GERMAN REVOLUTION

Revolutionary movements in Europe

The French revolution and the Napoleonic wars had ended and monarchy was restored in France but the idea of a republic wasn’t crushed. The revolution had inspired protests against Despotism all over the world. The leaders that emerged in these states were not fighting for their own freedom or removal of despotism from their country but for removal of despotism from everywhere.

The universal brotherhood had developed to combat the forces of autocracies. The idea of a modern nation emerged after the revolution in France and a nation became more than a territory. It was to be represented by its people.

Till the rise of Napoleon everyone supported the french revolution. It symbolized principles of equality unlike the system of privilege on which the monarchical order was established in Europe. Leaders of revolutions in Italy, South and Central America fought against despotism everywhere.

However like the spirit of the revolutionaries the rulers of these states too were united n crushing these revolutions.

Holy Alliance in Europe

The nations of Austria, Holland, Russia combined forces to form an alliance against revolutions. They decided to unite to keep the legitimate rulers from collapsing and agreed to watch out for each others interest.

The new leader of France to joined this Alliance. This came to be known as the Holy Alliance.

The leaders of the alliance sent forces to suppress revolutions in each others territory and restore the rulers authority. Large number of spies were recruited, freedom of speech and press was curbed. But this didn’t affect the revolutionaries spirit.

In 1830 revolutions began and french ruler was forced to abdicate. Though most of the revolts were crushed, freedom was won by Greece and Belgium.

1848 – A Glorious year for revolutions

1848 was a year when the spirit of revolution peaked across all European countries. The revolutions broke out and all states of the Holy Alliance were shaken by them. The monarchs had to give constitutional reforms to the people. Although few succeeded in overthrowing despots but the new social order was emerging. The monarch of France who came to power in 1848 was removed but soon replaced by Napoleon III. When the Empire of Napoleon III crumbled after the Prussian was , France became a republic.

The workers were the main leaders in the revolts. They wanted a new social order that would remove the ill effects of capitalism. But the others revolutionaries like peasants and middle class looked at these goals with horror. It wanted only constitutional reforms and so compromised with the rulers.

Democracy in England

The first revolution against autocracy was in England in the 17th century. The parliament became supreme and monarch was a titular head. But Parliament wasn’t a fully democratic organization.

The right to vote belonged to a minority and women and underprivileged had no representation. The radical leaders of workers and industrialists protested to increase the vote.

Initially the representation to Parliament wasn’t based on Population size but electoral districts. So some constituencies with a few houses got representation but cities with lakhs of people were not represented adequately.

These rotten boroughs were eliminated by the Act of 1832. Soon the Chartist movement that rose to increase votes for all started but by mid 19th century its influence declined. But its impact was seen later as by 1929 the vote was increased to all and Parliament became a true representative of the people. 

German Revolution for Independence

The 18th century Germany was divided into a number of states. Some of these were small as cities but some like Bavaria, Saxony, Prussia were powerful and large. During the Napoleonic war’s some of these ceased to exist but by 1815 there were 38 territories in Germany.

Prussia was the largest and most powerful. It was dominated by landlords known as Junkers. Due to the division of Germany the political and social system was very backward. Civil liberties were absent. The French revolution had raised national consciousness amongst the Germans and they too wanted a united Germany.

In 1815 the Germanic states and Austria came together to form the German Confederation but each state wanted to maintain its own system and hence it failed. During 1848, revolutions broke out throughout German states and monarch’s were forced to grant concessions to people. The leaders met at Frankfurt assembly to discuss the German constitution.

But the rulers were secretly planning to unite and crush the rebels. The Frankfurt assembly offered to the king of Prussia the title of Emperor of Germany and a united German nation. But the King refused to accept the offer of the rebels and sent forces to crush the revolts. The protests failed and all initial concessions to were withdrawn. Many rebels had to flee the country.

Germany Struggle Part II – Bismarck and policy of “Blood and Iron”

Bismarck belonged to aristocratic family in Prussia. He too wanted a united Germany but not a democratic empire but a militaristic one. He believed that there should be a domination of army and landed aristocrats in Germany.

To achieve this he followed a policy of war known as Blood and Iron. Under this he fought with Austria to ensure it was removed from the Germanic confederation. After Austria’s defeat the 22 states of Germanic confederation were brought together under a single leader.

The French king Napoleon III too was provoked by Bismarck and he too waged a war on Prussia but was defeated. The war proved fruitful to Bismarck who absorbed the remaining German states into the German Empire.

The King of Prussia became the hereditary Emperor of Germany. Thus unlike the French revolution, the unification of Germany was due to a Policy of war. It was also not fought under the same ideals of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. This was to bear fruit soon as such aggression led to the World War where Germany was defeated.

                                            Fig 1: Unification of Germany

Unification of Italy

Like Germany, Italy too was divided into many states. Some like Lombardy were occupied by foreign powers, Large states like Sardinia, Kingdom of Two Sicily’s and Rome were either under monarchs or under papal occupation.

Manzinni and Garibaldi were two great leaders of the unification movement. They started the Young Italy movement too start a rebellion against the monarchs. The work was dual as the people had to remove foreign occupation and convince the monarchs to unite.

The kingdom of Sardinia was the most powerful and the king to wanted the unification of Italy under him. He implemented many reforms after the 1848 revolts broke out. His PM Cavour followed Bismarck’s policy and joined forces with France to fight Austria. Though France couldn’t win Austria was ousted and Lombardy was recovered. Soon other smaller states in the Northern Italy became a part of Sardinia.

The Kingdom of Two Sicily and Rome were still outside Italian state. Garibaldi marched to these states with his revolutionaries and freed them. But the rebels couldn’t continue this struggle and surrendered these kingdoms to Sardinia. The King now became the Emperor of Italy.

Rome was under Papal occupation and guarded by French soldiers. These were withdrawn after the French – Prussian war and Italy occupied it. Rome became the capital of Italy.

Just like Germany, Italy too saw a people’s rebellion but it culminated in a monarchy. The difference between them is that the aristocracy united Germany whereas in Italy the popular revolt played an important role.