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The causes and Roles of the 1848 revolutions in the rise of democracy

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HISTORY STUDY NOTES FOR ADVANCED LEVEL

The causes and Roles of the 1848 revolutions in the rise of democracy

The 1848 revolutions in Europe

1848 has been regarded as the year of revolution in Europe. The revolutions broke out mainly in France and the Austrian empire. There were mainly directed against the spirit of the Vienna arrangement of 1815.

In France, the 1848 revolutions contributed to the downfall of Louis Philippe and his Orleans monarchy, while in Austria Empire the 1848 revolutions lead to the downfall of Metternich.

Common features of the 1848 revolutions

Reaction against the Vienna settlement.

The 1848 revolutions were opposed to the Vienna settlement of 1815 thus the revolutions were either nationalists or liberal in nature. In Germany and Italy states, there was a strong feeling for national unity and political independence. In France and Hungary, there were strong feelings for liberal ideas.

Urban based revolutions.

The 1848 revolutions were urban centered and with less impact on the country side. They were common in cities like Paris, Berlin, Rome and Milan.

Lack of mass mobilization.

The 1848 revolutions was started and led by intellectuals such as university professors, poets, journalists and teachers. The merchant class also took an active role in organizing the revolutions. The peasants were not actively involved and perhaps this explains why these revolutions were short lived.

Reaction against the side effects of the industrial revolution.

The 1848 revolutions erupted in less industrialized countries of Europe such as France and Austria whose economies were based on agriculture. The spread of the industrial revolution from Britain led to various effects which left many people dissatisfied. The workers were exploited and oppressed through low wages and long working hours.

Promotion of the French revolutionary ideals.

The 1848 revolutions promoted the ideals of the French revolution. There was a lot in common between the 1848 revolutions and the French revolution. There was formation of national guards to protect the gains of the revolutions, liberal constitutions were advocated for to protect peoples’ political liberty.

Short lived revolutions.

Most of the 1848 revolutions failed by the end of 1849 to achieve their desire and goals, they were only partially successful in France where the Orleans monarchy was forced out of power.

The provisional government that was established was too weak to solve the problems of the French population.

In the case of Austrian empire, the 1848 revolution in Piedmont, Hungary and Prussia to a certain extent forced the respective governments to grant liberal constitutions but by the end of 1849 they were defeated and the constitutions were withdrawn.

Causes of the 1848 revolutions in Europe

Nationalism

Politically there was a strong spirit of nationalism among the Italians and Germans. They resented foreign domination of Austria and strongly advocated for national unity and national political independence. The spirit of nationalism thus contributed to the outbreak of the 1848 revolutions.

Liberal constitutions (liberalism).

The desire for liberalism had grown too strong especially in France and hungry. People demanded for political reforms of the existing political systems. They advocated for constitutional governments which by then were lacking. In France, Louis Philippe had risen to power on the ticket of preserving constitutional rights of the French people but by 1848 the French were still denied expansion of franchise (voting rights).

In Hungary, the people demanded for independence and constitutional parliaments so that their political rights could be protected.

Widespread discontent.

The Metternich system had caused a lot of discontent in the Austrian empire. There was a package of strict regulations introduced by Metternich to preserve the spirit and arrangement of the Vienna settlement. Metternich always used force to check the growth of liberalism and nationalism.

In 1819, he introduced the Carls bad law which banned people’s freedom. The press was concerned, political parties were banned and nationalist leaders were imprisoned. These conditions forced people to stage the 1848 revolutions.

Economic problems.

The spread of the industrial revolution to the Austrian empire and France had side effects which forced the people to join the 1848 revolutions. The industrial revolution was championed by the capitalists who wanted to maximize profits by exploiting the workers. There was mass unemployment, low wages and long working hours. The masses demanded economic reforms but their respective governments were slow to respond thus they decided to stage a revolution.

Role of the socialists.

The ideas of socialism contributed to the outbreak of the 1848 revolutions in Europe. The socialists mobilized the workers into a strong force that played an active part in the 1848 revolutions. The workers were promised better working and living conditions.

Natural calamities.

Natural calamities partly sparked off the 1848 revolutions in France and the Austrian empire between 1846 and 1847, there was general bad weather in Austrian empire and France which was characterized by heavy rains which destroyed crops.

The poor harvests were followed by severe food shortages. To make matters worse, there was an outbreak of epidemics such as typhoid and cholera. These conditions create a good atmosphere for the 1848 revolutions.

Chain reaction.

The success of the revolution in France of February 1848 inspired similar revolutions throughout the Austrian empire because of common existing political, social and economic conditions. Following the revolution in France, Louis Philippe and his Orleans monarchy was pushed out of power.

In March, the revolution spread to piedmont, Sicily and Prussia. It is from this point that historians concluded that “whenever France coughs, the rest of Europe catches cold” the revolution in France provided a practical example to the already discontented masses in the Austrian empire.

Conclusion

Therefore, it follows from the above that the 1848 revolutions, mainly broke out because of paramount political consideration the social and economic distress only facilitated the pace of the revolutionary mood.

Role of the 1848 revolutions in the rise of democracy

Establishments of constitutions.

The revolutions took place in 1848 contributed to the rise of democracy by facilitating the establishment of constitutions. During the 1848 revolutions, people demanded for political reforms of the existing political systems.

They advocated for parliamentary democracy and constitutional governments which by then were lacking. In France, the Orleans monarchy was removed from power and constitutional government was established.

Demise of feudalism.

The 1848 revolutions contributed to the destruction of feudalism and serfdom in Europe which contributed to the rise of democracy. The absolute monarchies were part and parcel of feudalism and serfdom thus creating a good atmosphere for the rise of democracy.

Rise of national consciousness.

1848 revolutions played a crucial role in the rise of national consciousness (feeling) in Europe which contributed to the rise of democracy. In German and Italian states, there was a strong national feeling that aimed at achieving national unity and national political independence.

Overthrow of the papacy regimes

The 1848 revolutions played a great role in the overthrow of the papacy regimes in Italy consequently contributing to the rise of democracy in Europe. Republican such as Mazzini and Garibaldi contributed significantly to the unification of Italy which laid a foundation for the establishment of democracy.

Emergency of the capitalist class.

The 1848 revolutions contributed to the rise of democracy in Europe by destroying feudalism and paving way for the rise of the merchant class which was very fundamental in the rise of capitalism and democracy in Europe.

Conclusion

Although the 1848 revolutions generally failed, they provided important lessons for future nationalists and liberal leaders. They lead the ground for future dynamic and strong leadership that played a great role in the Italian and German unification.

In case of Italy, they lead to the rise of count Camilla Carvour and victor Emmanuel II. In case of Germany, there was the rise of Otto Von Bismarck

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