European Revolutions

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Feb 3, 2012

Time Line

1818 Congress of Europe meets
1830 Charles X of France abdicates; Louis Philippe becomes king
1830-1831 Belgium becomes an independent nation
1832 Reform Act
1837 Queen Victoria is crowned
1848 Communist Manifesto published; revolutions in France and other nations
1853-1856 Crimean War


European Revolutions

The nineteenth century in Europe is often described as a century of peace, with no major wars breaking out between 1815 and 1914. This picture is somewhat distorted; there was a great deal of violence in Europe during this century. However, it was a new kind of war: this was the century of the popular uprising. Where most wars in the past had been fought between nations, this century saw a series of revolutions fought within nations, in which the people rose up and demanded their independence.

Slowly and gradually, Europeans had been moving toward a more inclusive and egalitarian society. The rise in literacy and education that had begun with the Reformation and continued through the Enlightenment had removed some of the barriers separating the aristocrats from the commoners. Ordinary people had come to believe that they had the same rights as aristocrats—such as the right to some voice in their own government and the right to own property— and they began to rise up in massive numbers and fight for their rights. Examples of constitutional governments in Britain, France, and the United States led to loud calls for written constitutions in many European nations.

By the nineteenth century, ideas of liberty and equality had spread through- out Europe and gone some way toward creating a new force—nationalism. The seeds for the nationalist movement were sown at the Congress of Vienna, when the leaders redrew the map, marking national boundaries without respect for ethnic, linguistic, or cultural divisions in the population. For instance, the people of Italy once again found themselves under the rule of Germans and Austrians.

One wave of revolutions took place in 1830 and another in 1848. These revolutions can be understood as a struggle between the forces of liberalism and conservatism, the two mainstream political movements of the day. Liberal- ism, which supported representative forms of government, triumphed in the nineteenth century, although several conservative governments were still in power in 1914.

Practice questions for these concepts can be found at:

European Revolutions Practice Test

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