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.
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.
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.
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.
"A lively, panoramic new history ... a good yarn, with a keen eye for ground-level details."New York Times
"Absorbing.... Rapport writes with vigor and has a good ear for memorable details.... Anyone wishing a vivid account of a crucial period in European history can spend many hours engrossed in this book." Seattle Times
"As a guide to who the revolutionaries were and what they wanted, Rapport is impeccable."Literary Review (London)
"Cleverly and sensitively chronicled, this is a pacy, learned history that makes sense of an extraordinary year."Observer (London)
"Rapport's vivid tour d'horizon reminds us of the dramatic birth-pangs associated with the arrival of modernity...an absorbing account of a phenomenon that seeded two world wars."Independent (London)
"Mike Rapport picks a judicious and vividly presented path through a complex year and skilfully juggles political thought and popular experience."The Daily Telegraph (London)