Monday, November 10, 2014

Were All Revolutions Failures?

The Revolutions of 1830 and 1848

In class, we started to learn about the Revolutions of 1830 and 1848: The Decembrist Revolt, French Revolution of 1830, French Revolution of 1848, the Frankfurt Assembly, and the Hungarian Revolution. To help guide us, we were given the essential question, the question we had to figure out by the end of the lesson using what we learned. Were the revolutions of 1830 and 1848 really failures as many historians have concluded? We started out by learning a quote from Alexis de Tocqueville, a liberal French political thinker and historian. He said "We are sleeping on a volcano. Do you not see that the Earth trembles anew? A wind of revolution blows, the storm is on the horizon." We looked at a map portraying the Revolutions, seen below, and were asked how the map illustrated the quote said by de Tocqueville. The map symbolizes a volcano because peoples' rights have been oppressed, and them being unhappy represents the energy beneath the volcano, before exploding. At first, in 1830, there were only a couple revolutions. By 1848, they were much more widely spread throughout the south, and not just the north. The 'wind' of revolution, referring to the quote, means that the idea of revolting spreads, as well as the revolutions themselves. Once these ideas spread, the revolutions become harder and harder to shut down. And the 'volcano' explodes in 1848. My group and I then made a scale of measuring the success/failure of a social/political revolution. We showed that a complete failure would result in monarchs gaining more power and revolutionaries getting killed. Also, no goals getting reached. A complete success would result in no monarchy, a completely fulfilled goal, and no one killed in the Revolution. After doing this, we split into groups and got down to analyzing documents from the different Revolutions.

Map representing the revolution and repressions spreading.

The French Revolution of 1848

My group was assigned the French Revolution of 1848. We were given primary source documents as well as a summary of this Revolution to help us get started. First off, we needed to know the goals, opponent(s), and outcome(s) of the Revolution, along with the reasons it was a success/failure. The goals of the Revolution varied. The middle-class liberals wanted moderate political reforms. The socialists wanted far-reaching social and economic change that would help hungry workers. The opponent was the French government. Why? They shut down the lower class citizens' jobs and numerous workshops. The other opponents were the upper/middle class citizens, because they received the jobs that were taken away from the lower class. There were two parts of this Revolution: February Days and June Days. The outcome of February Days was the government, under Louis Philippe, created more jobs for the poor. The June Days outcome involved the upper and middle classes winning over the government and shutting down the workshops. The working class still didn't have enough money, and Louis Philippe gives up his throne. The final outcome of the French Revolution of 1848 included the amount of Frenchmen able to vote going up from 200,000 to 9 million men. Louis Napoleon is voted president and rules during a time of rapid economic growth. He ends up making himself the emperor. Now, let's go through the reasons for success and failure for the Revolution. Overall, it was a very neutral outcome. The pros included; gaining the jobs they wanted (February Days outcome), more people getting to vote (resulting in people having more power and more of a say), and Louis Napoleon helping with France's economy. the failure is the fact that the government took jobs away and gave them to middle and upper class citizens. 
The primary sources helped us and our classmates answer the essential question as well. The first source, written by Alphonse de Lamartine, from the History of the Revolution of 1848, describes to us the streets of Paris after the troops were waiting overnight. This shows that the revolution was small, along with the following quote: "The people were not numerous in the streets; they seemed to allow the invisible spirit of revolution to fight for them, and that small band of obstinate combatants who were dying for them in the heart o Paris." Another primary source was very interesting and describes everything that was being thrown into the streets to build barricades for protection against the French army. This depicted a goal of the Revolution. After analyzing the primary sources, we made a survey online using Survey Monkey. Our classmates were given the document we used and the online survey, and they took it in class with our help. For the most part, the students understood the lesson as well as we did, as you can see in the screenshot below, showing a question everyone got right. Most of the class agreed with us in that the outcome was mostly neutral, or in between a success and neutral. 12 people voted for neutral, whereas 14 voted for neutral/success, (not a complete success).

A screenshot from our survey, showing that everyone in the class understood this question asking about who abdicated (gave up their throne).
Take our survey:

Agree or Disagree?

To start off, I disagree with the historians. I do not think all of the Revolutions were complete failures, but some may have been. First off, the Decembrist Revolt. The Decembrist Revolt is considered a complete failure because no goals were accomplished. The people wanted Constantine in power rather than Tsar Alexander I, but Constantine refused to take the throne. After Alexander I died, Nicholas discovered he would be the next tsar rather than Constantine. All of this was not a good thing at all for the revolters, and that makes the Decembrist Revolt the only revolution we studied that was a complete failure. The French Revolutions of 1830 and 1848 both were either neutral or in between neutral and successful. Neither of them would ever be considered complete failures. The French Revolution of 1830 was interesting, because things were accomplished, but not completely. Louis Philippe, the new king, let more people vote, but only the wealthier citizens of France. Under his ruling, the upper bourgeoisie prospered, and the majority of the people were still unable to vote. This tells me there are pros and cons, just like the French Revolution of 1848. In this Revolution, the number of voters went from 200,000 to 9 million people, which was very positive and helpful, and Louis Napoleon helped with France's economy. However, jobs were taken away from some lower class citizens and given to the middle and upper classes. This all shows that no, not all the Revolutions were failures, even if there were some faulty parts of them.

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