The Revolutions of 1848 101: Introduction II, The Revolutions of 1830 and The Ideological Background
The revolutions of 1848 are a separate chapter in the study of modern and contemporary European history. The “Springtime of the Peoples,” as they are called by some historians, played a decisive role in the development of the historical events of the 19th century, the 20th century, and also the present. This is the main reason why this 101 series of articles, dedicated to these revolutions, came into being. Specifically, reference will be made to the cases of many European countries and regions, such as France, the German States, the Italian States, Denmark, the territories of the Habsburg Empire, Sweden, Poland, and so on.
The Revolutions of 1848 series consist of nine main articles:
- Introduction II, The Revolutions of 1830 and The Ideological Background
- The Italian States
- The February Revolution in France
- The German States
- Habsburg Monarchy
- The Cases of Denmark and Sweden
- The Polish Uprising
In the first introductory article to this 101 series, some causes of the revolutions of 1848 were identified at the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and the revolutions of 1820 were recognized as the first forerunner of those of 1848 (link here). In this introductory article, the revolutions of 1830 will be presented as another forerunner of those of 1848 and the catalytic influence of various ideologies, such as liberalism and nationalism, in the "Springtime of Nations" of 1848 will be analyzed. Specifically, the revolutions in France, Italy, and Poland and the role of "ideas" in the revolutionary movements of 1848 will be analysed.
The Revolutionary Wave of 1830 in Europe
The revolutions of 1830 were revolts against the conservative order of Europe, established at the Congress of Vienna in 1815, that were led by liberals, revolutionaries, and radicals in general in different parts of Europe from 1830 to 1832. The first one occurred in France and then other nations or states followed including Italy and Poland. Some of them were characterized as the “Romantic Nationalist Revolutions.”
The revolutions started in France when King Charles X of France announced on July 26 four ordinances and dissolved the Chamber of Deputies, suspended freedom of the press, modified the electoral laws so that three-fourths of the electorate lost their votes, and called for new elections to the Chamber in September. Initially, the people protested against the authoritarian measures with simple strikes, but then armed clashes ensued. The royal forces could not contain the insurrection and after three days of fighting from July 27 to 29, Charles resigned, abdicated the throne, and fled to England. The radicals wanted to establish a republic, and the aristocracy was loyal to Charles, but the proposal of the upper-middle class to offer the crown to the Duke of Orléans, Louis-Philippe, who had fought for the French Republic in 1792, prevailed. Louis-Philippe was sworn in as “King of the French.” When the “July Revolution” was over, the Chamber of Peers had been transformed from a hereditary body into a nominated house, special tribunals were abolished and the white flag of the Bourbons, the former royal house of France, was replaced by the tricolor (blue, white, red; the current flag of France) (Britannica, 2021) (1).
After the French, the Poles rebelled in November 1830 trying to overthrow the Russian rule in Poland. The Russian emperor Nicholas I, a prominent pillar of the conservative order of Europe, intended to suppress the revolution that broke out in Paris in July 1830 by using Polish forces. However, the Poles reacted and a Polish secret society of infantry cadets revolted in Warsaw in November 1830. Despite the cadets' and their supporters' failed assassination attempt of the emperor’s brother Grand Duke Constantine, who was the commander of the army in Poland, they gained control of the northern suburbs of Warsaw (Britannica, 2021) (2). Despite their initial success, the military commanders were unprepared when the Russian army entered Poland in February 1831. The Polish army offered strong resistance at several battles but was unable to stop the Russian advance toward Warsaw until the end of February when they lost a major but indecisive battle. The Polish commanders hesitated to strike back, and the divided political leaders not only refused to pass reforms to win the support of the peasantry but also failed to gain the foreign aid that the generals were depending on. As a consequence, the rebellion became a lost cause. People in the cities began losing confidence in the revolution’s leaders. When the Russians finally attacked Warsaw in September 1831, the Polish army surrendered and the Polish territory subsequently fell under stricter and more repressive Russian control. The November Insurrection was ended (Garlicki, 2003) (3).
The next revolution broke out in Italy in 1830. The general revolutionary sentiment was in favour of a unified Italy. The Duke of Modena, Francis IV, was an ambitious noble who hoped to become king of at least Northern Italy. Francis had made it clear that he would not act against those who subverted opposition toward the unification of Italy. Encouraged by his declaration, revolutionaries began to get organized. However, Francis, fearing the Austrian troops, abandoned his Carbonari supporters (a network of secret revolutionary societies) and arrested Ciro Menotti, a famous revolutionary, along with other conspirators in 1831. Menotti was executed and the idea of a revolution in Modena faded. At the same time, other insurrections arose in the Papal States. These revolutions were successful, and the revolutionaries adopted the tricolore (green, white, red) in favor of the Papal flag. They installed local governments and proclaimed the creation of a united Italian nation. These revolts in Modena and the Papal States inspired similar activity in the Duchy of Parma. The rebellious provinces planned to be united as an Italian province. Pope Gregory XVI asked Austrians to help him against the rebels. In the spring of 1831, the Austrian army began its march in Italy and crushed the resistance in each province that had revolted. This military action suppressed much of the fledgling revolutionary movement and resulted in the arrest of many radical leaders (The Sydney Monitor, 1831) (4).
The Ideological Background of the Revolutions of 1848
Despite the efforts of the monarchical and conservative governments of Europe to keep the revolutionaries down, disruptive ideas gained popularity among the common citizens and the lower classes. These ideas were democracy, liberalism, nationalism, socialism, and radicalism. People demanded a constitution, universal manhood suffrage (the voting right of all adult male citizens), freedom of the press, freedom of expression, and other democratic rights such as liberation of peasants, liberalization of the economy, and the abolition of monarchical power structures in favour of the establishment of republican states or at least the restriction of the conservative power in the form of constitutional monarchies. In the language of the 1840s, “democracy” meant replacing an electorate of property-owners with universal male suffrage. “Liberalism” fundamentally meant consent of the governed, restriction of state power, republican government, freedom of the press and the individual. “Nationalism” believed in uniting people bound by common languages, culture, religion, history, and of course immediate geography. "Socialism” was a term without a consensus definition, meaning different things to different people, but was typically used within a context of more power for workers in a system based on worker ownership of the means of production. These concepts together— democracy, liberalism, nationalism, and socialism, in the sense described above—came to be encapsulated in the political term “radicalism” (Breunig, 1977) (5).
In the early 1830s, radicals throughout Europe were encouraged to hope for a general social revolution, but most were disappointed. Louis-Philippe did not want a war and, contrary to expectations, did not support the Poles, who had revolted against the Russians. Their revolt was ruthlessly suppressed and Poland was incorporated into the Russian Empire. Revolts in Italy were equally unsuccessful. But these were the last revolutionary movements to fail. Radicals throughout Europe before 1848 were in turmoil. The role of Ideas was catalytic, as the peoples were imbued with radical ideologies; young people were fascinated by liberalism, democracy was a common demand but oppressed, and nations found their redemption in nationalism and the working class was inspired by socialism. Revolutionary outbreaks would erupt rapidly across Europe in 1848 and this time their outcome would be very different. The conservative order established during the Congress of Vienna in 1815 would finally fall because of the large numbers of revolutions; in this 101 series of articles only the most important ones will be mentioned.
The July Revolution. [Painting]. Paris, July 29, 1830. emersonkent.com. © 2016 Emerson Kent. http://www.emersonkent.com/wars_and_battles_in_history/july_revolution_1830.htm
Start of the Polish Revolution 1830. [Painting]. akg-images.com. https://www.akg-images.com/archive/Start-of-the-Polish-Revolution-1830-2UMDHU20WL4M.html
The Execution of Menotti and Other Revolutionaries. [Painting]. en-academic.com. © Academic, 2000-2021. https://en-academic.com/dic.nsf/enwiki/4233187
Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2021, July 20). Revolutions of 1830. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/event/Revolutions-of-1830
Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2021, November 22). November Insurrection. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/event/November-Insurrection
Garlicki, A. (2003). Historia 1815–1939; Polska i świat (in Polish). Warsaw, Scholar. p. 444.
The Sydney Monitor. (1831, August 17). From The Morning Chronicle of February 26th, 1831. Retrieved in 18 June 2018, p. 5.
Breunig, C. (1977). The Age of Revolution and Reaction, 1789–1850. (2nded.). Norton.