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This unit is about The 1848 Revolution in Austria Though Metternich helped Austria to escape the 1830 revolutions through his Metternich system, austral succumbed to the 1848 revolutions because of the inherent weaknesses are of which its heterogeneous nature.



Though Metternich helped Austria to escape the 1830 revolutions through his Metternich system, austral succumbed to the 1848 revolutions because of the inherent weaknesses are of which its heterogeneous nature.

The empire was made up of 18 subject races ie Austria proper was inhabited by Germans, bohemian and Monrovia (inhabited by Czechs, Slovaks, Germans)  Hungary (Magyar with many minorities especially Croats and Serbs), Galacia (mainly Ruthenia’s and poles) Lombardy and Venetia (Italians) Illyria and Dalmatia (Serbs and Croats).

With such an arrangement, if nationalism spread through the empire, it would fall to pieces.

It’s therefore this conglomeration of races with diverse cultured religions that proved to be the base on which the revolutions in Austria in 1848 lay.


The government f the Hapsburg Empire. Austria was despotic state in which every individual in the state was responsible to none there than the emperor. However despite its despotism, the monarchy was inefficient. It was always in constant debt since the expenditure of the government never once balanced its income.

There was unfair taxation and economic backwardness which further worsened the social conditions.

Even Metternich’s proposals to correct the situation had not been considered. He had this to say “I have sometimes ruled Europe” he declared.

“But I have never governed Austria” so the masses felt they had to revolt in order to improve their standard of living.

Censorship Metternich came up with an elaborate system o censorship intended to seal off the empire from liberal ideas coming from Western Europe.

Newspapers, journals, text books were objects of special attention.

However it was said by observers that books from Western Europe reached Austrian university students in great numbers. It’s not surprising that the student’s f Vienna University took a very prominent part in the evolution of 1848.

Religious intolerance. This was a great source of irritations many people in the empire. Austria being a catholic state only appointed Catholics to high public offices and other forms of worship were abolished except cat holism yet Austria in 1815 had incorporated other nationalities of different religious back ground e.g. the Czechs and Slovaks were protestants and the slaves were orthodox. This could not be tolerated nay longer thus the 1848 revolutions in the Austrian empire.

Grievances of the bourgeoisies. They were not pleased with the emperor’s economic policies. There was great inefficiency in economic and financial matter which kept the industry and aide of Austrian backward compared to other states.

This backwardness and inefficiency caused discontent among sections of the Austrian merchants, trades, etc. they were always irritated by wastage of economic resource.

The emperor was also against a free trade policy so they could not obtain raw materials from other states due to high taxes. Consequently they decided to revolt in 1848.

The influence of the successful February revolution in France. This served as an example to them because they discovered the methods of dealing with a corrupt and unjust government.

This elevated people’s spirits and rove tem into a revolution. Just as Metternich commented; “when France sneezes, the rest of Europe catches a cold”.

The economic distress of 1843 – 1847 in the Austrian empire also played a significant role.

They experienced poor corn harvest, increasing food prices, poor living conditions, poor sanitation etc. this was accelerated by outbreak of epidemics e.g cholera and dynasty.

So the people decided to revolt against the government which had failed to alleviate the poor conditions of the masses.

Privileged position of the nobility; the Austrian aristocracy was highly privileged class. It controlled all the main activities of both the town and country side and held all the chief government posts.

Their privileges were similar to those of the nobility in France before 1789. It was natural enough that the middle class should feel this situation as distinct grievance which pushed them to revolt in 1848.

Role of Louis ksauth and Hungarian liberalism. Hungary was the only part of the Austrian empire which enjoyed the greatest opportunity for national feeling.

Louis kossth, a young fiery lawyer led a movement to introduce liberal reforms e.g the debates in the deity should circulates, etc.

he was imprisoned but no return in 1847, he was imprisoned but on return in 1847, he was elected as a member of parliament for Budapest in the new diet with his activities he was already championing hungry against Austria.

              The Image of    Revolution 1848




As news of events in Paris 23rd – 24th February began to spread across the continent, European liberals were not to contain their excitement.

At meetings and demonstration middle class reformers disaffected workers and student radicals gave notice of their intention to force a change in the out dated system of government, discredited in their eyes after years of inaction and suffocating repression.

In the Hapsburg Empire, the added dimension of radical tension entered the frame as the grivanceds of various national groups gathered momentum.

The guardians of the old order had hrdly time to tremble before over whelmed by a huge wave of popular disapproval.


On 3rd march Kossuth, Hungary’s prominent nationalist leader delivered an impassioned speech before the Hungarian diet meeting at press burg (Bratislava).

He demanded absolute rule from Vienna an outlined constitutional changes which would ets. Hungarian autonomy.

Hossuth’s inspirational and persuasive appeal led the pressburg appeal diet to pass the March laws.

The fall of Metternich and the crisis in Vienna meant that the March laws received imperial approval from ferdinard without dispute.

The emperor’s authority over hungry was terminated and power passed on to an independent Magyar government headed by court Louis Bethany.

The triumphant Kossuth became minister of France.


In Vienna during the 2nd week of March, it aimed and petitions middle class liberals and radical students collected support for abroad package of progressive reforms.

Press freedom, jury trials emancipation of peasants, civil rights and representative constitutional government.

Then on 13th march the lower Austrian. Diet met in the capital to discuss the crisis and call the dismissal of Metternich.

While the diet was in session on expectant crowd began to assemble.

Speeches were made and leaflets bearing the text of Kossuth’s radical address to Hungarian.

Diet on 3rd was passed among the excited crowd.

When Metternich was sighted at a window in the chancellery, the crowd turned their anger on the man who had come to symbolize conservation of the imperial government.

Increasingly abusive sections of the crowd broke into the hall where the diet was in session. Troops were now ordered to disperse the demonstrators using fixed bayonets and live rounds.

The mood of anger spread as barricades were set up and thousands of people took the streets adding their voices to the demur for reform and the removal of Metternich.

That same evening Metternich offered his resignation emperor Ferdinand accepted and instructed his ministers to “Tell the people that I consent to everything.”

The following morning Metternich left Austria (Vienna) to seek refuge in England.

However the departure of Metternich did not satisfy all the demands of the reformers. There were further demonstrations on 15th march and Ferdinand was forced to agree to introduce a constitution.

Meanwhile effective control of the city passed into the hands of students who formed the radical cave of the Viennese revolutionaries.

On 25th April, a constitution was published and immediately rejected by the radicals. Further disturbance within the city caused the government to withdraw its constitution.

It was proposed to hold elections (based on universal suffrage) to a constituent assembly, which would draft a new constitution.

On 17th may, two days after Ferdinand had agreed to these proposals, the emperor and his family fled from Vienna to Innsbruck.


The events in Hungary encouraged similar nationalistic demands amongst the Czechs in bohemia.

On 11th march at café in Prague, Czech intellectuals drew upon petition to represent to the emperor.

A delegation headed by university professor, Francis Palacky was sent to Vienna to present the Czech demands.

They requested a package of liberal reforms and more significantly perhaps the unity and independence of the land of St. Wenceslausie bohemia Moravia and Silesia.

In April, Vienna agreed to the liberal ad promised to establish a parliament in Prague. The question of uniting bohemia, Morania and Silacia was placed on the agenda of the next imperial parliament.

Northern Italy

In Lombardy and Venetia, the expulsion of the Austrians was seen as an essential pre-condition to the development of liberal institutions and improvement of economic conditions.

The fall of Metternich provoked a violent response in Milan.

On 18th march, 10,000 protestors prevented a petition calling for freedom of press and elections to a parliament.

Trouble quickly flared street battles between Austrian troops and the people of Milan raged for 5 days before the Austrian commander Rodetsky was forced to withdraw from the city.

In his diary for 22nd march he wrote, “it is the most frightful decision of my life, but I can no longer hold Milan. The whole country is in revolt.”

In Venice, a similar fate befell the Austrian garrison under general zincky; here arising led by Daniel manin led to the creation of an independent Venetian republic.

Before the end of march, Piedment had joined the anti – Austrian movement and along with Lombardy and Venetia declared was on the Hapsburg.

Why the revolutions in Austria failed. (How the Hapsburg survived 1848.)

The gains made by some national groups threatened the position of other e.g between the Magyars and Croats and between the Germans and Czechs.

Soon after the Magyars had won independence, the Croats and Rumanians aided objection to the proposal of absorbing them into the neck Hungarian state so jellies, the creation governor affirmed his loyalty to the emperor and with the aim of returning the Magyars to the fold (under Austria) he invaded the Hungary in September 1848.

The delegates called for the union of all German in a greater Germany and this was to include bohemia, movant and Silesra.

However the Czechs also laid claims over these areas. In order to resist German national ambitions. The Czechs sought the security of the German national ambitious, th Czechs sought the security of the Hapsburg empire. E.g. their leader Dalacky had this to say; “if the Austrian empire did not exist, it would be necessary for us to create it”.

So in response to German nationalism he developed the programmer of Austro-Slavism. This aimed at transforming the empire into a federation of independent subject states united under Hapsburg protection.

There were divisions between the liberals and democrats.

The middle class liberals were more attached to a monarchy but with a constitution and only a limited extension of the franchise to them social change was undesirable, yet on the other hand, the radical democrats, demanded for social improvements ad desired a republic.

There were five revolutionary centers in Austria ie Vienna, Milan, Prague, Budapest and German. These were not hostile.

They seemed to have only one thing in common, the disintegration of the existing empire. But it was saved from ie multiplicity and diversity of component races.

Consequently the workers’ demonstrations in Vienna between June and August were violently suppressed by the middle class national guard.

A similar situation existed in Lombardy and Venetia where the middle class revolutionaries failed to address the interests of the common people.

The revolutionary governments in Milan and Venice were dominated by property owners who did not mind about the Grecian reforms of the peasants.

So they lost the potential support of peasants leading to the failure of the 1848 revolutions.

The constituent assembly that was elected following the revolution in Vienna made a very significant decision in September 1848 ie it abolished serfdom throughout the Hapsburg empire.

However by abolishing serfdom, the revolutionaries had removed the principal grievance of the peasants and left them with little cause to oppose the Hapsburg.

The restorations of imperial authority also owed much to the discipline and loyalt, noble origin and were therefore committed to the value of the old order now being challenged by the revolutionaries.

The high command under the direction of Rodetsky, Windischgratz and Jellacic was solid and experienced so when faced with hostile crowds, they rarely disobeyed orders e.g. Charles Albert was defeated at Novara in august, Magyars surrendered at villages on 13th August 1849.


Metternich lost his position in Austria and went into exile which was a relief to the revolutionaries.

After the revolutionaries were suppressed, Metternich returned in 1851 but every again held office.

Serfdom came to an end in Austria. It had abolished by the constituent assembly elected after the revolution in Vienna.

Ferdinand lost his throne and was replaced by Francis Joseph (18 years) in December 1848.

The Czechs came up with a programe of austro- slavism. However this was short lived.

Why the 1848 revolutions failed in Europe.

Divisions among the revolutionaries; one in control, the revolutionaries were unable to agree among themselves e.g. division racial line e.g. in Hungary, there was racial disunity between Magyars and Croats, religious differences e.g. in Germany between the protestants and Catholics in political ideology i.e. some preferred constitutional monarchs while others were in favors of republics.

The essential spontaneous nature of the revolutions i.e. many of them had not been planned were poor organized and these who took part in the revolutions did not know what they wanted, but just to have big fun. It is not surprising that they failed.

The revolutions were led by middle class intellectuals who had no practical experience but simply wasted time on endless debates e.g. in Germany states debates came to a logical conclusion.

The armed force played major role in the failure of these revolutions i.e. instead of supporting the revolutions they worked to fail them e.g. in Austria the army under general Rodetsky worked to suppress the revolution.

Fredrick William IV made use of the Prussian army against the assembly in Berlin etc. and general Italy Nay Haynau nicknamed hyena.

Continuing financial difficulties. The revolutionaries lacked enough money to support the revolutions.

This was worsened by poor weather conditions yet most of these economies were agro based.

In France the provisional government under general Cavaignac bank of France fell by 70%, the peasant support for the republic was greatly affected 50, 00 troops were needed to capolise the country side for the remainder of 1848.

The revolutionaries raised expectations which they were offered to them e.g. the second son of Charles Albert refused the throne of scaly and Fredrick William Iv Prussia refused the throne of Germany by referring to the crown given to him by German liberals as crown of share.

In most states, the peasant masses were excluded from participation in the revolutions, the new political system established by the revolutionary conditions for peasants did not in most of states so they did not find any reason to support the revolutionaries, consequently,, the revolts failed.

The revolutionaries were guilty of miscalculations, delays and hesitations which acted directly against their interests e.g. Charles Albert hesitated when he was called upon to attack Austria, the Frankfurt parliament took a whole year to work out a scheme share of a union and by the time the assembly made the constitutions the tide had changed.

Most of the revolutions failed because they lacked foreign aid e.g. in Italy and germane, Hungary. Instead foreign aid worked against them e.g. in Italy napoleon III offered support to the pope in order to win the favors and support of the Catholics in Hungary, Russia fought on the side of Austria, etc.

Metternich system; although he lost power I Vienna his system was so entrenched in the Austrian empire and in German state at convince off rulers and at it became impossible.


The 1848 revolutions with the exception of a few were notable to achieve their objectives since by 1849, many of them had been suppressed and counter revolutionary measures put in place to prevent their re-occurrence.


Even the constitutions that had been granted were withdrawn.

They resulted into the fall of Metternich and his system which denied people their liberty. Metternich had been great obstacle nationalism.

His exrt in 1848 brought great relief to Europe and a great change in Europe especially the destruction of the aristocracy.

There was abolition of feudalism in Austria in September 1848 by the Vienna constituent assembly.

They shocked the despotic rule (aristocracy) e.g. they resulted into the temporary overthrow of despotic rulers and establishment of liberal constitutions e.g. Sicily, piedmont, the pope was forced into exile aboard a republic was set up though later suppressed with the help of France.

The 1848 revolutions aught the revolutionaries the need for concerted effort in their struggle for independence.

The different states e.g. Italian and German states, the Austrian empire had racial differences etc. though tare 1848, many of them worked together to achieve their unification.

The unification of Italy and Germany was begun with their revolutions e.g. when the revolution failed in Rome, those who had been working for Italian unification turned to pennon I Sardinia and later it is this state that led the unification struggle for Italy and even provided united Italy with the 1st king (victor Emmanuel III).

The 1848 revolution changed the trend of political thought. People lost their faith in violence and opted for more peaceful means in a bid to attain liberty.

Such included democracy search for foreign aid as well as economic development e.g. Cavour emphasized the need for foreign aid. Bismarck emphasized the need for a developed economy e.g. German states united through the economic union zollerevein. Thus the revolutionaries learnt from their mistakes.


They even learnt that masses were important in supporting nationalistic movements.

They marked the fall of monarchial rule in France. The last monarchy was the Orleans monarchy and up to date monarchism is a thing of the past in France.

The rise of new leaders. The last monarchy was the Orleans monarchy and up to date monarchism is a thing of the past in France.


Why didn’t the 1848 revolutions take place in Britain and Belgium?.



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