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Revolutions of 1848

This map is part of a series of 24 animated maps showing the history of Europe and nations, 1815-1914.

After the failures that occurred during the preceding period, the aspiration of European peoples to greater political freedom, and the recognition of the principle of nationalities remains alive. Protest is renewed at the beginning of 1848; carried by the romantic movement, the wave of the so called “Spring of Nations” spreads in Europe and seems that it will sweep away the order of the Congress of Vienna.

On February 24 a popular insurrection inflames Paris; Louis-Philippe is forced to abdicate, and the republicans assume power.

The Austrian Empire is also affected:

- On March13 in Vienna, a demonstration turns into a riot, which causes the resignation of Chancellor Metternich, and leads the emperor to promise a constitution.

- In Prague, the Czechs demand a statute of autonomy and seek to unite the Slavs of the empire, whereas in Hungary, the Assembly obtains quasi-independence from the emperor.

The shock wave resulting from the events in Paris and Vienna spreads also in Germany, where successive revolutions occur in several states, including Prussia. In the month of May, the Assemblies of the states take the initiative to convene a congress in Frankfurt, tasked with formulating a federal constitution project for Germany.

Finally, in Italy, the difficulties in Vienna lead patriots to think that the time is ripe to drive the Austrians out of the peninsula. In Venice, the lawyer Manin proclaims the “Venetian republic” while Milan rises up and throws out the Austrian garrison. Under public pressure, the Italian rulers promulgate constitutions, and contingents reach Lombardy to meet up with troops of the king of Piedmont-Sardinia, who becomes the leader of the national liberation movement.

At the end of spring 1848, liberal forces appear to prevail everywhere in Europe. But the illusion will be short-lived:

-In Austria, the empire is saved from disintegration, thanks to the intervention of the army, which reaches Prague in June 1848, then marches on Vienna, where it crushes the liberals at the end of the month of October. Finally, with the aid of the czar’s troops, Austria obtains the surrender of the Hungarians in August 1849.

-In Italy, suspicion soon sets in between the popular movement, grounded in democratic ideas, and the rulers, who are reluctant to fight Austria. Austria then easily defeats the Piedmont armies at Custoza in July 1848. Once again victorious in Novara at the beginning of 1849, Austria regains its influence in Italy, and invites the revival of establishment opposition.

-In Germany also, the reversal of situation in Austria heralds the reaction against the liberals. When the Frankfurt parliament offers the crown of the German empire to the King of Prussia, he disdainfully refuses the offer of an Assembly which, in his eyes, has become illegitimate.