading 5). Many conservatives gravely doubted the wisdom . . .

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