Revolutions in Europe

Now and then the sweeping economic and social changes in Europe entailed insurrections and transformations, which in turn influenced social theories. The French Revolution marked the start of an entire series in the ‘long’ nineteenth century, culminating in the First World War. The ideals of 1789 – liberty, equality, and fraternity – inspired all efforts to bring about a society where all people in the world would be equal without exception (20-21). In France the transformation appeared to be an ongoing process. In 1830 the Restoration was reversed, and in 1848 the constitutional monarchy fell, and workers revolted en masse for the first time (22). In 1871 this happened again during the Paris Commune (23-24), which to left and right alike long symbolized the proletarian revolution.

Although for a long time (and perhaps mainly in retrospect) the course of events in Great Britain seemed to be more gradual, the radical element was omnipresent. In acquiring the Kashnor collection, the IISH obtained a major pamphlet collection documenting this longstanding tradition that extended from the English Civil War in the mid-seventeenth century through Chartism, which shook the very foundations of the country nearly two centuries later (25-26). The revolutions of 1848, which occurred not only in France but also in many Italian, German, and Habsburg countries, revealed that social and national problems were often inextricably linked (27-29). This remained the case throughout the nineteenth century and also had an impact on the collapse instigated by the First World War of the great Ottoman, Russian, Habsburg, and German Empires. In Germany the end of the war led to a new revolutionary wave, with the Bavarian Soviet Republic of April 1918 as one of the highlights (30).