1. Revolutionary Movements in Europe
    1. Holy Alliance
    2. Revolutions of 1848
    3. Growth of Democracy in England
  2. Unification of Germany
    1. Prussia
    2. Problems of divided Germany
    3. Bismarck: Policy of blood & iron
    4. Fall of Louis Bonaparte
  3. Unification of Italy
    1. Young Italy movement
    2. Italy after the revolution of 1848.
    3. Uprising in Sicilies
    4. Rome become the Capital
  4. After the revolts and unifications

Revolutionary Movements in Europe

  • The period after 1815 saw the emergence of revolutionary activity in every country in Europe. In some countries, the aim of the revolutionaries was the overthrow of autocratic rulers and the abolition of serfdom; in some it was the overthrow of foreign rule and in some others it was social, political and economic reforms.
  • Nationalism emerged as a major force in this period. However, it is interesting to see that this nationalism was neither exclusive nor chauvinistic.
  • Revolutionaries fighting for independence did not fight for their independence alone or against the despotism of their rulers only. They did not want their nation to dominate other nations.
  • They were in fact inspired by the aim of fighting against despotism everywhere. They were united into a kind of international brotherhood of peoples against all despots.
  • The South American revolutionaries O’Higgins, Simon Bolivar and San Martin fought for the independence of many countries in South America.
  • Mazzini, one of the foremost leaders of the struggle for Italian unification and independence, formed a number of organizations such as Young Poland, Young Germany and Young Italy for the liberation of these countries.
  • Garibaldi, another great leader of the Italian revolutionaries, fought for the freedom of the peoples of South America.
  • The great English poet Lord Byron was also one of these revolutionaries. He fought for the freedom of Greece and died there. He declared that he would war with every despotism in every nation. These words of Byron best sum up the attitude of a large number of revolutionaries of the time.
  • However, as the revolutionaries were united in their common aim of overthrowing despotism everywhere, the autocratic governments also were united to suppress every revolt and movement against any despotism.

Holy Alliance

  • In 1815, the rulers of Austria, Britain, Russia and Prussia formed an alliance. One of the major declared aims of this alliance was to suppress any attempt by the people to overthrow a ruler whom these countries considered the ‘legitimate’ ruler of the country.
  • The new ruler of France also soon joined this alliance. Austria, Russia and Prussia had formed another alliance which they called the Holy Alliance.
  • This alliance which many other rulers also joined was even more openly opposed to democratic ideas and movements than the first. After 1815 the rulers of Europe tried to suppress all movements for freedom and democracy in their own as well as in other countries.
  • In 1821, for example, Austria sent her armies into Naples and Piedmont in Italy to suppress the uprisings that had taken place there. In many countries of Europe, the freedom of the press was abolished and a large number of spies were recruited to keep watch on the activities of the revolutionaries.
  • The oppressive measures introduced by the rulers failed to curb the revolutionary movements in Europe. In 1830 revolutions broke out in a number of countries. The French monarch fled away to England and was succeeded by Louis Philippe who promised to rule according to the wishes of the people.
  • There was a revolt in Belgium for freedom from Holland. Insurrections broke out in various states of Italy and Germany and in Poland. Although most of these revolts were suppressed, the independence of two new nations was recognized— of Greece in 1830 and of Belgium in 1839.

Revolutions of 1848

  • Within a few years after the revolts of 1830 had been suppressed, the revolutionary movements in Europe again gained momentum.
  • In 1848, revolutions broke out in almost every country of Europe, which dealt a mortal blow to the countries of the Holy Alliance.
  • Early in 1848, there was a revolt in Italy.
  • In February, revolution broke out in France and Louis Philippe who had been installed as king after the 1830 revolution fled away.
  • France again became a republic for some time but power was usurped by Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, popularly known as Napoleon III, a nephew of Napoleon, in 1852.
  • France finally became a republic in 1871 when the empire of Louis Bonaparte collapsed.
  • The revolution in France was soon followed by uprisings in many towns of Germany. The rulers of many German states, including Prussia which was a member of the Holy Alliance, agreed to introduce many reforms.
  • Simultaneously, there were uprisings in Vienna, the capital, and in other towns of the Austrian empire, another member of the Holy Alliance. Metternich, the Chancellor of the empire, who was the most hated man in Europe, had to flee.
  • The Austrian empire in those days was a large empire ruling over many nations of Europe. It ruled over Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Poland, Yugoslavia and many other areas.
  • Revolts had broken out in all the subject nations of the empire as well as in Austria. Even though these revolts did not succeed, the empire was badly shaken.
  • The revolutions of 1848 failed to overthrow the established oppressive regimes of Europe though they considerably weakened them. The most significant aspect of the 1848 revolutions was the emergence of a new political force in Europe.
  • You have read in Chapter 7 about the rise of a new social class in Europe following the Industrial Revolution— the working class. The workers were a major force in the revolutions of 1848. Their aim was not merely the overthrow of autocracies but also the destruction of the economic system that had grown with the Industrial Revolution— capitalism. Other participants in the revolutions— the capitalists, the merchants and other people belonging to the middle class—wanted constitutional reforms.
  • They looked upon the demands of the workers for social revolution with horror. When the revolutionary movements were at their peak, they decided to compromise with the rulers.

Growth of Democracy in England

  • The first successful revolution that overthrew the autocratic monarchy took place in England in the seventeenth century. This had resulted in the establishment of the supremacy of Parliament in England. However, Parliament at that time was not a truly democratic institution.
  • The right to vote was limited to a very small percentage of the population. Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the demand for making Parliament’ a democratic institution grew. Campaigns to extend the right to vote to every citizen were waged. These campaigns were led by radical leaders who represented the interests of workers, and the city poor, and by those representing the industrialists.
  • Until 1832, representation in Parliament was based not on population but on election districts— counties and boroughs. Many of these were no longer populated excepted for a few houses, while new towns and cities with large populations had no representation.
  • Under the Act of 1832, the old unpopulated areas or ‘rotten boroughs’, as they were called, were abolished and their seats were given to new towns and cities.
  • At this time also, the right to vote was extended to those who owned or rented a house of a certain value in the towns or in villages. This formed only about 10 per cent of the population.
  • In ch.7, You have read of the Chartist Movement which was launched to get the right to vote for workers. Though the movement declined in the 1850’s, it left its influence and through the Acts of 1867. 1882, 1918 and 1929, all adult citizens were enfranchised.
  • Thus it was over 200 years after Parliament became supreme that it became also a truly representative body of the British people.

Unification of Germany

  • One of the major features of the 19th century history of Europe was the struggles for national unification and independence. The achievement of independence by Greece and Belgium has been mentioned before. Germany and Italy were the other two important nations which emerged as united, independent states in the 19th century.
  • In the 18th century, Germany was divided into a number of states. Some of these states were very small and did not extend beyond the limits of a city. During the Napoleonic wars, many of these states ceased to exist. At the end of the wars there were still thirty-eight independent states in Germany. Among them Prussia, Wurttemberg, Bavaria, and Saxony were fairly large.

Map Unification of Germany


  • was the most powerful in Militarily and in extent. It was also the most reactionary. The big landlords of Prussia known as Junkers formed the dominant section in Prussian society. Prussia was also one of the leaders of the Holy Alliance.

Problems of divided Germany

  • The division of Germany into a number of states had hampered the economic development of Germany. The social and political system in these states was also very backward.
  • With the growth of national consciousness, particularly after the French Revolution, the people of these states had started demanding the national unification of Germany, establishment of democratic government and social and economic reforms.
  • In 1815, the German states along with Austria were organised into a Germanic Confederation. However, each state tried to preserve its independence and its oppressive political and social system.
  • In 1848 revolts occurred in every German state and the rulers were forced to grant democratic constitutions. To unite Germany and to frame a constitution for the united Germany, a constituent assembly met in Frankfurt.
  • The initial success of the revolts had made the German democrats and nationalists think that victory had been achieved.
  • While they debated the clauses of the constitution, the rulers prepared themselves to suppress the movement.
  • The Frankfurt Assembly proposed the unification of Germany as a constitutional monarchy under the King of Prussia who would become emperor of Germany.
  • However, the King of Prussia declined the offer. He did not wish to accept the crown from the elected representatives of the people. Repression soon followed and even the rights that people had won in the initial stages of the revolution were taken away. Thousands of German revolutionaries had to flee the country and live in exile.

Bismarck: Policy of blood & iron

  • With the failure of the revolution of 1848 to unify Germany, one phase in the struggle for unification came to an end. Now Germany was to be unified not into a democratic country by the efforts of revolutionaries but by the rulers into a militaristic empire.
  • The leader of this policy was Bismarck who belonged to a Prussian aristocratic family. He wanted to preserve the predominance of the landed aristocrats and the army in the united German state and to achieve the unification of Germany under the leadership of the Prussian monarchy.
  • He described his policy of unification as one of ‘blood and iron’.
  • The policy of ‘blood and iron’ meant a policy of war. The first aim he pursued was the elimination of Austria from the Germanic Confederation.
  • He aligned with Austria in a war against Denmark over the possession of Schleswig and Holstein.
  •  After Denmark’s defeat, he entered into an alliance with Italy against Austria, defeated Austria and dissolved the Germanic Confederation.
  • Thus Austria was separated from other German states.
  • In place of the old Confederation, he united 22 states of Germany into North German Confederation in 1866. The constitution of this Confederation made the king of Prussia the hereditary head of the Confederation.
  • The unification of Germany was completed as a result of a war between Prussia and France.

Fall of Louis Bonaparte

  • In 1870, Louis Bonaparte, whose power had begun to collapse, declared war on Prussia in the hope of maintaining his empire through a military victory. The war was partly provoked by Bismarck. It proved disastrous for the empire of Louis Bonaparte.
  • The French armies were defeated and the French emperor was captured. After her defeat, France finally became a republic. Germany’s unification was completed as a result of the war which enabled Bismarck to absorb the remaining German states into a united Germany.
  • The formal ceremony at which King William I of Prussia took the title of German’ Emperor was not held on German soil. It took place at Versailles in France, in the palace of the French kings.
  • After her unification, Germany emerged as a very strong power in Europe. It underwent heavy industrialization in a very short period and soon joined the scramble for colonies. However, the militarism which made Germany into a great power was to prove disastrous to the people of Germany in the years to come. (For more on that, refer to Chapter 12)

Unification of Italy

  • Like Germany, Italy was also divided into a number of states.
  • The major states in the early 19th century Italy were Sardinia, Lombardy, Venetia, Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (Sicily and Naples), Papal States, Tuscany, Parma and Modena.
  • Of these the most powerful was the kingdom of Sardinia.
  • Venetia and Lombardy were under Austrian occupation.
  • Thus the Italian people were faced with the task of expelling the Austrians and forcing the rulers of independent states to unite.

map Unification of Italy

Young Italy movement

  • The struggle for Italian independence and unification was organized by the two famous revolutionaries of Italy whose names have been mentioned in the earlier part of this chapter— Giuseppe Mazzini and Giuseppe Garibaldi.
  • The movement led by them is known as the ‘Young Italy’ movement. It aimed at the independence and unification of Italy and the establishment of a republic there.
  • In 1848, as in other parts of Europe, revolutionary uprisings had broken out in Italy and the rulers were forced to grant certain democratic reforms to the people.
  • However, the goal of independence and unification was still distant.

Italy after the revolution of 1848.

  • The king of Sardinia had introduced many reforms in the political system of his kingdom after the revolution of 1848. After 1848, his prime minister, Count Cavour, took the initiative of uniting Italy under the leadership of Sardinia.
  • Cavour’s policy in some ways was similar to that followed by Bismarck in Germany. Hoping to gain the support of Britain and France, he entered the Crimean war in 1853-56 against Russia even though Sardinia had no dispute with Russia. However, nothing came out of this war.
  • In 1859, Cavour entered into an alliance with Louis Bonaparte and went to war with Austria. Although France soon withdrew from the war, Austria was ousted from Lombardy, which was taken over by Sardinia.
  • Tuscany, Modena, Parma and the Papal States of the north also joined Sardinia.
  • Venetia, however, was still under Austrian occupation. The other states that remained to be united with Sardinia were the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies and Rome which was under the rule of the Pope.

Uprising in Sicilies

  • Meanwhile an uprising had broken out in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Garibaldi marched into the island of Sicily with his revolutionary fighters and liberated it from the rule of the king within three months. Then he marched to Naples in support of the revolt that had already broken out there.
  • By the end Of November 1860 the entire Kingdom of the Two Sicilies had been liberated. The Italian revolutionaries were not perhaps strong enough to push the victory of the people in the Sicilies further with a view to establishing a united republic of Italy.
  • They surrendered the former kingdom to the King of Sardinia, Victor Emmanuel II, who then took the title of King of Italy in 1861.
  • Garibaldi, the revolutionary who had played such a vital role in the liberation and unification of Italy, now retired to lead a life of obscurity.

Rome become the Capital

  • Rome was still outside the kingdom of Italy. It was ruled over by the Pope with the help of the French soldiers provided to him by Louis Bonaparte. When the war between France and Prussia broke out in 1870, Bonaparte was forced to withdraw his troops from Rome.
  • Italian soldiers occupied the city of Rome in 1870, and in July 1871, Rome became the capital of united Italy.
  • In spite of the important role played by democratic and revolutionary leaders such as Mazzini and Garibaldi in the struggle for Italy’s liberation and unification, Italy also, like Germany, became a monarchy.

After the revolts and unifications

  • The unification of Germany and Italy, in spite of the fact that democracy was not completely victorious there, marked a great advance in the history of the two countries.
  • The revolutions and movements described above, along with the Industrial Revolution, deeply influenced the course of the history of mankind. The forces that generated these revolutions and movements were also at work in other countries. Their success in one place fed the fires of revolt and encouraged change in the rest of the world. They are still being felt today, transforming social, political and economic life everywhere.
  • One of the aspects of the movements described so far is the gradual growth of political democracy, that is, the ever increasing participation of increasing number of people in the political life of a country.
  • This happened in countries where the form of government became republican as well as in those which remained monarchies such as England, Germany and Italy.
  • The period of autocracies and privileged aristocracies was gradually coming to an end. Alongside, there were also the movements for national unity and national independence.
  • These movements were victorious in Italy, Germany, and some other countries of Europe and in the, Americas. In a few more decades they were to succeed in the rest a Europe and in the recent period in most of the world.
  • It is necessary to remember here that the new political and economic system that was emerging in Europe in the 19th century was also creating imperialism.
  • The period of the triumph of democracy and in Europe was also the period of the conquest of Asia and Africa by the imperialist powers of Europe. The 19th century saw the beginning of the revolts against imperialism in Asia and Africa. There were two mighty revolts
  1. 1857 in India
  2. Taiping rebellion in China.

Later, nationalist movements in the modem sense began to be organized in all countries of Asia and Africa. We already saw seen about them in chapter 13.

In the Next part (4 of 4) of Ch8, we’ll see The Rise of Socialism.

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