The Role of Ideology in the Revolutions of 1848
Year 1848 is described as “mad year” – mad with fight for freedom.
Already its first months, in almost all parts of Europe, brought
explosion of aims and aspirations, which were accumulated during the
after-congress period. Revolutionary movements spread throughout the
whole Europe, apart from Russia, where the system of serfdom did not
allow any revolts, and Great Britain, where the reforms were carried
out in non-revolutionary channels. Despite the differences in social,
economic and political structures of European countries, the
revolutions of 1848 were characterised by uniformity, and their
ideology was a common denominator.
There were several factors that caused the revolutions. Some believe
that the main cause of the revolutions of 1848 was bourgeoisie’s fight
against still existing feudalism. it can be partly true, but this
interpretation does not explain all the mechanism of the revolt.
First of all - the years of 1845-47, in which an economic crisis
occurred. It began with the agriculture problems, which were caused by
a poor harvest of potatoes in 1845, followed by crop failure in 1846
and 1847. Agrarian riots occurred in France, there was a “potato
revolution” in Berlin, bread-riots in other German cities. Because
food prices went up, people stopped buying other goods, and therefore
the governments did not have any money to pay off their debts (they
borrowed large sums of money for industrial expansion in 1840’s).
Another problem in the pre-revolutionary period was unemployment among
artisans and workmen – they were loosing battle with modern industry,
due to e.g. new machinery and railways, which pushed them to even
No wonder that the revolutions were widely expected and predicted.
Because of overall crises, many reforms were needed, most of which had
an ideological background.
Nevertheless, the ideology did not play a huge role throughout the
whole revolution. Year 1848 can be divided into three periods which
were characterised by variable importance of new ideas of 19th
century. The main ideology in opposition to the order established
during the Congress of Vienna was often called ‘liberalism’. This name
indicates that the primary motive of it was to strive after freedom in
contrary to dependence and restrictions forced on societies and
individuals by absolute monarchs. Colloquially, all people who were
against absolute regime and were after constitution established by
nations representativer, were called liberals. They demanded freedom
of religion and tolerance, freedom of word, press and societies. They
thought that everybody should be equal as far as law is concerned.
Another 19th century idea was radicalism, which was pretty much the
same ideology, with only slight differences:...