The revolutions of 1848 were widespread and affected about 50 countries in Europe, considering the previously separate lands of Germany and Italy. These revolutions were extremely violent and costly. In terms of lives, tens of thousands were lost during battles with several thousand more being lost in executions. Over 100,000 individuals were jailed or exiled as well. While these individual countries had significant nationalistic grievances, such as anti-Austrian attitudes in Italy, anti-Russian and anti-Turkish opinions in Rumania, anti-Habsburg in Prague and Budapest, German patriotism divided German as did Polish patriotism in Poland; it was the political and economic struggle that were the prevailing catalysts for the revolutionary uprisings.
There was widespread economic crisis in the European continent in the mid 19th century. Agricultural failures from 1845-1847 which resulted in increased food prices impeded the people’s ability to buy food. The people in Berlin were so angered over the cost of food that they rioted for four days. A third of the German population was on government relief by 1847, resulting in the number of Germans leaving for the United States in search of farmland to increase dramatically. In Prussian Silesia and Austrian Galicia over a quarter of a million people died as a result of starvation.
Anger over the ancient regime of government and its political tyranny was viewed as the single most important cause of the numerous revolutions. Heightened political awareness due to the invention and extensive use of the printing press was instrumental in fostering political awareness of new ideas such as liberalism, nationalism and socialism. Additionally, many of the countries were aware of the successful national unity of both France and the United States, and they wanted that same unity and democracy for their own countries.
In the 1840’s liberalism meant restrictions on the church and the states power, agreement of the governed, a republican government (that is a government where all people are considered to be equals regardless of social or economic status), and freedom of the press. Nationalism was viewed as a means of uniting people by a mix of common languages, cultural and/or religious beliefs, a common history and direct geographic proximity. Socialism had no clear definition and meant different things to different people, but in general referred to more power for the worker. Socialism of the 1840’s was based on worker ownership of the process of production.
The February Revolution, desiring a more libel reform of government in France, was the spark that set a blaze of revolutions in Western and Central Europe. Rather than attempt to crush the rebellion, King Louis-Philippe relinquished his crown to his nine-year old grandson leaving the Chamber of Deputies in power. The Chamber of Deputies then created a government of mostly moderates with a few radical and declared it the Second Republic. In May,...