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Why did the liberal revolutions of 1848 fail?

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Why did the liberal revolutions of 1848 fail?

The first thing to realize about 1848 was the scope of the crisis. The fact that it failed means that people sometimes forget how big it was. Except for London and St. Petersburg, there was a revolution in every major European capital in 1848 or shortly thereafter. But in between those two, every major European capital suffered some form of revolutionary movement. Why did they fail? Well, in some sense this question is also related to what kind of linkages we can connect between the French Revolution in 1789 and the Russian Revolution in 1917.

The revolutions of 1848 were led by liberal nationalists who had the model of the French Revolution before them. This meant that they were in many ways cautious about their goals. At the same time, the revolution took place too early in the history of European industrialization, so there was not a big enough constituency in support of more radical ideas such as those of Karl Marx and other socialist theorists of the time. This was the revolution that fell between two stools, in a sense.

There is a lot to be said for this argument, but it's also important to remember that the revolutions of 1848 did not completely fail. What failed in Germany and in France and in Italy was the idea that these countries could be unified under liberal principles. What happened, however, was that conservative regimes in Europe - the Prussians and later the Piedmontese, who helped to unify Italy afterwards - realized that their political goals could be fulfilled by rallying a popular nationalism.

That liberal revolution failed in 1848 is indisputable. But a popular sort of nationalism, enlisted by conservative monarchies, emerged as one of the most powerful organizing forces in politics in the late 19th century.