Bismarck and the Revolution of 1848
The central European uprisings of 1848 began when news of the successful revolution in France reached Berlin and Vienna. In contrast to France, the course of the revolution in central Europe was complicated by nationalism, a force which simultaneously threatened to dissolve the Austrian Empire and unify the German states. The revolution's resulting crosscurrents of nationalism, liberalism, and particularism defy simple explanation and obscure a common pattern. The initial successes of the revolutionaries can be attributed to the ineptitude of the local authorities rather than the strength of the revolutionary movement. This was not recognized at the time, and the misjudgment of the relative power of the revolutionaries and their foes contributed to the revolution's ultimate failure.
Liberalism, the most influential creed of the revolutionary and unification movement in the Germanies, was supported by the professional and business classes. Its roots lay in the early phases of the French Revolution of 1789, and its ideals were those of English parliamentarianism. The number and wealth of German businessmen had increased considerably in the decades of the early nineteenth century; conscious of their rising economic strength and importance, they demanded an appropriate share of political representation. They opposed the arbitrary powers and privileges and the corrupt and inefficient methods of aristocratic government; they advocated constitutional, representative, and limited monarchy, abolition of the remnants of the feudal system, equality before the law, extension of the franchise to the propertied classes, and freedom of thought, speech, and association. They did not advocate violence and revolution but aspired to