1848: Year of Revolution [NOOK Book]


In 1848, a violent storm of revolutions ripped through Europe. The torrent all but swept away the conservative order that had kept peace on the continent since Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo in 1815—but which in many countries had also suppressed dreams of national freedom. Political events so dramatic had not been seen in Europe since the French Revolution, and they would not be witnessed again until 1989, with the revolutions in Eastern and Central Europe.

In 1848, historian ...

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1848: Year of Revolution

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In 1848, a violent storm of revolutions ripped through Europe. The torrent all but swept away the conservative order that had kept peace on the continent since Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo in 1815—but which in many countries had also suppressed dreams of national freedom. Political events so dramatic had not been seen in Europe since the French Revolution, and they would not be witnessed again until 1989, with the revolutions in Eastern and Central Europe.

In 1848, historian Mike Rapport examines the roots of the ferment and then, with breathtaking pace, chronicles the explosive spread of violence across Europe. A vivid narrative of a complex chain of interconnected revolutions, 1848 tells the exhilarating story of Europe’s violent “Spring of Nations” and traces its reverberations to the present day.

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Editorial Reviews

Gary J. Bass
…a lively, panoramic new history…[Rapport] tells a good yarn, with a keen eye for ground-level details
—The New York Times
Independent Weekly
An ambitious and wide-ranging book . . . This is a year characterized by war, revolt, contention, by the rise and fall of nations and worsening social misery but Rapport presents the story in an entertaining style that makes this complicated and fascinating period comprehensible. At centre-stage is a list of legendary characters including Napoleon III, the red-shirted Garibaldi, the iron-willed Otto von Bismarck and the blind reactionary, ultra-conservative and remarkable diplomat Prince Klemens von Metternich. Those who want a readable, informed and vibrant account of a crucial time in European history should look no further than this admirable volume.
Literary Review
Based on unsentimental judgments and presented in colorful writing. Descriptions of the street fighting in Paris, Vienna and Berlin bring a whiff of cordite to the nostrils . . . .As a guide to who the revolutionaries were and what they wanted, Rapport is impeccable. The writing is to the point, detailed when detail is required, and punctuated by vivid set pieces . . . No one reading this book can be left in any doubt about the scale of the revolutionaries' failure or the reason for it.
Library Journal

Rapport (history, Univ. of Stirling; Shape of the World) skillfully unravels a complex series of cataclysmic events that swept over Europe in 1848, forever changing the lives of millions. Surging population growth, economic collapse, and oppressive regimes were just a few of the factors that led to the spontaneous ignition of revolutionary fires that January. Street barricades went up in Paris, Berlin, Vienna, and other autocratic capitals of Europe. From Sicily to Slovakia, the disempowered demanded civil rights, enfranchisement, and constitutional governance. In many cases initial demands met with success, but by the end of the year the autocrats of Europe regained their footing and, after horrendous bloodshed, their dominance. By 1851 the hopes of a new order were shattered, but, as Rapport stresses, profound changes had been made. For example, in the eastern reaches of Europe, the medieval institution of serfdom was finally abolished. The author also maintains that the ideals of 1848-liberty, democracy, civil society, nationhood-were at last fulfilled in the 1989 uprisings against the Soviet hegemony. Rapport mixes his lucid narrative with astute analysis based on memoirs, eyewitness accounts, and secondary sources. While his work does not surpass Jonathan Sperber's excellent The European Revolutions, 1848-1851, Rapport's study is a worthy and affordable addition to any modern European history collection.
—Jim Doyle

Kirkus Reviews
Densely written account of a turning point in European history. Scottish academic Rapport (History/Univ. of Stirling; The Shape of the World: Britain, France, and the Struggle for Empire, 2006, etc.) argues that the import of this revolutionary year is misunderstood when compared with more famous flashpoints such as the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Although the serial revolutions of 1848 failed, "the brick-built authoritarian edifice that had imposed itself on Europeans for almost two generations folded under the weight of the insurrections," he writes. They rippled across the continent, starting fires in various cities within Germany, Italy, France and central Europe. Rapport captures their breadth in a narrative of equally staggering scope, tracking a score of factions and provocateurs across numerous countries and cascading periods of violence and fitful reconciliation. He shrewdly divides the text into digestible sections. "The Forest of Bayonets" shows old-line statesmen like Metternich, credited with holding together the Habsburg regime, failing to anticipate the resentment of diverse groups of peasants and artisans against calcified political systems. "The Springtime of Peoples" depicts fast-spreading popular liberalism being checked by the Prussian military. "The Red Summer" and "The Counter-Revolutionary Autumn," portray the peak of urban street violence and the rural populations' emergence in support of the established order, which effectively terminated the revolutionary arc. Yet Rapport argues that the effects of 1848 were long-lasting. Serfdom was abolished, and "no country was wholly unaffected by the upheavals, even if they did not directly experience an uprising." These"broad similarities in the revolutionary experience were all the more remarkable," he continues, given the various nations' ethnic rivalries and distinct differences in political orientation. His conclusion, which links the revolutions of 1848 with the seismic changes of 1989, suggests convincingly that the 19th-century upheavals fueled both a greater tolerance of European liberalism and the sense of grievance that would eventually produce two world wars. Authoritative, but detailed to the point of being somewhat unwieldy.
From the Publisher

Wall Street Journal
“A fully nuanced portrait of a tumultuous year.”

New York Times
“A lively, panoramic new history… a good yarn, with a keen eye for ground-level details.”

Seattle Times
“Absorbing…anyone wishing a vivid account of a crucial period in European history can spend many hours engrossed in this book."

The Barnes & Noble Review
On February 24, 1848, in the midst of the mob violence that brought the abdication of Louis-Philippe and the birth of France's Second Republic, the famed actress Rachel appeared on the stage of Paris's Comédie-Fran?aise, dressed in a plain tunic and carrying the tricolor flag. She recited the words of the "Marseillaise," dropping to her knees and wrapping herself in the flag as she began the penultimate verse:

Sacred love of the Fatherland,
Lead and support our avenging arms.
Liberty, cherished liberty Fight with your defenders.

Rachel was 28, at the height of her popularity, and her much-repeated performance revived the popularity of the "Marseillaise." It became a rallying cry of the continent-wide insurrections of 1848, representing the brotherhood of man that, for a few short months, liberal intellectuals thought was flowering.

It had been a devastating decade in Europe, with a depression and widespread hunger brought on by failed harvests and the potato blight. In January 1847, a Prussian government minister noted that "the old year ended in scarcity, the new one opens with starvation. Misery, spiritual and physical, traverses Europe in ghastly shapes -- the one without God, the other without bread. Woe if they join hands." The population of Europe had grown steadily since 1815 and industrialization was concentrating it in cities. The political order had calcified, though, with Europe still dominated by the "Holy Alliance" of repressive autocracies: Austria, Prussia, and Russia. Discontent was widespread, and only needed a spark.

Mike Rapport's 1848: The Year of Revolution is the first general-interest history of this seminal year in more than five decades. He's done a fine job of threading a way through complex events in numerous countries. The "Year of Revolutions" began in Sicily with a revolt that, while little more than bandits looting, became a cause célèbre. It crossed to Naples a few weeks later, and the news set radicals hopes alight around Europe. The collapse of the seemingly stable, bourgeois monarchy of France -- Louis-Philippe abdicated on the same day that Rachel gave her performance -- lit the tinder. Wherever it reached, the news encouraged street revolution after street revolution, and the rising expectation that, as in 1789, France would spread the seed of liberty by arms.

The unrest even troubled more liberal nations like England, Holland, and Denmark, where, thanks to traditions of representative government, it didn't lead to street fighting. (When the great Chartist demonstration remained peaceable despite the government marshalling 8,000 soldiers and some 85,000 special deputies, Hector Berlioz noted that the English "know how to stage a riot as well as the Italians know how to write symphonies.") In Italy, the Habsburg lands, and the German states, though, the discontent was coupled with an unfulfilled nationalist desire. The old monarchies were simply not capable of dealing with the volatile mix. They were faced with the dilemma of granting liberal demands or calling out soldiers who were likely to fire upon demonstrators and so perpetuate the unrest. Louis-Philippe had saved his throne by concessions, but an accidental shootout between soldiers and celebrants set the barricades up all over again. (When his republican successors ordered the army to suppress radical agitation in June, Louis-Philippe quipped from exile that a "republic is fortunate, she is allowed to order troops to fire on the people.") In state after state, constitutions and parliaments were promised. In May, an all-German parliament was convened in Frankfurt to prepare a constitution for a united Germany.

No one took better advantage of this upheaval than Lajos Kossuth, the Hungarian firebrand. When he heard of the February Days in Paris, Kossuth delivered a rousing speech calling for Hungarian independence from Habsburg domination. His words spurred riots in Vienna itself on March 13. Kossuth used the radical disturbances as a negotiating tool with the fearful Austrians, and Hungary was granted a constitution and much autonomy. Kossuth had outmaneuvered the radicals and the conservatives, yet he quickly squandered his winning hand. His Magyar-centric vision of Hungary alienated the country's large Slavic, Romanian, and Czech populations -- who also feared Kossuth's call for a 200,000-strong Hungarian army. By summer, order was being restored in the Habsburg lands: first in Czechoslovakia, then in Italy, where Field-Marshal Radetzky smashed the Piedmontese army at Custozza (for which he was commemorated by Strauss with the immortal "Radetzky March"). Many parts of Hungary -- beginning with what is today Croatia -- rallied to the Habsburg cause. (Kossuth fought on and declared full Hungarian independence in 1849, but by August the revolution had fallen before Habsburg arms.)

Almost as quickly as the revolts had sprung up in 1848's "Springtime of Peoples," they fell away. Weak and indecisive leadership allowed the older governments to regain their confidence. The all-German parliament was typical in dithering away without even being able to decide what actually constituted Germany. Distrust also proved more powerful than any longing for "cherished liberty." The large Italian states were more suspicious of each other than Austria. The Czechs felt threatened by German nationalism and preferred soft Austrian rule, as did most of the Slavic peoples. The Habsburg Empire survived by providing safety for smaller nations from larger. Yet, while the liberal revolutions of 1848 failed, they set the stage for the age of nation-states. In just a few short years, Germany and Italy would be united by force of arms. Hungary would achieve a happy partnership with Austria. France would become a true republic. The old order, which had managed to survive the French Revolution and Napoleon, finally passed away. The events of 1848 were the bridge between 1789 and 1914.

Rapport has told this vast story clearly, though the density of detail in 1848 isn't much leavened by anecdote or brilliant writing. A more troubling issue is that Rapport believes the events he chronicles were a catalyst of the eventual rise of liberal democracy (and a great precursor to the events of 1989). In this he fails to grasp that the liberal ideals of the 1848 revolutionaries were already outdated and were as undone by the forces they unleashed as the autocratic governments they opposed. Men like Mazzini, Kossuth, and Herzen wished to see autocracy replaced by liberal democracy; in the years after 1848 it was instead replaced by an aggressive nationalism. Europe was not united in common cause or respect for human rights but divided into armed camps whose actions made war inevitable. And the liberal revolutionaries who fostered the 1848 revolutions were themselves replaced by socialist ones, who wished to overthrow the state, not to reform it. Out of 1848 were born the forces that would plunge Europe into darkness in the 20th century. In the end, this is a minor flaw (and only present in Rapport's concluding chapter): If Raymond Postgate's The Story of a Year: 1848 (1956) remains the most sprightly account of 1848 and Lewis Namier's 1848: The Revolution of the Intellectuals (1946) the more powerful analysis, Rapport will hold the middle ground for the foreseeable future. A pity there's no mention of Rachel in his book. --Robert Messenger Robert Messenger is a senior editor at The Weekly Standard.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786743681
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 2/3/2009
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 496
  • Sales rank: 346,483
  • File size: 740 KB

Meet the Author

Mike Rapport is a Lecturer in History at the University of Stirling and the author of Nationality and Citizenship in Revolutionary France and Nineteenth-Century Europe. He lives in Stirling, Scotland.
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Table of Contents


1 The Forest of Bayonets 1

2 The Collapse 42

3 The Springtime of Peoples 112

4 The Red Summer 187

5 The Counter-Revolutionary Autumn 263

6 1849: The Indian Summer of the Revolution 335

Conclusion 399

Acknowledgements 417

Notes 419

Index 447

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 16, 2009

    Everything I need to know about 1848 is in here

    I like European history and didn't know much at all about 1848, other than that there were some revolutions then. Now I can claim to be an expert on 1848 since this book has EVERYTHING you need to know about that year; it's a very detailed history of those events. Not for a quick "give me a 30,000-foot overview of 1848", and it's not a quick read, but if history is your thing, this book is an extremely well written and detailed history of 1848.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 25, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A keeper

    A well written and fast paced study of a seminal year in 19th century European history. The book is well organized chronologically and the first part of the book sets the stage nicely for the the events of the years 1848-49. Anyone interested in this period will enjoy the book. I only keep about 10% of the books I purchase and read- the others resold, given away or recycled- and this book made it to the shelves in my library.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 30, 2009

    A thorough study of revolution versus authority

    As a history instructor, I found Rapport's study of the revolutions of 1848 an instrumental study in understanding this period in European history which, in most cases, is overshadowed by the era of Napoleon at one end and the rise of the modern European empires post-1848. Rapport's thesis that these revolutions were "imcomplete" and that the forces of revolution were destined to fail due to their lack of cohesion and single-mindedness of purpose is critical in order to fully grasp the failures of revolution on one hand the success of authority on the other. Witnessing the birth of a united Germany and Italy out of the ashes of revolution marks 1848 as no less imnportant as 1776 or 1789. A much needed text which grapples an interesting and at times, confusing year in the history of not only Euopre, but the world.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Easy to read and indirect hints for future research.

    I've read 300 pages so far and I am enjoying it...if the conservative counter-revolution's slaughter of radical/communist/socialists is enjoyable. But I mean at least the radicals were trying to better things even if the liberals were deeply troubled that their landed estates would be given to the peasants. I did not fully understand the Nationality Question, how it pitted the Poles against the Ukranians against the Hungarians against the Germans against the Austrians against the Croats, etc. And then there is Transylvania. A separate list of books consulted and for future use would have been useful. Thank you.

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