Popular protest is a classic tool to bring about political change. Sometimes the protests are successful – like the revolutions against Communist rule in Eastern Europe in 1989. Sometimes they are put down (like the Prague Spring had been in 1968). Sometimes, the result is mixed – the Euromaidan protests in Kiev during the winter of 2013/14 strengthened democracy in the country by removing its autocratic president Viktor Yanukovych, but the Ukrainians paid a steep price for their freedoms as Vladimir Putin took the removal of his vassal Yanukovych unkindly and has been attempting to dismantle Ukraine since then. And sometimes, the success of revolution is still in the air – like in Iran, where large crowds have been protesting for the last months against their fundamentalist government’s meddling in private affairs.
As these examples show, success and failure are sometimes not so easy to assess. They also demonstrate that protest is often limited to a few cities or one country. Only rarely does revolution leap from one place to another. The closest Europe has ever come to a revolutionary conflagration was 175 years ago, in 1848. This post traces the roots of these revolutions to the French Revolution, takes a look at the restaurationist interlude and the mounting political pressures before 1848, and then looks at the outbreak of revolution in the Paris of February 1848. With that, the stage is set for the 1848 series of posts on this blog!
The Spark of Revolution (1848, #1)
Fringes of an Empire (1848, #3)Continue reading