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Europe (1848-1871)

Important Terms, People, and Events

The Leap into Modernity: Europe, 1848-1871

Timeline

Terms

Classical liberalism  -  The economic and political philosophy that opposed state intervention in economic affairs, supported free trade, competition, and individual initiative as the key to success; this philosophy was, above all, an attack on privilege, on the aristocrats, on the Anglican Church; liberals believed that talent alone should dictate a man's advancement in the world; supported in England by William Gladstone.
Conservatism  -  A political and economic philosophy that supported state intervention in the economy on behalf of the disadvantaged; supported the maintenance of traditional institutions of privilege in the name of preservation of tradition and custom that worked in the past; supported in England by Benjamin Disraeli.
Frankfurt Assembly  -  May 1848-June 1849. German national parliament that tried and failed to create a united German state during the 1848 revolutions. First meeting in May 1848, the convention was populated by middle class civil servants, lawyers, and intellectuals dedicated to liberal reform. However, after drawing the boundaries for a German state and offering the crown to Friedrich Wilhelm, the Kaiser refused in March 1849, dooming hopes for a united, liberal Germany, and the Frankfurt assembly dissolved soon after.
Peace of Paris  -  1856; ended the Crimean War; Russia relinquished its claim as the protector of Christianity in the Ottoman Empire and the Black Sea was neutralized among all powers; solidified a complete defeat for Russia.
Plebiscites  -  Popular votes on one question or issue on the ballot; Camillo di Cavour used these to legitimize Sardinia's role as the central nation in unification as he arranged these votes in every province to be annexed by Sardinia into the Italian state.
Realpolitik  -  The notion that politics must be conducted in terms of the realistic assessment of power and the self-interest of individual nation-states, and the pursuit of those interests by any means, often ruthless and violent ones; used skillfully by Camillo di Cavour and Otto von Bismarck in their policies toward national unification.
Risorgimento  -  Literally, "resurgence"; the name given to the movement for Italian unification because the movement hoped to bring Italy back to its former ancient glory through unification into one political entity; succeeded with proclamation of Italian state in 1861, finally completed with annexation of Rome in 1870.
Serfdom  -  An institution in Russia and many eastern European states in which peasants were legally tied to the land that they farmed and could not leave that land without expressed permission from the baron or landowner; created an immobile peasantry and a form of slavery; ended with the Emancipation of 1861.

People

Alexander II  -  Russian Tsar 1855-1881; known as a reformer for his Great Reforms program that included changes in education, judicial matters, military readiness, and expression freedom; issued the Emancipation edict of 1861 to free the serfs; but his record only shows him to be a half-hearted reformer, never really interested in compromising any element of his power; assassinated in 1881 by a radical because of his lackluster performance as a reformer.
Otto von Bismarck  -  1815-1898; German chancellor and architect of German unification under the Prussian crown; ruthlessly used realpolitik in his endeavors; instigated fabricated conflicts with Denmark, Austria, and France to acquire the land he believed should be part of the German Empire.
Camillo di Cavour  -  1810-1861; Sardinian prime minister and architect of Italian unification under Sardinia's crown; skillfully used realpolitik and his understanding of international relations to enhance Sardinia's stature as a European power and use the French-Austrian conflict to his advantage.
Charles Darwin  -  1809-1882; scientist, biologist. Sparked by a visit to the Galapagos Islands on the HMS Beagle, Darwin published On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection in 1859. Darwin's ideas dramatically affected societal self-conception, challenging the uniqueness of man and the relation of man to God, spurring the development of the scientific field of evolution and less scientific ideas such as Social Darwinism.
Benjamin Disraeli  -  1804-1881; leader of the Conservative Party, dedicated to government intervention and the maintenance of traditional institutions of privilege for tradition and stability purposes; his government passed the Factory Act of 1875, setting a maximum of a fifty-six hour work-week; the Public Health Act, establishing a sanitary code; the Artisans Dwelling Act, defining minimum housing standards; and the Trade Union Act, permitting picketing and other peaceful labor tactics.
Giuseppe Garibaldi  -  Italian patriot, democrat, and freedom fighter; once Italian unification seemed possible, after the defeat of Austria, he led a legion of Italian fighters through the Kingdom of Naples, liberated province after province to create a unified Italian state; forced to relinquish his territory to Camillo di Cavour's Sardinian lands in the name of unification.
William Gladstone  -  1809-1898; leader of the Liberal Party in Great Britain, though he began his career as a Tory; main advocate of the liberal approach to government--no tariffs, free trade, no government intervention; his government abolished tariffs, cut defense spending, lowered taxes, kept budgets balanced, reformed the civil service into a merit-based promotion system, and made elementary education available to and mandatory for everyone.
Georges Haussmann  -  1809-1891; chief architect of the redesigned Paris under Napoleon III; known for his utter disregard for established neighborhoods when he redesigned Paris as a home for the upper and middle class bourgeoisie of France; Haussman's redesigned Paris, known for its wide boulevards, straight roads, museums, and pristine arrangement, thus served as the model for countless other cities throughout the world.
Abraham Lincoln  -  American president, elected 1860; led Union during the American Civil War and dedicated himself to the forcible reunification of the United States. See the SparkNote on Abraham Lincoln.
Karl Marx  -  1818-1883; German political philosopher and founder of scientific socialism; published the Communist Manifesto in 1848 and Das Kapital in 1867.
Giuseppe Mazzini  -  Italian patriot and democrat committed to the unification of Italy under a liberal democratic government; leader of the Young Italy organization, a group of mostly Italian youths and democrats who pledged to work toward a united democratic Italy.
Napoleon III  -  1808-1873; formerly Louis Napoleon and nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte; won in the presidential election in France in December 1848, but took dictatorial powers on December 2, 1851 and took the monarchical title; can be considered the first modern politician due to his mastery of communication and appearances to maintain the grandeur of France; known for his economic prosperity, rejuvenation of Paris, and support of Italian unification; defeated in Franco-Prussian War.

Events

American Civil War  -  1861-1865; conflict between the North and the Confederate South over states' rights, federalism, economic rights, and, to some extent, slavery. The Civil War was an example of the forcible unification of a union using realpolitik.
Crimean War  -  1853-1856; war that pitted Russia against the alliance of Britain, France, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia; Russia wanted warm water ports on Black Sea and thus hoped to take advantage of weakening Ottoman Empire; France and Britain feared an upset to the balance of power in Europe; emerged as an absolute military defeat for Russia.
Emancipation of the serfs  -  1861; by the Emancipation Edict offered by Alexander II; ended the institution of serfdom in Russia after centuries of its use; most probably done because the government needed an effective pool of men from which it could conscript thousands into the army; after the defeat in the Crimean War, this was one of the efforts taken to strengthen the weak Russian military.
Franco-Prussian War  -  July-September 1870; conflict between France and Prussia over a fabricated insult allegedly made by the French ambassador to the Prussia king; Prussia defeated France and her own territory and took Alsace-Lorraine from France and laid siege to Paris until the country gave in; overthrew the government and set up a parliamentary system in Paris.
Great Reforms  -  Tsar Alexander II's changes that he directed from above; changes in education, the judiciary, the military, expression rights, etcetera all seemed to follow an enlightened, liberal perspective; however, upon careful review of these reforms, it is obvious that these were grudging reforms with little real change.
Sevastopol  -  1854-1855; Russia's heavily fortified chief naval base in the Black Sea, lying on the Crimean peninsula; after just under one year of constant battle and being under siege by French an British, the Russian abandoned the fortress, blowing up their fortifications and sinking their own ships; one example of the harsh battles of the campaign.
Seven Weeks' War  -  1866; war between Prussia and Austria, named for its very short duration; was a fabricated conflict over administration of Holstein; complete victory for Prussia; Prussia gained Holstein and put an end to all Austrian involvement in German affairs, clearing a major obstacle to German unification.

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