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4.1 The Revolution of 1848
The period from 1830 to 1848 is very significant in the social and political history of Europe. In France and England, it was mostly marked by the growth and development of liberalism and constitutionalism. This period also saw the expansion of commerce and industry due to which the bourgeoisie became more powerful. The gap between the rich and the poor widened. In the words of Edwin Marken, "The long, long patience of the plundered poor was beginning to wear out."
4.1a Main reasons for the Revolution
The conditions in Central and Eastern Europe were just as before the Revolution of 1789. The deteriorating socio-economic conditions of the people made them revolutionary. After the Revolution of 1830, the next 20 years were characterized by the growth of liberalism and the feeling of love for the nation. The educated middle class worked more effectively than in 1830. The middle class dominated the scene in 1848. According to Hayes, "the liberal agitators found allies among humanitarian landlords, ’progressive’ clergymen, among professional men and the urban population. Liberalism and the national feeling were very strong among them."
People in France, Prussia, Switzerland, Italy and Hungary openly talked about these issues. After the influence of the revolution of 1830, one of the veteran French leaders, Lafayette, struck a compromise among the different parties of the country, and became successful in establishing the constitutional monarchy. Louis Philippe was declared the King of France. Soon the elections to the Chamber of Deputies were held. Only the bourgeoisie helped Louis in the election and no other party came to his rescue. Louis Philippe made a pact with this party. The party had a majority of middle class people in its fold. The legislature passed laws for the benefit of this particular class and nonchalantly ignored the lower class. In this way, the laborers, artisans and peasants of the country suffered at the hands of the authorities. Therefore it was but natural for commoners to become hostile towards the established authority. They looked forward to a suitable opportunity to raise their banner of revolt. Louis Philippe favored the capitalists and not the laborers in this protracted struggle. Due to this, the feelings of the laborers, along with their leaders, started clamoring for enlarging the scope of franchise. Thus, the seeds of Revolution were sown.
There was an immense lack of unity among the political parties of France. Every party had its own axe to grind. Also Philippe did not help Italy, Poland and Switzerland, nor did he give any co-operation to the reactionaries.
4.1b Economic Factors
As the population grew, the problems of unemployment and poverty spread their tentacles. Added to this, was the famine of 1846, which led to a crisis among the peasants. Apparently, it aggravated the collapse of the credit and commerce in 1847. As a result, inflation engulfed both the rural and urban population.
4.1c The Development of the Revolution
Louis Philippe did not broaden the franchise in the country, but narrowed it down. It led to his downfall. Processions were trampling down the streets of the country, and everywhere meetings were organized as a mark of discontent. The policy of Louis was bitterly criticized. He imposed restrictions on the freedom of the Press, Speeches, articles etc. The people who opposed this were put behind bars. The last days of the reign of Louis Philippe were replete with universal dismay, anarchy, and discontent. The French Revolution of 1848 was the direct result of this existing atmosphere.
The immediate cause for the conflagration was that Louis promulgated some very unpopular and severe measures in February 1848. A mob of Parisians paraded the streets of the city between the 20th and 23rd of February 1848, shouting slogans against the unwanted rule of Louis Philippe. Soon the Republicans came to lead the mob and flames of revolution reached every nook and corner of the country. The vigor of the revolutionaries increased in leaps and bounds and ultimately Louis had to abdicate the throne and slip away to England. This was the first stage of the revolution in which the advocates of democracy triumphed completely.
They set up a provisional government in the country and tried to restore peace and order. Soon the socialists under Louis Blanc, the Royalists and the Bonapartists, appeared on the scene to usurp power for themselves. As a result, a civil war broke out in France and it ravaged the country till October 1848. This was the second stage of the revolution. The socialists were completely routed and the royalists were also curbed.
The Republicans got the lead and framed a new constitution for the country and declared the Second Republic in France. This was the third stage in which Republicanism proved triumphant. But the Bonapartists reaped the real fortune because Louis Napoleon, their leader, was elected as the first president of the second Republic in December 1848. This was the fourth and the final stage of the revolution and, at the end, France once again passed into the hands of the Bonapartists whose leader, Napoleon III, was as ambitious as Napoleon I had been.
This Revolution of 1848 in France influenced other countries of Europe like Austria, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Holland etc.
4.0 - Introduction
4.1 The Revolution of 1848
4.2 The Unification Of Italy
4.3 The Founding of the Gernam Empire
4.4 The Balkan War
4.5 The First World War
4.6 The Impact of the First World War
4.7 The Founding of the League of Nations
4.8 Points to Remember