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Overview of The Revolutions that Erupted in Europe in The 1800s

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The dictionary definition of revolution is “a forcible overthrow of a government or social order, in favor of a new system.” Countries like America and Mexico would not exist or be where they are now if it weren’t for rebellions. Most cultures wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for revolutions instilled in their history or they wouldn’t exist under the same name. We’re human so it’s only normal that we won’t always agree. In the 1800s so many revolutions erupted in Europe and South America.

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The last thing that any ruler wants is for their people to rebel against them. For that reason European monarchs worked together to prevent revolution and make sure that there was stability. Some people weren’t too fond of they way things were run. In the early 1800s conservatives wanted things to return to the way they had been before because they benefited under the old order. They wanted a social ranking where lower classes respected and obeyed their social superiors and they backed an established church. Conservative leaders were against freedom of the press because it could spread revolutionary ideas. A conservative leader by the name of Metternich kept trying to get monarchs to demolish protests and rebellion whenever it erupted. Liberals disagreed with the conservatives. Liberals welcomed and accepted the ideas of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. The goals of the liberals and the rising popularity of nationalism sparked revolts. Liberals hated the old notion of the divine rights of monarchs and the tradition of an aristocracy and instead they wanted governments based on written constitutions and separation of powers. They supported the principle of universal manhood suffrage, defended natural rights like liberty and equality and stood for property rights and freedom of religion. The Enlightenment and the French Revolution inspired nationalism. It caused people to rebel against the established order. The land that European rulers controlled changed due to marriages, wars and treaties. Due to loss and gain of land, Europe soon had empires comprised of many nationalities. Nationalism caused people to work together to achieve an independent homeland and it gave people a sense of who they are. However, nationalism caused prejudice and led to persecution of other national or ethnic groups. Revolutionaries became encouraged by the ideas of liberalism and nationalism so they began to fight against the old order.

Balkan people in southeastern Europe fought against the Ottomans in the early 1800s. The Ottomans ruled the Balkan people for more than 300 years. The Serbs were the first of the Balkan people to revolt. Serbian independence leaders by the name of Karageorge and Milos Obernovie fought Ottoman forces from 1804 through 1817. Serbs had support from Russia yet the fighting still took a huge toll but Serbian culture and literature thrived during this time and that strengthened Serbian nationalism. Eventually Serbia got a degree of autonomy that allowed them to rule themselves in the Ottoman empire. Serbs gained complete control of their internal affairs after an agreement in 1830 but other European countries did not acknowledge their independence until 1878. Serbia remained close with Russia. The Greeks also weren’t pleased with the Ottomans so they rebelled in 1821 to seek the end of Ottoman rule. These wars for independence helped build a national identity. Romantic writes like Lord Byron supported the greeks and even went to Greece to help their fight for independence. Britain, France, and Russia made the Ottomans give some greek provinces their independence in the late 1820s. Greece was independent by 1830. The greeks were pressured to accept a german prince by the name Otto Von Wittelsbach as their king because the European powers wanted to show that they do not support nationalist revolutions even though they helped the rebels gain their independence.

Rebels in Spain, Portugal, and many Italian states wanted constitutional governments. A French army marched over the Pyrenees to abolish a rebellion in Spain. Austrian forces crossed the Alps to put an end to Italian rebels. The troops could silence the rebels for a bit but they couldn’t put out the spark they had. By the mid-1800s, workers were being pressured by social reformers and agitators to support socialism which further increased the uneasiness of this time. Socialism is a system where the production and distribution of goods and services is a shared responsibility of a group of people. Conservative forces rapidly crushed liberal uprisings in Spain, Portugal, and the Italian states in the 1820s. Alexis de Tocqueville, a liberal French leader, warned that the revolutions of the 1820s were not yet over.

Louis XVIII became France’s king again due to the Congress of Vienna. The new king issued the Charter of French Liberties which was a constitution that created a two-house legislature and allowed for limited freedom of press. People were still not satisfied with Louis’s efforts at compromise because he still had lots of power. Ultra royalists however hated constitutional government and wished to have the old regime back. Liberals were against the ultrals. Liberals wanted more people to be able to vote and they wanted a share of power for middle-class citizens like themselves. Radicals wanted a republic like France had in the 1790s. The working class wanted better pay and affordable bread. In 1824, Louis XVIII passed away so his brother Charles X inherited the throne. Charles was a strong believer in absolutism, which is a form of government is where unlimited and complete power is held by one ruler, so he rejected the charter. He suspended the legislature and restricted the press and the right to vote in July of 1830. Citizens were angered by this so some in Paris put up barricades across the narrow streets and people fired from behind them at the soldiers and threw stones and roof tiles at them. Rebels controlled Paris within days and the revolutionary tricolor hang from the towers of Notre Dame cathedral. Charles renounced his throne and left to English. With Charles X out of the way radicals and liberals who united against him were now disagreeing over a new government. Radicals wanted a republic but liberals insisted on a constitutional monarchy and decided that Louis Philippe, cousin of Charles X, was to be king. Louis Philippe was known as the “citizen king” by the French because he owed his throne to the people. The upper bourgeoisie prospered under Louis’s rule. Louis did expand suffrage but only to the wealthier citizens meaning that the majority of people still could not vote. The way that Louis Philippe ruled favored the middle class at the expense of the workers.

Paris’s July Revolution inspired uprisings in other parts of Europe. Metternich said, “When France sneezes, Europe catches cold.” That means that when something happens in France, it spreads and intensifies in other places of Europe. Most of the uprisings were not successful but they scared rulers badly enough to encourage reforms later in the century. Belgium did have a notable success in 1830. The Congress of Vienna joined the Austrian Netherlands, which is now Belgium, and the Kingdom of Holland under the Dutch king. The Congress of Vienna did this to prevent French expansion but the Belgians despised their choice. The Belgians and Dutch couldn’t be more different; they had different languages, religions, and economic interests. Belgian citizens, encouraged by the news of the 1830 Paris uprising, put up barricades in the capital, Brussels. The Dutch king wanted help from Britain and France but they agreed with Belgian demands for independence because they knew they could benefit from the separation of Holland and Belgium. Belgium became an independent state in 1831 with a liberal constitution and the major European powers signed a treaty that recognizes Belgium as a “perpetually neutral state.”

Polish nationalists organized an uprising in Poland in 1830 but they failed to gain independence for their country. Russia, Austria, and Prussia divided up Poland in the late 1700s and Poles wished that the Congress of Vienna would restore their homeland in 1815. However, the Poles were wrong because the great powers gave almost all of Poland to Russia. Polish rebels could not get much support and were relentlessly demolished by Russian forces. Some survivors were able to keep their dream of freedom alive by fleeing to Western Europe and the United States.

Uneasiness in France kept increasing by the 1840s. France was still politically divided. Radicals still demanded a republic and utopian socialists wanted and end to private ownership of property. Even liberals called out Louis Philippe’s government for its corruption. Unhappiness grew when a recession hit France. Workers lost their jobs due to factories closing and food prices rose because of poor harvests. Conditions in Paris seemed perfect for a revolution. The government found ways to silence critics and stop public meetings in February 1848 but this only further enraged people. Angry crowds started forming in the streets of Paris. Paving stones, overturned carts, and fallen trees blocked the streets of Paris yet again during the “February Days.” Women and men on the barricades sang “La Marseillaise” which is the revolutionary anthem. Many rebels fought with royal troops and were murdered. Louis Philippe gave up his throne as the chaos spread. Liberal, radical, and socalist leaders formed the Second Republic.

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The First Republic lasted from 1792 until 1804. Deep differences divided the new government from the start. Liberals wanted moderate political reform and socialists wanted far-reaching social and economic change. Socialists made the government set up national workshops so that the unemployed can get jobs. Upper and middle-class interests won control of the government by June. National workshops were seen as a waste of money so they shut them down. Angered by this, workers went into the streets of Paris. Bourgeois liberals turned aggressively against the protesters. Peasants also attacked the workers out of fear that the socialists might take their land. Around 1,500 people were killed before the government abolished the rebellion. “June Days” left a bitter legacy. The middle class were frightened and had no trust in the socialists and the working class despised the bourgeoisie. By the end of 1848, the National Assembly was controlled by members who wanted to reestablish order. A constitution that created a strong president and a one-house legislature was issued for the Second Republic. It also gave all men the right to vote. Louis Napoleon, nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, was the overwhelming winner when elections for president were held. Napoleon announced himself the title of emperor, taking the title Napoleon III in 1852. That ended the short run of the Second Republic. Many people supported his choice to set up the second empire because they hoped that he would bring back the glory days of Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon would start foregin adventures that would cause his empire to fall and end French leadership in Europe. The Revolution of 1848 in France sparked more revolutions across Europe just like it did in 1830. It was a time of hope for the people that hated the old order so they called that time the “springtime of peoples.” Liberals wanted a greater share of political power and protections for the basic rights of all male citizens. Workers wanted relief from the agonies of the Industrial Revolution and nationalists wanted to end all foreign rule.        

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