[Part 1] Revolutionary Movement in Europe: Holy Alliance and Britain

The period after 1815 saw the emergence of revolutionary activity in every country in Europe. While some of the revolutions aimed at overthrowing the autocratic rulers and abolition of serfdom; some others aimed at overthrow of foreign rule and social-economic-politico reforms. Nationalism emerged as a major force in this period. Revolutionaries were generally inclined towards fighting despotism everywhere. The despotic governments were also united to suppress every revolt and movement against any despotism.

The Holy Alliance

Holy Alliance

Holy Alliance

In 1815, rulers of Austria, Britain, Russia and Prussia formed an alliance, with the aim of suppressing any attempt by the people to overthrow a ruler, whom these countries considered the ‘legitimate’ ruler of the concerned country. France also joined the alliance. The alliance was openly against the democratic ideas and movements. Freedom of Press was abolished and revolutionaries were kept under control. In 1821, Austria sent her army into Italy to suppress the uprisings. However, these measures failed to control the revolutionary movements, and in 1830, a number of revolutions broke in Europe. French monarch had to flee to England, and was later succeeded by Louis Philippe, who promised to rule according to the wishes of the people. Belgium gained her independence from Holland in 1839.

In 1848, revolutions broke in most of the countries of Europe, which made a severe blow to the Holy Alliance. There were revolutions in Italy and France. France again became a republic, though for a small period, as the power was usurped by Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, or Napoleon III, in 1852. France finally became a republic in 1871, after the empire of Napoleon collapsed. Revolution in France was followed by revolutions in many parts of Germany.

Revolution also occurred in Vienna of Austrian empire. Austrian empire was a huge empire, and comprised of Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Poland, Yugoslavia and many other areas. Due to the increasing revolts, the empire had shaken.

Revolts of 1848 failed to overthrow the oppressive regimes, though they did weaken them. These revolutions, however, introduced a new political force in Europe. Major players in these revolutions were the workers, capitalists, merchants and other middle classes, who were the product of the industrial revolutions, and wanted constitutional reforms.

Growth of Democracy in England


The first successful revolution to overthrow the autocratic monarchy took place in England in the 17th century, and resulted in the establishment of supremacy of the Parliament in England. However, the Parliament was not popularly elected. The Franchise was very restricted. Thus, through the 18th and 19th century, there grew a demand to enhance the suffrage.

Until 1832, representation in Parliament was not based on population but election districtscounties and boroughs. These counties and boroughs were not densely populated. Many of the highly populated centers and towns were not represented. Under the Act of 1832, these unpopulated areas or rotten boroughs were abolished and their seats were given to the new towns and cities. At this time, the right to vote was given to only those who owned or rented a house of a certain value. This constituted only 10% of the populations.

It was only 200 years after the Parliament became supreme that it became truly representative.

Part 2 on German Unification Coming soon…

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