Why Were Reactionary Regimes Able To Return To Power So Quickly In The
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The Revolutions of 1848 have been described as the “greatest revolution of the century”1. From its mild beginnings in Palermo, Sicily in January 1848, it did not take long to spread across the rest of Europe (Britain and Russia were the only countries not to experience such revolutions). “In 1848 more states on the European continent were overcome by revolution than ever before and ever since”2. The Revolutions became more radical but after June 1848 these revolutionary events began to overlap with those of counterrevolutionary actions, thus enabling the old regimes to return to power. 1848 was described as “a sunny spring of the peoples abruptly interrupted by the winter of the princes”3.

“It has often been saidÐthat in 1848Ð…European history reached its turning point and failed to turn”4. There are a variety of reasons that can be given for the failure of the Revolutions, these include the divisions amongst revolutionaries, the continuing social and economic problems of the countries involved, the difficulty in replacing the old regimes and the problem of the new inexperienced electorates. There does not appear to be one clear, defining reason which led to the old regimes regaining power after the 1848 Revolutions. All the factors seem to be equally important and to some extent, connected.

Across Europe, the revolutionaries of 1848 came from a variety of different social backgrounds and they all held different political beliefs. They could be liberals, republicans, nationalists or socialists and therefore they all wanted different things out of the Revolutions. Each group was also internally divided, with a radical faction and a more moderate one. Initially they all joined forces to overthrow the existing regimes with which they were discontent. However once power was in their hands, they found that ÐRevolutionary Consensus was virtually impossible. Their initial victory was “followed by ensuing struggle to implement change”5. The people had taken to the streets not knowing what they would do if they did manage to take power. Now that they had, because of their different individual aims, they found it hard to compromise. This eventually led to a growing split between moderates and radicals, as well as between social classes, particularly in France. The moderates did not want a government based on universal male suffrage and the middle classes were determined to resist the demands of the lower classes. With such lack of co-operation these new regimes were unlikely to be successful or long lasting. The situation was the same across central and west Europe. Revolutionaries found that the high hopes they had held in 1848 were pushed aside by the reality of different aims. As a result the counter-revolution continued to develop and gain the upper hand, particularly in the Habsburg monarchy, where rivalries within the monarchy itself and the confusion of competing national claims made counter-revolution easier, and in the Italian states where a lack of support had proved too powerful.

This division amongst revolutionaries was further heightened by the continued existence of social and economic problems throughout Europe. It was these social problems which had helped bring about the 1848 Revolutions in the first place. In the 1840s there was increased food shortage and business failure along with high unemployment, which had increased the dissatisfaction with the existing conservative or moderate regimes. Although this economic discontent had not been enough on its own to bring about the 1848 Revolutions, it definitely played a key part in their development and their collapse. These problems were still apparent in 1848 and consequently took some of the focus away from the revolutionaries cause. Along with the growing strain on food supplies and the increase of unemployment, Europe was also suffering from cholera and the plague. The plague had spread across Europe, starting from China and reaching as far as America. The plague caused heavy death tolls. It struck particularly in the towns and cities, which were the very heart of the Revolutions. The social dislocation it left behind had a drastic effect on the Revolution. The people who were alive were left with “physical exhaustion and a dispirited apathy that quenched the fans of revolt”6. In the face of such hardships people lost their enthusiasm to revolt and the revolutionaries lost support and consequently the old regimes used this to their advantage and regained power.

On top of such social problems the new revolutionary regimes had to find a way to replace the old regimes. The original conservative administrations were well organised and established and therefore the revolutionaries had a hard time filling the void. The old regimes had been more or less united in their views and constitutional aims. The new republics of 1848, although all wanted freedom, failed to agree on anything else (as I mentioned earlier) therefore making the old regimes seem more appealing. People had hoped that the new governments would find solutions for the social

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Revolutionary Events And Variety Of Different Social Backgrounds. (June 14, 2021). Retrieved from https://www.freeessays.education/revolutionary-events-and-variety-of-different-social-backgrounds-essay/