1848: THE YEAR OF REVOLUTIONS

THE year 1848 passed fairly quietly in England, thanks to industrial recovery and an anticipated reduction in the price of bread. In almost every other European state there were revolutionary movements. Afterwards there was a tendency for new rulers to compromise with reform and work with the more adaptable of their old opponents.

A rising in Austrian Poland in 1846 had been put down by the Viennese government with the help of the Galickn serf population: the serfs, once roused, were difficult to appease. But the great revolutions started as usual in Paris. Louis Philippe ruled to the satisfaction of the bourgeoisie, but there was much corruption. The King's foreign policy, directed to promoting the interests of his sons rather than those of his country, was unsuccessful, and his minister, Guizot, refused to enact overdue constitutional reforms. Industrial troubles added to the discontent. A riot in Paris unexpectedly became a revolution, and the king fled. Two parties had overthrown him, the radicals and the new Socialists led by Louis Blanc, but they soon divided, and the radicals got the better of their rivals with much bloodshed. A Republic was set up under bourgeois auspices and an ambitious person named Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, whom nobody took very seriously, a nephew of the first Napoleon, was made Prince-President.

The King of Prussia had already increased the powers of the old Provincial Diets, and in 1848 he gave them greater powers still. Liberals were jubilant. In almost every capital of the small German states the rulers were driven to make similar concessions, and a movement for unifying Germany began. Even in Vienna, Metternich, entirely to his amazement, found the city in revolt, and the Habsburgs were quite ready to throw him over. He had concentrated on himself the hatred of idealists for thirty years, but he was perhaps the victim of conditions. The Viennese revolutionaries sent members to a National German parliament at Frankfurt.

It seemed that the Habsburg empire would disintegrate. The Magyar landowning class in Hungary, led by men like Szechenyi, Kossuth, and Deak, demanded self-government, though by this it meant government by itself and not by its more numerous Ruthenian and Rumanian serfs. The same was done in Bohemia (the Western part of modern Czechoslovakia), where the Czechs were fully enfranchised and a national government was set up at Prague. Revolution started in Italy, and the King of Sardinia joined in a national attack on Austria, very much as the King of Prussia consented, in defiance of Austria, to be the head of the reformed and unified German state. ;