Why Did The Revolutions Of 1848 Fail

Why did most of the revolutions of 1848 fail to achieve their goals?

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beardian | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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Europe in 1848 was faced with a crisis.  There were several ideologies in mid-19th century Europe: liberalism, nationalism, and conservatism.  In France, the government that recovered from Napoleon's Wars was facing harsh economic problems, once again affecting the lower middle class, workers, and peasants.  Politically, the middle class demanded the right to vote, and as the government objected, resistance grew.  In 1848, the French Monarch was overthrown and a radical temporary government was set up, but due to a series of bad decisions, the economy was still in shambles.  This was one of the only cases of success for the 1848 revolutions, but the subsequent revolutions it  inspired all failed due to liberal/nationalist ideological differences and inability to maintain resistance efforts.

In the German States, news spread about the 1848 French Revolution.  Many in the 38 independent German states clamored for constitutions and governments similar to the French republic, but the assembly in charge of organizing a Constitution failed to gain enough support.  Whereas France saw a change in government, the German states stayed separated and conservative.

In Central Europe, the Austrian Empire was facing problems similar to the German states; several nationalities within the Empire, such as Germans, Czechs, Romanians, Slovaks, Poles, Croats, and Serbians, demonstrated for independence.  Ultimately, the Austrian military, with the help of 140,000 Russian soldiers, crushed rebellions in Prague and Vienna, and the rebels were defeated.  Liberal reforms did not take hold in the Austrian Empire.

In the Italian City-States, revolts similar to the problems in the multinational Austrian Empire broke out, calling for liberal constitutions and a unified Italy.  When the Austrians quelled revolts in their territory, northern Italian provinces were also controlled, and the old establishment in Italy was able to take power back.

Overall, the biggest reason for the failure of the 1848 popular revolts and revolutions was that the moderate liberals and radical revolutionaries, who clamored for constitutions, liberal reforms, and demonstrations against the conservative European governments, became divided over their goals.  This allowed a much stronger and unified conservative government to step in, stop rebellions, and reestablish control over their respective empires.  

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