The Revolutions of 1848

Civil upheavals in Europe soon resumed after the revolutions of 1830 with those of 1848. These revolutions primarily affected France and Austria, among other countries. The results of these revolutions, in terms of their main purpose, were unsuccessful, but they fueled the rise of nationalism that had a major role to play in the coming years.

In France, the reign of Louis Philipe was about to come to an end. Crowned by the French Revolution of 1830 (sometimes referred to as the July Revolution), Louis was seen as a more relatable figure. He donned a business suit instead of the Royal Regalia, and empathized with the Bourgeoisie. However, the citizens were growing restless because of the government’s ban on holding political meetings. They resorted to holding balls at which politics were discussed unofficially. The government eventually got wind of this and attempted to shut them down, immediately provoking an uprising. Louis Philipe was forced to abdicate and flee in 1848. The Second Republic of France was established, and the Liberals gained control of the government. Revolt was again incited when the new government closed the National Workshops, which subsidized the Paris unemployed. This revolt, however, was crushed by the government. Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, nephew of Napoleon I, was the first president of the Second Republic. By 1852, he became Napoleon III, Emperor of France. This was the effective failure of the 1848 revolution, because it reverted the government right back to its monarchical pre-revolutionary state.

Austria also experienced internal difficulties in 1848. The riots in Paris at this time gave citizens in Vienna the courage to demonstrate against the Hapsburg Empire. Austria was comprised of many different peoples, and they now felt emboldened enough to angle for their autonomy. The Hungarians, Slavs, and Italians under the Empire all tried to use the new revolt to gain their independence. During this time, Klemens von Metternich, mastermind of the Congress of Vienna, resigned. Finally, the Austrians were able to get the assistance of Russia, bringing the revolution to an end. While ultimately unsuccessful, the revolutions in Austria fanned the flames of nationalism among the various peoples under Hapsburg rule. These sentiments, especially those held by the Slavs, would play a major role in beginning the First World War.

In the Italian States as well, there was a movement led by Giuseppe Mazzini and Giuseppe Garibaldi to attempt to unify the various independent states. It was a response to the election of Pope Pius IX in 1846 that prompted this uprising. The Italian nationalists disapproved of Pius’ desire not to enter into conflict with Austria, who held territories in Italy. They were able to drive the pope out of Rome in 1848 and established the Roman Republic. This was also short-lived, as the French intervened on the pope’s side and drove out Mazzini and Garibaldi. What the short-lived revolutions did achieve was the inspiration of nationalism among the Italian people. Even though Mazzini and Garibaldi were defeated, they would soon reappear and play important roles in the unification of Italy in the later half of the 19th century.

While the many revolutionary events of the year 1848 did not achieve much in successfully taking over their respective governments, they had consequences that were important in the years to come. What they all did achieve was the rise of nationalism that was extremely important in the unification of the Italian States, the German States, and was the catalyst of World War I.


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