Year of Revolutions in Europe 1830s and 1848

The 1830s and 1848 are called as the year of revolutions in Europe. There were rising in many countries, some partly successful, but mostly ending in failure.

Greek War of Independence

An event that mobilised nationalist feelings among the educated elite across Europe was the Greek war of independence. Greece had been part of the Ottoman Empire since the fifteenth century. The growth of revolutionary nationalist ideas in Europe led to a struggle for independence amongst the Greeks in 1821.

Nationalists in Greece got support from other Greeks living in exile. They also got support from the European powers because of their ancient Greek culture and European ethnicity. Poets and artists lauded Greece as the cradle of European civilisation. They mobilised public opinion to support its struggle against a Muslim empire. Finally, the Treaty of Constantinople of 1832 recognised Greece as an independent nation.

The 1848 year of Revolutions

With the coming of Industrial Revolution, a vast change occurred in the field of transport, communication. These all changes made the life of people much swifter. The new order of people came in front and became wealthy. A new industrial working class arose, very different from the artisans and field-labourers. All this required a new economic arrangement and political changes.

When a revolution does break out, the veil that hides actual conditions from the people is removed. People starts to understand the conditions soon. That is why during revolutionary periods people go forward with tremendous energy. Thus revolution is the inevitable result of conservatism and holding back.

Conditions in Europe of the 1850s

There were rising in many countries. A suppressed nationalism was at the back of the rising in Poland, Italy, Bohemia and Hungary. The Polish revolt was against Prussia, the Bohemian and the North Italian against Austria. The authorities brutally suppressed the revolts in these states.

European Revolutions of 1848
European Revolutions of 1848

Hungarian Revolt

The Hungarian revolt against Austria was the biggest of all. Its leader was Lajos Kossuth, who is famous in Hungarian history as a patriot and a fighter for freedom. In spite of two years of resistance, authorities suppressed this revolt.

Some years later Hungary succeeded by a different method of fighting under another great leader, Deak. Deak’s methods of resistance were of passive in nature. In 1867 Hungary and Austria were joined together, more or less on an equal basis to form what was called a “dual monarchy” under the Hapsburg Emperor, Francis Joseph. Deak’s methods of passive resistance became a model half a century later for the Irish against the Britain.

Revolt in France

In France, there was a big change. In 1830 Louis Philippe became the king, a kind of semi-constitutional monarchy was there. By 1848 the people grew weary of him and he abdicated from France. A republic was set up again. Taking advantage of the confusion, a nephew of Napoleon, named Louis Bonaparte, came to Paris. He became the president of the republic.

This was just a pretence to obtain power. Then Louis Bonaparte gained control of the army, and in 1851 there was a coup d’etat. He overawed Paris by his soldiers, shot down many people and terrorised the assembly. In 1852, he made himself emperor of the France calling himself Napoleon-III. So ended the republic after a brief and inglorious career of a little over four years.

Disturbance in Britain

In Britain, there was no revolt in 1848 but there was a great deal of trouble and disturbance. About 1848 great agitation shook the Britain. This was Chartist Agitation. It proposed a monster petition to Parliament containing a “People’s Charter” demanding various reforms. The authorities successfully suppressed this movement. There was a great deal of distress and discontent among the working classes in the factories.

About this time some labour laws began to be passed and these slightly improved a lot of the worker’s condition. Britain was making money fast by its rising trade. It was becoming the “workshop of the world”. Most of these profits went to the owner of the factories. But a small part of them trickled down to the workers. All this helped in preventing a rising in 1848.

The next important development in Europe was the Unification of Italy and Unification of Germany. We will discuss this topic in next coming post.

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