(15) History of Europe

Louis XVIII

HE16

Precursors to 1848: The 1830 Revolution in France

These liberal and national movements came together in revolts and revolutions in numerous places in the 1820s and 1830s, including Belgium (chafing under Dutch rule), Spain, and several Italian states. The best-known and most successful revolutionary movement before 1830, however, was the Greek revolt against Ottoman control.

 

The Greeks won sympathy in Europe as a Christian nation struggling against Muslim domination and from the European sense that Western civilization had begun in Greece. So, in contrast to other national insurgencies, the revolt in Greece actually won support from some of the monarchies in Europe, and the Greeks won their independence in 1829. (The British romantic poet Lord Byron died while fighting for the Greek cause.)

But it was France, once again, that experienced the most important upheaval during this period-the July Revolution of 1830. The restored Bourbon monarch, Louis XVIII, had been succeeded by Charles X in 1824, which quickly moved toward a more absolutist regime, threatening to roll back most of the gains of the 1789 revolution. Legislative elections in 1830 brought in a legislature that opposed and resisted the reactionary tendencies of the king. In July, Charles declared the elections invalid, outlawed public assembly, and stepped up censorship.

The response was immediate: Barricades were thrown up and workers, students, and intellectuals massed in the streets, defying the army and the police. Most of the army refused to fire on the protestors, however, and Charles, not wanting to suffer the same fate as his brother (Louis XVI, who was beheaded in 1793), abdicated and fled to England.

In seeking a successor as king, the revolutionaries bypassed the Bourbon line and placed on the throne the Duke of Orleans. As a young man, the Duke had served in the republican army of 1792, so he was assumed to be sympathetic to revolutionary ideals. He took the name Louis Philippe and called himself not the king of France, but the king of the French; he flew the tricolor flag of the Revolution, not that of the Bourbon lily. France still had a monarchy, but it was the end of the Bourbon monarchy, and this king owed his throne to the insurrection, not to his bloodline.

Word of the July uprising spread throughout Europe, sparking similar uprisings in Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, and Poland. The outcomes of these revolts were mixed. In Brussels, disturbances just a month after the Paris events led to demands for the independence of Belgium from Holland, which was finally granted the following year.

A nationalist revolt in Poland against Russia, however, was brutally repressed. In the aftermath, Poland was dissolved and merged into the Russian Empire, once again disappearing from the map. Nevertheless, the 1830 events were a clarion call to revolution that was heard all over the Continent.

The French novelist Victor Hugo wrote, in 1831, that he had heard “the dull sound of revolution, still deep down in the earth, pushing out under every kingdom in Europe its subterranean galleries from the central shaft of the mine which is Paris.”

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