1848: Year of Revolution Paperback
by Mike Rapport
In 1848, Europe was engulfed in a firestorm of revolution.
The streets of cities from Paris to Bucharest and from Berlin to Palermo were barricaded and flooded by armed insurgents proclaiming political liberties and national freedom.
The conservative order which had held sway since the fall of Napoleon in 1815 crumbled beneath the revolutionary assault.
This book narrates the breathtaking events which overtook Europe in 1848, tracing brilliantly their course from the exhilaration of the liberal triumph, through the fear of social chaos to the final despair of defeat and disillusionment.
The failures of 1848 would scar European history with the contradictions of authoritarianism and revolution until deep into the twentieth century.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 480 pages, Section: 16, b/w photos
- Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
- Publication Date: 03/12/2009
- Category: European history
- ISBN: 9780349118642
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Review by dougwood57
While the book jacket compares the widespread revolutions of 1848 to those of 1989, the book itself reveals that the upheaval of 1848 led mainly (and quickly) to counter-revolution and conservative retrenchment. Thus, the subject of the book is largely one of anti-climax. Revolutions of varying degrees swept across much of Europe, including France, Italy, Germany, Prussia, Austria, and Hungary. The movements tended to be nationalist, liberal, and democratic - sometimes republican, in the sense of giving the heave-ho to the reigning monarch. Nationalist, liberal, and democratic values did not necessarily cohere. The movements experienced exciting successes; exciting but short-lived. Within the year most of the democratic and liberal advances were been swept away by counter-revolutions that restored power to conservative monarchs in nearly every country. Nationalism fared somewhat better. The revolutions arguably did further the unification of Germany and Italy in the coming decades. The broad scope of Rapport's book, albeit contained within one year, presents a formidable challenge to any writer. Nineteenth century Europe presents the reader with bewildering complexity. Bear in mind that Italy and Germany did not exist in the modern sense, but rather consisted of a plethora of independent or quasi-independent entities. Hungary was struggling for independence from - or at least within - the Habsburg Empire. Each `country' had its own autonomous movements with its own leaders. Complexities multiply. Thus, I think it is not too harsh to say that Rapport falls short of rendering a structured and clear history.Rapport's beginning is strong, but he soon begins to plod through each country's revolt seriatim; first France, then Germany, Hungary, and Italy. The same process is repeated through each six chapters. He brutally overuses the familiar phrasing "the latter" and "the former", which is annoying and confusing; why not just use the name of the person or place again? With dozens of names and places, repeating them would have been helpful.Until the brief conclusion, Rapport does not provide context or structure. The reader's head spins with mostly unfamiliar names and places and is soon buried under a mountain of detail. Had Rapport woven the larger perspective one finds in the Conclusion into the main narrative, he would have produced a far more elucidating book.