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Europe in 1848, Revolution and Reform.

Europe in 1848, Revolution and Reform. Edited by Dieter Dowe, Heinz-Gerhard Haupt, Dieter Langewiesche, and Jonathan Sperber (New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2001. xi+937pp. $79.95/cloth).

Scholars and students alike will be grateful to the Friedrich Ebert Foundation for sponsoring an international conference that convened in Wurzburg in 1996 to discuss the European-wide Revolutions of 1848 and for supporting the publication of the papers first in German in 1998 and, with the help of translator David Higgins, in English in 2001. This collection boasts 39 essays, rich in information and comparative analysis, organized into geographical and thematic sections. Two introductory essays launch the volume. The first by Heinz-Gerhard Haupt and Dieter Langewiesche highlights the three ambitions of the 1848 Revolutions: democratization of political order, solutions to social problems, and national self-determination. Noting that it is far too limiting to locate these Revolutions merely as failures or turning points, they present a range of short, medium, and long term effects of the Revolutions, including the development of a European-wide "communication zone" in which one could gain political experience from the Revolutions without actually participating (12- 13). The second introductory essay by Roger Price features the development of Counter-Revolution. He outlines the weaknesses and divisions among the revolutionaries, the centrality of moral and social order among the conservative counter-revolutionaries, their military response, and methods of political repression. "Persuasion was to be preferred to coercion," insists Price (42). By combining traditional authority with modern forms of mass appeal, counter-revolutionaries sought to limit reforms and manipulate popular loyalties and social control through police, religious activities and educational institutions. This post-revolutionary settlement, however, failed to dissipate the appeal and ambitions of nationalism.

The first half of the collection, parts I and II, focus on the geography of the Revolutions. Alongside central pieces emphasizing the Bonpartist outcome in France, highlighting the contradictory aims of the constitutional reforms and national ambitions in Germany, and underscoring the range and interconnection of political, social, and national revolutions in the Habsburg Empire, is a selection of essays on the revolutionary experience in such lesser-known regions as Moldavia, Wallachia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Bavaria, and Scandinavia. This continental overview underscores that many regions--Italy, Poland, Switzerland, and Scandinavia--experienced revolutionary and reform impulses prior to the outbreak of rebellion in Paris. A provocative study of Britain highlights the contradictory influences the continental Revolutions had on British reform movements, in particular the ill-fated 1848 alliance between Irish Confederates and Chartists. While the Revolutions prompted Irish nationalists to abandon political restraint, they compelled the Chartists to affirm their identity as respectable constitutional Britains. In distinguishing the British reform platform from the European Revolutions, the Chartists illuminate some of the co-existing tensions in duel projects of political and national reform.

These tensions, conflicting dynamics inherent in the scope of aspirations in 1848, and the radicalizing influence of the Revolutions in central and western Europe are evident in the essays treating Scandinavia. In Denmark peaceful political reform transformed into a three year civil war as revolutionary unrest in France and Germany created the decisive conditions in March 1848 for the victory of nationalists in Copenhagen and Kiel. Prior to news of the Revolutions, the Norwegian parliament faced opposition by urban liberals desiring further constitutional reforms and democratic farmers seeking strong local self-government. Inspired by the news of the Revolutions, the laboring classes--servants, day, and rural laborers under the leadership of Marcus Thrane--organized and challenged the government to face the inferior social status of the propertyless, laboring poor. In both Norway and Sweden, the press played a significant role mobilizing popular participation in reform movements and societies. In Sweden, it w as the liberal middle classes that drew encouragement from the Revolutions, but they ultimately pioneered their own version of "harmony liberalism," viewed as a precursor to the twentieth century Swedish welfare state.

Comparative analyses in part II reevaluate the methods and goals of the revolutionary urban and rural populations. Essays investigating "the stamp that the capital cities put on the face and course of the Revolutions" as well as "second cities" like Lyon and Hamburg highlight the municipal culture of associational life, communication networks, political institutions, as well as fundamental urban features of population growth and pauperism. In rural France, Germany, Italy, and southeastern Europe, revolutionary movements centered on social questions unknown to urban revolutionaries until village protests forced revolutionaries to confront the sources of agrarian unrest. Peasant protest actually produced results that outlived the Revolutions, evident in new agrarian ministries in France and Germany as well as the policies of emancipation and, even if inconsistent, agrarian reform.

Essays in part III examine the structures and politics of the 1848 Revolutions, including a comparative analysis of parliaments, German and French governmental strategies to limit rather than repress political reforms, political associations and party formations, and an overview of media culture in France and Germany, featuring the novelty of political cartoons. Society in upheaval, provides the theme for part VI treating the revolutionary encounter of such specific social groups and institutions as women, Jews, civic guards, the military, churches, and educational institutions. Essays on revolutionary culture expressed in spontaneous grassroots public meetings, street politics in cities and villages, revolutionary festivals in Tuscany and Baden, the continuity and potency of revolutionary language, and the relationship between rumors and police spies during the Second French Republic underscore the exceptional wave of participation in public life during the Revolutions of 1848. Two concluding chapters addres s the complicated legacy and mythology of the Revolutions, in particular how competing views of 1848 have shaped collective memory and emerged as epic legends to define and legitimize later communities and polities.

Less concerned with judging the winners and losers of the Revolutions, these essays successfully indicate how contemporaries understood and experienced the "crazy year" of 1848. Considering the number and range of themes, the essays complement each other remarkably well. Although the volume favors France and Germany in comparative analysis, it is the first collection to provide a continental-wide tableau of the Revolutions of 1848 and as such it is a remarkable resource that surely will stimulate further comparative studies and scholarly debate.
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Author:Aaslestad, Katherine B.
Publication:Journal of Social History
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 22, 2002
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