Why Did The Revolutions Of 1848 Fail

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

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While the reasons why the revolutions of 1848 failed differed from country to country, there are some common elements that doomed many of them. One was a lack of a unified message or cause of the revolutionaries. This was the case in Germany, Poland, and Italy, where different elements had different goals. Factions were unable to cooperate and present a united front against their opponents, and their movements fell apart.

Another common cause of failure was an inability to form a strong military resistance. For instance, while Hungary had initial success in forcing out the Austrians, it was powerless to stand up against the massive Russian army that invaded shortly thereafter.

Newly established republics also faced economic hurdles. When it was established, the nascent Italian Republic was practically bankrupt. To pay its much-needed military, the Italians simply printed more money, which devastated the economy by leading to runaway inflation. Without a well-funded military, the Austrians, with the help of the French, were able to invade and dismantle the Republic.

Sometimes, the newly established republics did not have the internal mechanisms to survive. Revolutionaries in France were initially successful in dismantling the monarchy and establishing the Second Republic of France. However, they did not have the constitutional mechanisms in place to prevent President Louis Napolan from suspending the legislature and seizing total power for himself.

Other revolutions failed before they even really began. This was the case in Sweden, in which a revolutionary faction was put down by the military and police after just one public protest. Belgian revolutionaries had a better start than the Swedes but also gained little traction. There were attempts by Belgian émigrés to start a revolution in their country of origin. However, upon hearing of the planned invasion by 6,000 Belgian revolutionaries from abroad, Belgian authorities were able to stop many of them at the border and easily defeated the others on their way to Brussels.

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The Revolutions of 1848 failed for a number of reasons. The revolts were a dangerous challenge to the monarchs in Paris, Berlin, and Vienna. They affected Italy, too. Ultimately, the reformers fell far short of their goals.

First, initial successes had made the revolutionaries too confident of ultimate success. France's King Louis Philippe and Austria's Prince von Metternich both fled to England early on. In Berlin, crowds demanded and won promises for greater freedom and German unity. Revolutionaries became complacent, and governments had time to plan their responses.

Second, the revolutionaries' goals were too diverse. The Italians and Hungarians sought to end Austrian influence over their affairs. The Germans wanted democracy and national unity. The French wanted to abolish the monarchy and secure better working conditions. Some reformers favored greater rights for women, while others did not.

Another reason for the failure was the governments' skill at dividing the opposition. Most of the revolutionaries were working-class people. Many middle-class people also had liberal aspirations, but they were reluctant to support a full-blown revolution. The ruling classes skillfully used this fact to divide and conquer.

Although the revolutionaries failed to accomplish most of their goals, there were some liberal gains. Universal manhood suffrage was kept by France. Also, Sardinia and Prussia held onto their constitutions.

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The Revolutions of 1848 were geared towards overthrowing or instituting reforms among the monarchies of different states. The revolts were experienced in most parts of Europe, including Italy, where the revolutions began, Britain, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, and France, among other European nations. France was the only State that carried out a successful revolution, while the other revolutions in other parts ended in failure and disillusionment.

The Revolutions largely failed due to a lack of support and clear coordination for the revolutionary activities. France refused to assist fellow revolutionaries in other parts of Europe. In most European countries, the military remained loyal to the incumbency. Complacency by Austria and Russia among other powers led to campaigns aimed at convincing European leaders to steer away from the revolution. Class conflicts and mistrust led to growing fear among the middle class and the clergy, forcing them to support the monarchies. The middle class and clergy were suspicious of the socialist agenda fronted by the revolution.

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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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