The Revolutions of 1830 and1848

Pan-European revolutions of 1830 manifested in different forms in different regions. In Netherlands and France they took a romantic hue, whereas in Poland and Switzerland the impact on the political establishment was less pronounced. In the United Kingdom of Netherlands and in France, the impact of the revolution was to establish constitutional monarchies (also called commonly as ‘popular monarchies’). This meant that the older aristocratic order was dismantled and republicanism was given a new thrust. For example, prior to the revolution, the king held dominion over his country through the mandate of God. His reference as the King of France testified this fact. But after the revolution, his title was changed to King of the French, indicating how his authority is derived from the collective will of the citizens. Likewise, in Belgium, King Leopold I took to the throne under the reconfigured political arrangement. At the same time in Congress Poland the revolt against the incumbent Czar of Russia ended as a failure.

The reverberations of events of July 1830 were being felt elsewhere in Switzerland and Italy as well. In Switzerland, on the back of deep resentment from the peasantry, changes were made to the constitution. Greater representation was sought and implemented to the local legislatures and cantonments.

In Italy, the 1830 revolution had the effect of unifying the erstwhile petty kingdoms and dukedoms. The role of the Duke of Modena (Francais IV) was instrumental to this unification project, partly owing to his own ambitions for power. The previously Papal Legations scattered across Italy revolted in unison and adopted the tricolor in the place of the Papal flag. A united Italian nation was thus born. The revolutions of 1830 were by and large politically progressive. They removed some of the ossified and regressive tendencies in prevailing monarchy systems. In their stead, the revolutions brought an element of republicanism, representation and overall reform. To this extent the 1830 revolutions will have to be considered as a success.

The revolutions that occurred across Europe in 1848 are also known as Spring of Nations. Fitting to this metaphor, nations across Europe witnessed radical political upheavals. But unfortunately, the great promise that it held in its outbreak were soon quelled by reactionary forces. France was the epicenter for this great revolution, the influence of which was felt as far out as Latin America.

The 1848 revolutions shared the same undercurrents as the 1830s event in terms of public resentment toward the functioning of monarchies. People everywhere felt great dissatisfaction over their lack of political franchise. This was more acutely felt by the working classes than the propertied classes. A renewed invocation of nationalist fervor was another crucial element in the outbreak of the 1848 revolutions.

The outcomes of the 1848 revolutions were somewhat mixed. Since there was no central organization behind the revolts, their entirety did not produce synergy. Many brave people laid their lives for the cause, with fatalities running into tens of thousands. Feudalism was abolished in some nations as a result of the uprisings, just as absolute monarchy was made unviable after the events of 1848. The benign consequences of the revolutions had an enduring effect in Germany, France, Italy and Poland. But the rest of Europe remained tied to traditional systems of monarchy. All things considered, the 1848 revolutions were only partially successful in achieving its goals.


Mark Kishlansky, Patrick Geary, Patricia O’Brien. Civilization in the West – Since 1555. Published by Penguin Academics.