The 1848 revolution, also known as the February revolution in France, plays a pivotal role in Victor Hugo's treatment of revolution and revolts in Les Miserables. Hugo begins the Book of St. Denis by recounting the evolution of French politics from the end of Napoleon's rule in 1815 to the failed populist uprising of 1832. Hugo's reconstruction of this period is greatly influenced by his own experience in the 1848 revolution. He witnessed and was a part of the events of 1848. Like the revolution of 1832, the 1848 revolution was a populist uprising; unlike the 1832 revolution, the 1848 revolution showed more promise, though it also proved unsuccessful. The revolutionaries in France pushed republican ideas in reaction to the absolutist tendencies of the Bourbon rulers, particularly Louis Philippe. Hugo's republicanism plays an important role not only in the subject matter which he treats, but also in where he decides to end his historical reconstruction of French politics.
Though the 1848 revolution successfully removed Louis Philippe, the Second Republic that began in 1851 proved unfriendly to Hugo. As a result, Les Miserables was written in exile. Hugo infuses the novel with allusions to the 1848 revolution, particularly the hope which the revolutionaries of 1848 carried into their endeavors.