In 1848 Europe experienced nearly-coinciding revolutions in different regions led by activists and rebels who sought constitutional and democratic governments to replace authoritarian regimes. Though initially these revolutions were unsuccessful in achieving their aims of reforming the conservative political landscape, they did have significant impacts in Italy, France, Austria and Germany, where they influenced the course of future political change.


In Italy, the revolutions were mainly carried out by displaces workers affected by a recession and leftist activists who sought to end Austrian rule over various Italian states. The revolutionaries were unified under and led by King Charles Albert of Piedmont-Sardinia with encouragement in the form of first speeches and later troop support from Pope Pius IX. Though the Italian uprising was quelled by the in July of 1848, the rebellion augured well for Albert's successor Victor Emmanuel II, who would successfully expel the Austrians in 1860. Battles for Italian unification continued throughout Italy for decades, however.


In France, the revolution was led by liberals and leftist intellectuals who overthrew King Louis Philippe and established the Second French Republic in June of 1848. Soon after, however, the republic moved in a conservative direction, and Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, was elected president with the support of farmers and peasants. Four years later in 1852, Louis Napoleon abolished the Republic, established the Second French Empire and declared himself Emperor Napoleon III.


In Austria, the revolutionary movements had nationalists characteristics, as groups such as the Hungarians, the Slovenes, the Serbs, and others ruled by the Austrian Habsburgs joined with leftist activists to rebel against the Austrian Empire. Though the revolution failed, Austrian Emperor Ferdinand I abdicated the throne to his 18-year old nephew Franz Joseph, who would rule Austria during what would become known as its golden age. The nationalist tremors, however, remained bubbling under the surface of the Austrian Empire: In 1914, Serbian nationalists would assassinate Franz Joseph's nephew Archduke Franz Ferdinand, igniting World War I.

Germany and Others

Like Italy, Germany was not a unified country in 1848, and the revolutions occurred in various states, led by those who sought to reform their governments and many of whom sought to unify Germany. The German state of Prussia not only successfully put down its own revolution, but helped other German states quell revolutions, thus establishing Prussia's dominance. When Germany was finally unified in 1871, it was under Prussia.