Why did revolutions break out in so many parts of Europe in 1848-49, and why did they fail

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The year of 1848-49 in Europe was called the year of revolution. Nearly all the continents in Europe, except British and Russia, had experienced revolution. These revolutions were the result of both the long term and short term causes. For the long term causes, there had influence of population growth, industrialization and challenge to the 1815 Vienna settlement. For the short term causes, there had agricultural crises, industrial crises and the combination of the two.

The first long term causes was population growth. One of the most important element of the general development of Europe is population growth. During the first half of the 19th century, the population growth in Europe was so rapid. Although the productivity of the arable land did increase, by 1840, many are in Europe still not able to sustain their growing population. This result in not enough food for the growing population. Social disorder often occurred. This was the population force to the 1848 revolution.

The second long-term causes was industrialization. During the first half of the 19th century, most of the area on the European Continent had experienced the modest type of industrial development. In the concentrated area of Belgium, France and Germany, their foundation industries of iron, steel and textiles had expand rapidly. Although the large-scale industries were not yet commonplace in Europe. Industrial towns had developed rapidly. this growth was stimulated by the migrations from the overpopulated rural areas. the displaced peasants in the rural area flooded to the industrial town to seek alternative life. The urban condition which resulted had explained the long-term causes for the 1848 revolution. Housings were in shortage and thus produce terrible overcrowding. Also disease spread in these area, the average life expandency of a industrial worker in Lille was just only 32.

The migrants who flooded to the cities, most of them were uneducated and displayed criminal tendencies there. They had little sense of loyalty to their adopted town, and they were frequently unemployed the city authorities became difficult to control because of the great tension developed between the migrants and the native. Riots and strikes always occurred in the city.

Besides, industrialization had threaten the position of the skilled artisans. Industrialization brought with machines and constant supply of the cheap labour had threaten the position of skilled artisans. On the other hands, the protection of the trade guilds were removed when government passed the law, declared this was illegal. The skilled artisans had to compete with the immigrant who were ready to worked for low wages and with machinery in order to forced down the cost of production, and made the hand-made goods expensive. The disappointment of the skilled artisans had added pressure to the revolution.

During the early 19th century, the development of the liberalism and nationalism had challenged the 1815 Vienna Settlement. First of all, the general development of the Europe middle class did provide a chance for the challenge. The educated professionals, such as doctors, teachers and lawyers, had openly critical against the 1815 settlement. They were largely excluded from the political system, they were discriminated against when in compete with the nobility and did not have the freedom of speech which were restricted by the secret police. The discontent of the middle class had attract to liberalism. They began to challenge to the 1815 Vienna Settlement.

Besides, the East of Rhine, nationalism had developed to the mount to challenge the 1815 Vienna Settlement. The belief that people had the same race, cultural and historical background should formed themselves into nation. While the 1815 settlement had placed Austria rules in German Confederation and Italian states. Both areas and Hungary, nationalists challenged the legitimacy ruled by the Habsburg family. In the 1848 revolution their aim was to be independent from the Vienna Settlement.

The First short-term cause was agricultural crises. The potato blight of 1845 had caused a dramatic impact Ireland which caused lost of up to million of human lives. The failure of the crop also caused hunger and suffering throughout Europe, in Holland, Belgium, Poland. In the following year, due to the unusual hot and dry weather, this caused failure of the grain harvest. As the failure continue, it was impossible to make good the short fall of the surplus from the previous harvest, there had a sudden and steep price rise in Europe. Although import food from the other countries is possible, but the imcompeted state of most of the European system had made this difficult.

The second short-term cause was industrial crises. That was a crises of overproduction. The merchants found out that they had already saturated the market, so decrease its output, thus create unemployment and reduce in wages. This crises was most severly in France. The overproduction industries of iron making and coal mining, their increase were encourage by the government led investment in the railway, but later they found the output had exceeded the demand, they decided to cut the iron production by 30% and coal by 20%. This created unemployment and also lost confident to the government.

The agricultural crises was closely linked with the industrial crises. When the price rose caused by agricultural crises, there were a decrease in purchasing power in manufacturing products. Finally this caused contraction of production, unemployment, rise in interest rate and also high pressure on gold reverse. Many businessmen was forced to be bankrupt.

As the revolution started in 1848, there seem to be a success revolution. But in 1849, most of the revolutions were being crushed down. Following was the reasons.

First, the important reason for failure, of course was the disagreement among the revolutionaries. It was suggested that once the common enemies had gone, the disintegration began to appear. It was not difficult to find example here. In France for example, the worker demand for a republic, while the middle class demanded just only moderate social reform. The radicals demanded for a republic that based on democracy extension of reforms while the moderates just want a parliamentary constitutional government. In Prussia, the workers’ interest of limitation of industries’ outputs, restriction upon the free industrial and economic growth, and restore the old trade guild, all these had against the interests of the middle. Also, the conservative in the parliament wanted the constitutional decisions were implement by prices in their individual status. But the radical wanted the prices’ authorities were overridden by that of the parliament.

The disagreement not only appeared between the same race, but between the different races. For example, German and Slavs (Czechs and Poles). During the proposal for a united Germany, for example put forward in the Frankfurt parliament in 1848, the Germans want all the German and Czech area in the Austrian territory came under the Prussia and other small German state in the Confederation. This was object by the Czech. Some other German decide to exclude all the Austria land but include the Poland area, by their right, this of course angered the Poles.

The peasants also played an important role for the failure. In France, the revolutionaries introduced the universal male suffrage which made the majority of the voters comprised of peasants. The peasants had little political senses and experience, they were very conservative, they did not ready for any change. And the April Election held on Easter day was a mistake. The peasants went to the church and listened to the church which were very conservative. The peasant made the election become conservative. Besides once the agricultural crises had gone, they join the national guards for fear that the sudden danger to their material interest. In Austria, the security of the peasant loyalty by concession, abolition of robot.

The economic and social crises had affected the population more serious than the monarchy. This made the monarchy could kept its military strength. Most of the revolution were crushed down by army. In France, during the June day, the national guards support crushed the revolution. In Austria, the imperial army was not only undefended, but actually had much victorious. The revolution in Hungary was crushed by Russian troops, and Italian Revolution by Austrian troops.

So we may conclude that the 1848 revolution was caused by social economic depression. And the failure of the revolution mainly because of the disagreement amongst the revolutionaries, the influence of the peasants and also the loyalty of the army.

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