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Encyclopedia of Revolutions of 1848


The 1848 Revolutions challenge the maxim that winners write history. But the very concept of "vi ctors" is misleading. The Parisian February revolution of 1848 was a victory of harmonious reconciliation between high and low. Roman Catholic clergymen and lay who broke into the king's Tuileries gathered in the chapel to sanctify the new republic. A great number of artists depicted the historic moment of historic accord.

Since World War I, generations of national historians in the successor states to Austria-Hungary have vilified the Austrian chancellor of 1849, Schwarzenberg, as a national enemy. In response to the critics, a laudatory biography history of Prince Felix von Schwarzenberg characterized him as Austria's savior. However the aftermath of collapse of the iron curtain changed matters: a close friend and adviser to Vaclav Havel in Prague was a contemporary noble Schwarzenberg. The transformation from nemesis to hero was not merely in Prague. A new phalanx of central Europeans who had condemned Felix von Schwarzenberg's villainy in 1849, now a century and a half later regret his dereliction of "just" national claims that might have prevented Austria-Hungary's collapse into 20th century bitterness. This is a warning that historical judgment is always provisional and extremely controversial. Even in the short run any neat categorization into "winners" and "losers" is no more than provisional, because all historical verdicts are in a state of constant flux. Historical suppositions are kaleidoscopic. The passage of time shifts all perspectives and the entire picture muta tes. As new rulers replace those holding power, they also displace the old winners, transforming all perceptions.

When we began this project in 1986, we dealt with a powerful group who claimed to interpret historical truth for the "people." The historians assumed that the "people" whom they exemplified were the real victors of 1848. The governmentally employed advocates of approved historical truth professed to speak for the masses. As a consequence of 20th century wars, power h ad shifted in a number of successor states to displace the autocratic 19th century "victors" of Russia, Prussia and Austria. The new officially sanctioned history, claiming to interpret an active participant in the 1848 revolutions, Karl Marx, caricatured objectivity in large parts of Europe. Walter Ulbricht, the former leader of East Germany, for years ridiculed historical veracity by maintaining that had three professions: worker, politician, and historian. Following Stalin's example, Ulbricht's name embellished a multi-volume history of the German worker movement, and his speeches cluttered East Germany's scholarly historical journal in a cruel betrayal of professional standards. Ulbricht's blatant mockery of objective history was swept away by the 1989 revolutions. Yet the historical turning point of 1989, although the most dynamic, was only the latest of many historical metamorphoses dating back to the revolutionary era itself. And the only constant is ambiguity, because success and failure alway s depend on fleeting and momentary perceptions. Continually, the verdict of history mutates with contemporary events as we reconsider the accomplishments of what we perceive as history's "winners." Yet, although any verdict is ambiguous, provisional, and highly colored by ideology and national bias, a few features stand out.

In the 1840s new forces built on accumulating frustrations with an absolutistic old order. Following a demand for new beginnings in the springtime of 1848, many o f the early victories of 1848 were already in doubt a few months later. An apparently invincible call for change stalled; lines of divisions suggested a schism among the once united cadres of reformers. Within the year, the revolutionary élan encountered the first wave of a counter force of repression. But history is never linear. And all violence contains the seeds of its ultimate destruction. Ideas and ideals submerged when armies swept through the land with an upsurge of banishments and execut ions. But the blood shed by one era's martyrs invigorates successive generations. Thus, succeeding swells of fury arise after each repression; when the earlier victims take power, or at least a group claiming to speak on behalf of yesterday's persecuted. As the great wheel of history turns, succeeding generations hopelessly obfuscate all clear distinctions between victor and victim as actions engender reactions in an endless cycle.

Every generation re-writes history in its own image, thus historians in recent decades have recognized women's achievements. Indeed, it will hardly seem possible to some younger readers that the accomplishments of half of humanity were relegated so long to a sub-category of "women's history." Not so long ago, some "women" historians assumed that revolution was a "stag affair." Women's roles varied as much as men: women were bystanders, victims, participants, and activists. Women were among the most important shapers of events in all camps, not the least the political struggle. Women insurgents fought on the barricades in the Parisian June Days of 1848. Female German Catholics and the group who organized a Women's college took another road in the interminable endeavor for women's rights. Women of all political camps encompassed Archduchess Sophie of the reactionary extreme right's camarilla and a socialist activist, Flora Tristan. The position of women in the British Chartist movement is finally told along with the French women's national workshops. An d not all female activists were radicals. A number were devoted to more traditional women's concerns of children and church. The revolution influenced education, charity, and the church. Even Polish women were active participants, but the most active women were in the west. Not only the great novelist George Sand played an important role, but also far less known: Eugenie Niboyet, Louise Otto, Marie Pape-Carpentier, Pauline Roland, Josephine Bachellery, Christina Belgiojoso-Trivulzi, Jeanne Deroin, Loui se Dittmar, Sarah Margaret Fuller, Jenny d'Hericourt, Desirée Gay, Elsia Lemonnier, Malwida Rivalier von Meysenbug, Frances Schervier, Anais Segalas, Amalie Sieveking, and Katinka Zitz-Halein.

Women were not merely radicals. Among counter-revolutionary heros decorated by the government for defense of order in the bloody June Days was a woman, Victorine Charlemagne, who raised the banner above the barricade on the rue de Noyante on June 25, 1848. Yet the iconography of the Fren ch Second Republic of 1848 also suggest two powerful slogans that allowed women to play a more prominent role in revolutionary events: the Christian Republic and Association. Such great concepts as Social Catholicism, the German Christian, Pius Unions, and Giobertti's neo-Guelfs reflected a new social consciousness of a faction within the Church. As men shifted their focus to caring for the less fortunate in society, they entered a sphere where women had traditionally functioned. The French February rev olution sought religious symbols and justification, entering the chapel of the Tuileries; the revolutionaries brought a priest to bless the a "liberty tree" placed before the city hall. The number of popular reproductions of religious blessings for the new government is equalled by the martyrdom of a bishop attempting to mediate in the June Days. Thus the watchword between February and June was fraternity, which, because of the Christian context, could favor some women who raised the banner of sorority, fo r if all men were brothers, could not women seek their sisters?

At least equally important were the Socialists who encouraged the feminists. Saint Simon and the Saint Simonians advocated rights for women.

Once no one could ignore women in their new political role, other men fell back on ridicule to caricature mercilessly the emancipated blue stockings. Women responded in their own feminist press as well as with traditional publications. Under the pen name of Dani el Stern, Madame D'Agoult wrote of the finest histories of the revolution, which has influenced subsequent accounts.

We begin with the beginning, and the old absolutist state was the revolutions' essential nemesis. Reinhold Blänkner introduces the volume by using the ingenious new German methodology of history of ideas in time (geschichtliche Grundbegriffe) to decipher the historical term "absolutism," which in the mid-19th century described the old ruling system. One response to the defenders of absolute monarchists was the counter movement of the French "revolutionary tradition." However the chain of absolutist repression and resulting revolutionary violence is complicated. Each rotation of the historical kaleidoscope re-directed the frame of reference; re-appearance of a revolution encountered transformed conditions and both caused and responded to new phenomena. Each successive upheaval reacted to a new situation; thus, the Great French Revolution of 1789-99 clamored for a liberal, parliamentary state. Their ringing slogans of "liberty, equality, fraternity" within an intervening half century had given new meaning to the very term equality. The prevailing connotations of brotherhood and equity evolved from 1789 to 1848. The forty-eighters presumed that they were simultaneously innovating while at the same time overcoming the regressive disruption of counter-revolutions by "completing" the work of previous revolutions and giving new more community-oriented substance to the locution of freedom.

The attempt to extend the Great Revolution's "Declaration of the Right of Man" to all humanity caused far more controversy than consensus. If the revolution promised equal civil rights to all men, what of a number of groups whom no one had considered "oppressed in 1789? The clamor for emancipation originated in Ireland in the 1820s, and by 1848 the slogan had been appropriated by black slaves, women, and Jews. Above all, a completely new attitude toward workers' rights dominated the era. The 1848 revolution shifted the entire discussion of the state's social responsibility from the Liberal caretaker state. In France the cry of the social republic promised every able bodied worker a job, a "right to work." Emancipation from the real of want by an interventionist republic accepted a social responsibility that clashed with the Liberal notion of a laissez-faire state.

A cacophony insisted on their own nation states; the new appeals surfaced i n a myriad of languages. In the aftermath of revolts succeeding nations awakened: Italians, Germans, Irish, Romanians, Hungarians, a host of Slavic peoples, not to speak of the Jews. Indeed, it is now impossible for any single person to comprehend the 1848 national revolutions with all their complexities. Not the least for the practical difficulty of mastering the various languages, which makes collaborative publications indispensable. Equally demanding is the challenge of escaping the constraints of one's own milieu.

The primary precept of the international cooperative venture was a neutral and non-judgmental presentation. The Encyclopedia endeavored to be inclusive, incorporating a number of aspects of the revolution from a variety of perspectives. Since historical wisdom has recognized two major revolutions, national and social revolutions, we propose a multi-national perspective. If the task of reconciling nations was too grandiose for a composite historical publication, we did undertake to be fair by soliciting articles from numerous nations. If some nations are under-represented, there are a manifold of reasons.

Our initial aspiration was to present an up to date summary of new research from as many of the various viewpoints as possible. Among the pioneer commentators on 1848, the radicals were a major school to untangle events. In the latter half of this century those individuals laying claim to this analysis made the 1848 revolution a premise of th eir world view that they professed could explain the laws of history. Originally, we contemplated devoting a greater proportion of the volume to Marxists historians, but events over-took the project. The greatest revolution of all time, the "turn" of 1989 upended world politics and made our original concept passé. As historical academies capsized and new personnel engaged, the new academy replaced the old arbiters of canon. The fluid situation caused us difficulties as a crisis overtook the entire system. John F. Flynn's article "German Revolution of 1848 and Historiography in the German Democratic Republic" delineates the old pre-1990 order whose rigid control of Marxist orthodoxy was exerted by the "Historical Institute of the GDR." Before the "turn" we originally planned to include even more articles from the east German institute in order to make the volume inclusive; readers could consult the Encyclopedia to get both a "Marxist perspective" as well as our own interpretation of matters. Tha t is, in order to be a true encyclopedia where readers could find a number of viewpoints, we sought to include the various national and ideological perspectives. Despite the demolition of the old organization we have nevertheless kept articles by authors from the former east German Democratic Republic (GDR). Thus, as the historical process overtook our writing, the reader now must make final judgment on the GDR and the contribution of its historians. Robert Goldstein attempted the difficult preliminary a nalysis of the 1989 revolutions, which are much more fundamental than in 1848.

The constant factor on both revolutions was national awakening. The call for freedom in 1848 was particularly strong in Italy. Vincenzo Gioberti's "neo-Guelf" program proposed reforms and a federated Italy with the pope as president. Thus contemporaries perceived the election of a reforming Pope Pius IX as harbinger of transformation. Pius IX's appointment of a leading liberal (Cardinal Gizzi) as his secre tary of state won the hearts of Italians. The subsequent amnesty of political prisoners in the Papal States creating an exaggerated expectation of liberality. The Sicilian priest Gioacchino Ventura actively championed an alliance between the catholic church and liberty. In opposition and sustaining the struggle against Italian unity was Cardinal Giacomo Antonelli, a great diplomatic champion of counter-Risorgimento.

The european revolutions in 1848 actually began in Sicily in an uprisi ng against the arbitrary, corrupt, and repressive Bourbon government of Ferdinand II (Bomba). The Neapolitan revolutionary, Silvio Spaventa, promoted united Italy, whose ideal of material and moral progress ultimately triumphed. Among the enemies of the revolution, we include Carlo Filangieri, a hostile counterpart to the great world revolutionist of Nice, Garibaldi. But in a larger sense the "Risorgimento" only climaxed its first stage in 1848-49. The group gathered around this newspaper furnished a na me to an stage in Italian and world history, and the 1848 revolution marked a transition between an earlier idealistic romanticism and ushered in a pragmatic, diplomatic, practical era following the military defeat of Charles Albert of Piedmont-Sardinia. An interim historical judgement on King Charles Albert, accentuates his weaknesses and the ulterior motives of his policy. But some contemporary Italians in what many will consider her darkest hour can return for inspiration to the pure ideal of Giuseppe Mazzini, who could inspire passionate devotion to the duty of Italians to give their lives in patriotic devotion to liberate Italy from all tyranny. A primary inspiration for all Italians, including her revolutionaries, is music. Goffredo Mameli, the martyred follower of Mazzini and composer of Fratelli d'Italia, the Italian national anthem, is as arousing as the story of the Jewish leader of the Venetian Republic Daniele Manin in the crucial struggle on the lagoons. Democrats recall with pride street fi ghters Carlo Cattaneo and Mauro Macchi in the critical five glorious days of Milan, when they ousted the army of the world's greatest military force from the city. And anyone who loves Italy should acknowledge the "Popular participation in the Italian revolutions." Others may want to peruse the articles on Guiseppe Ferrari and "federalism" to question if Italy's excessively centralized administrations has been a curse more than strength, if the centralism contributed to some of modern Italy's present poli tical difficulties. Yet such a hasty conclusion must be balanced by the cautionary note from the sketches of Saldino Sterbini, Massimo Taparelli d'Azeglio, Angelo Brunetti ("Ciceruacchio"), and Giuseppe Montanelli, champions of Italian unity. And what of the role of women like Princess Christina Belgiojoso-Trivulzio and Sarah Margaret Fuller? The rich fabric of Italy's revolutionary history reminds all that the story is not simple and only simpletons offer facile solutions.

We have als o included peoples usually hardly mentioned in previous accounts of the 1848 revolutions like the Romanians, Poles, Ukrainians, Slovaks, Bulgarians, and Serbians. The political awakening of these as well as the relatively better known tales of Czechs, Magyars, and the Italian Risorgimento are central topics in the great story of liberty in 1848. We have even found echoes of revolution as far away as Australia.

The deepening interest in these revolutions extends beyond traditional politi cal history to include other themes. Research in economic and social history has widened our appreciation of the rich tapestry of history. The story of Jewish freedom includes both their enemies and allies, the philosemites and antisemites. The portfolio of justice in the French provisional government was held by Adolphe Cremieux and Jewish civil rights were a major subject of debate in the Frankfurt assembly. Students played a major role in the French February revolution. But the most often overlooked group who emerged to political prominence in the revolution was women.

Recently society's "lower orders" have drawn our interest. The lack of political repression in Germany permitted an upsurge in spontaneous association. The open air meetings allowed political mobilization to supersede the merely social function of associations as well as giving a new political relevance to the charivari (Katzenmusik), a customary technique to proclaim communal indignation. Analogously in France " a vision of a social and democratic republic with a high degree of mutualism complemented the communal solidarities of traditional life. Almost all the folkloric forms of association such as the charivari, carnival, the 'farandole', fairs, and 'veillées' became infused with political purpose." The political function of lampoons, songs, and cafés inevitably awakened state repression of the working class by the police. The ability of police to regulate the drink question and drinking establis hments broke down. The loss of control by the forces of order spilled over into increased rural turmoil; the volunteer militias of Italy could descend to common banditry, and the rural crime influenced Italian political history. The police state's most obvious victim for repression was women, whose legal case is explored in "Divorce and Women in France." Other object for police regulation was the streets of Paris and supervision of urban life by experiments in worker housing.

An uns ettling and complex experiment in French participatory democracy includes articles on the French assembly, General Cavaignac, Adolphe Cremieux and Alphonse de Lamartine, a well as their conservative critics. Germany's parliamentary history begins with major debates in the Prussian and Frankfurt parliaments, where Archduke John's role will be a subject of controversy as well as the Austrian Reichstag, where peasant deputies in Vienna sat beside the liberator of Austria's serfs, Hans Kudlich, a Viennese stud ent and subsequently medical doctor in Hoboken, New Jersey.

In Prague the Slavic peoples deliberated in their own Congress of Slavs. Readers can assess events in Prague from multiple perspectives, those of East German, Polish, and American, as the deliberations were repressed by the Austrian military. Indeed, for most the revolution is synonymous with spontaneous crowd politics in Buda-Pest, the Parisian champs-de-mars demonstration, and the catastrophic Parisian June Days, which ende d in another bloodbath of military repression.

The conservative French resistance to the revolution reminds us of the immediate winners. We include such Conservatives as Bugeaud, Bismarck, Thiers, Jellacic, Prokesch-Osten, Radowitz, Buol-Schauenstein, the court camarilla, and the enigmatic Louis Napoleon. The essential organizer of political repression was the established powers within the Roman Catholic church, but this story is complex. The church also played the liberating role, par ticularly in the early stages, as we see in articles on with "Buchez," "German Catholics" and "Women's College." But the bulk of story concerns the attack on order, so most articles deal with the revolutionaries.

The vocabulary of working class is explored in the concept of association in France and in central Europe. The organized voluntary societies included the gymnastic Turnverein, the traditional French workers' "compagnonnage," the German workers' guilds, the Charbonnerie, and the Parisian clubs. The roster of major French socialists includes Considerant, Leroux, Barbès, Raspail, Proudhon, Blanqui, Blanc, Buchez, and Cabet. The head of the former East German historical institute gives a partisan perspective of Wilhelm Wolff and of the German Communists.

One of the revolution's great positive benefits was the French assembly's debate on slavery. The emancipation of the French colonies' slaves was one of the second republic's great accomplishments, wh ich was felt around the globe.

Yet we can offer only a small sampling of the great wealth of local studies. The springtime of the nations unfolded on a diverse regional echelon: the Silesian Rustical Alliances, Franconia, Wurttemberg, Baden, Bavaria, Prussia, and Saxony. These augment our understanding of events in Berlin, Frankfurt, Vienna, and Paris. The two countries relatively isolated from the violence were Great Britain and Belgium. Nevertheless, the revolution did not entirel y leave Belgium and Flanders untouched, and Dorothy Thompson found that 1848 formed a watershed in female association in British radical politics ending a period of greater male-female solidarity. In the earlier stage of the labor struggle, women Chartists actively participated in popular politics, but in the latter half of the century public life in Britain was "masculinized". The worker movement was less interested in "the unskilled, the migrant and the non-wage-earners among the working class." The sh ift from cottage industry to factory production relocated "work out of the home and small workshop and away from family production." We must then evaluate the importance of British radicals O'Brien, O'Connor, Harney and Jones. Were they merely minor players? And how should we assess the long range importance of Young Ireland's failed revolt?

The coverage of east central Europe is unprecedented in the Encyclopedia. The usually over-looked regions of Ukraine, Slovakia, Poland, and Roman ia are covered. The quality of the articles reflect the superb diligence of the editorial board. Slawomir R. Kalembka and Jolanta R. Pekacz in their own articles and those commissioned furnished superb examination of the global importance of the Poles. For example, men like Mickiewicz, Mieroslawski, Chrzanowski, and Bem provided leadership and inspiration for all central Europe. Readers ought to begin with the superlative investigation of the Great Polish Emigration to appreciate the ubiquitous presence of the Poles. They should read this in conjunction with "The International Status of the Romanian lands," a scrupulous study by the late Barbara Jellavich which is a testimonial to a superlative historian. She recruited Paul Michelson whose diligence was extraordinary. His general article on Romania reflects the key importance of eastern Hungary and the lands of the lower Danube. John Paul Himka effectively critiques Frederick Engels' fallacious division of Austrian nationalities into supposedly "histo ric" (Germans, Poles, Magyars) and "non-historic" (Czechs, South Slavs, Ukrainians, Slovaks, Transylvanian Romanians and Saxons). His articles evidence the importance of the Supreme Ruthenian Council and Ukraine. Himka's joint article with the Romanian Platon on Bucovina (Bukovina) reflects a typically troubled east central European province in the springtime of the peoples, searching for national pride in the troubled frontier districts. Equally compelling is Theodor Pavel's article on the Transylvanian Saxons and Ladilau Gyémant's article recounting of Stephan Ludwig Roth's tragic "symbol of the fight for the defense of existence and the interests of his nation, in the context of a similar observance of the rights of the other nations of Transylvania." Paul Michelson's extraordinary collection of biographical articles on the Romanians complements the Polish compendium to give a unique flavor to the volume.

The fate of the deeply divided eastern provinces of the Danubian monarc hy in Galicia and Transylvania is further underlined by Dusan Skvarna's article on the Slovaks of northern Hungary, David Mackenzie's on the Vojvodina of southern Hungary, and Simion Mindrut's on the Romanians and Serbs. The cataclysmic Hungarian conflicts have bred lamentable dissension that have decimated east central Europe.

Political events during the past few years prevented our obtaining requested articles on southern Hungary. The civil war among the southern Slavs made writing of visionary plans of cooperation in their common past impossible at the present time. Although some may find any reminders of Illyria inappropriate, the volume is dedicated to peaceful harmonization of European peoples. Thus Manin, Lamartine and Palacky are the representative figures of the era. The utopian oracles are easy subjects for cynics' ridicule. But have the "realists" brought us more than world wars and cold wars? Is it not time to return to 1848 for inspiration of more elevated concepts r ather than organized butchery?

Iconography suggests an answer. The revolutionary mob who sought the living waters and churchmen gave a religious blessing to February revolution as Polytechnique students led the mob to the Tuileries chapel and before the Hotel de Ville. And balancing the martyrdom of Archbishop Affre by a bullet in the June Days the era is closed by numerous prints depicting Baudin, the victim of Louis Napoleon's coup d'etat. And Colbert contributed the ultimate illus tration of the barricade fighter for Baudelaire's journal "Public Salvation". The Second Republic's most lasting monument was not subsequent statues of the unfortunate Baudin but slavery emancipation in French colonies. And for a brief moment bourgeois and workers discussed their mutual problems.

A pleasant reminder of great minds, even if some presently judge them chimerical, are the contributions on Frantisek Palacky and Lajos Kossuth's utopian plans after 1849 for a Danubian Confede ration. No matter how dark the present, the faith of visionaries light the future. If Palacky was deficient has a "practical politician," many may judge this less severely from the present perspective. After reading the articles on the Berlin court camarilla, Archduchess Sophie, and Jellacic, some might perceive more light among the idealists than those another era praised for their "realism."

James G. Chastain
Athens, Ohio and Beaulieu sur mer, France

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