The Endless 19th Century

[ McKee Index ]

According to eminent historians Kagan (et al.) and McKee,
the back story to the "endless 19th century" was the spreading
political influence of the French Revolution and the social/economic impacts and outcomes
of the Industrial Revolution. We have covered French Rev in detail.
For more on Industrial Revolution, reflect on what you learned in US History last year...
and check out the youtube clips below

Development of the Industrial Revolution in England < >
Children in the Industrial Revolution/Victorian England <>
From hand tools to mechanization < >--American
CNN Millennium "The Century of the Machine" advance cursor to 36:55
< >

HERE < >

The "Conservative Order"
unless otherwise noted, all images are from Wikimedia Commons
and in the public domain

Klemens von Metternich, Foreign Minister of the Austrian Empire, provided the rationale and energy that supported the triumph of conservatism after 1815. A dominant figure in the Austrian Empire and the German Confederation, he announced the Carslbad Decrees that penalized the lib-nat students of the Burschenschaften and Tugundbund. The Decrees increased surveillance in the universities, censored the press, and demonstrated how the "dike" operated in internal/domestic affairs. In the lib-nat uprisings of 1820-21, Metternich sent Austrian troops into Italy. No wonder he was known as "Prince Midnight"!

image source < >
Carlsbad Decrees < >

Britain, that "shining example" of reform in 1688, also opted for conservatism after 1815. Tory Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool, led Parliament from the House of Lords from 1812, leaving Castlereagh to monitor Napoleon as Foreign Minister. With Castlereagh at the Congress of Vienna, Liverpool represented the conservative fear of lib-nat that characterized BRAP, sincere desire for peace, and restoration of the b of p. Britain entered into a kind of rapprochement with quintessentially conservative Bourbon France. At home, Liverpool was a man of his aristocratic class. On his watch, Parliament enacted the Corn Laws (1815) to preserve the incomes of landed elites, and which provided for a upwardly sliding scale of tariffs on imported grain. The Corn Laws worked unspeakable hardship on the growing working classes in the urban centers, especially at a time of poor harvests and desperate need. According to McKay, et al., "Seldom has a class legislated more selfishly for its own narrow economic advantage..." (763).

image source <,_2nd_Earl_of_Liverpool>

Radical leaders like Cobbett and Cartwright protested instantly, to no avail. At the same time, Parliament, again legislating from the class perspective, eliminated the income tax and increased sales taxes. The rigidly enforced 1799 Combination Acts forbad worker organization (like Le Chapelier Law in France.) When urban unrest escalated, the parliamentary response was to clamp down . Political agitators (demagogues?) like Cobbett and Cartwright wrote scathing articles, bringing about censorship of the press and passage of the Coercive Acts.
The caption reads, "The rich rejecting cheap, imported corn and letting the poor starve
in order to maintain a high price for home-grown produce. A savage [contemporary]
cartoon by George Cruikhank."

image source < >

In Manchester, heart of industrial England, in August, 1819, 60,000 workers gathered to protest the harsh laws and their own lack of parliamentary representation. Local authorities panicked and called upon the military to disband the assembly at St. Peter's Fields outside of Manchester. Troops swept into the crowd, killing fifteen and injuring hundreds more. Contemporary cartoonist, George Cruikshank, published his version of the Peterloo Massacre, so named as an ironic reminder of Waterloo, a scant four years earlier. Cruikshank intentionally portrayed the sabre-slashing officers as fat and old.

image source < >

Peterloo Massacre < >

Parliamentary leaders felt they had dodged a revolutionary bullet, congratulated themselves on
their speedy response to sedition, struck a medal in their own honor, and enacted the punitive
Six Acts, which replicated Metternich's contemporaneous Carlsbad Decrees.

After Peterloo, wiser heads in Parliament began to look at the economic and social realities through new "lenses." The explosion of crime, especially against property (dear to the hearts of both nobles and bourgeoisie) led Robert Peel, for example, to foster the creation and establishment of a professional, trained, uniformed but unarmed urban police force. Yes, these were the "bobbies" (Kagan, et al. 636). By 1830, Manchester had approximately 1 policeman for every 610 inhabitants (Bloy). For Peel's "Nine Principles of Policing," follow link

image source < >

Nevertheless, liberalism and nationalism--exacerbated by Romantic passions (see Romantic Art )
--fired the imaginations of young Europeans from Spain to Russia and all points in between.
Their secret societies railed against the constraints of Metternich's Dike
and sought to create and expand "cracks" in it. The conservative geezers fought back
with policies exemplified by the Carsbad Decrees and the Six Acts internally and the
Concert of Europe (Congress Diplomacy) in international relations.


It is patently clear that the 1815 boundaries of the redrawn map of Europe disregarded nationalistic aspirations of Dutch, Hungarians, Czechs, Poles, and Italians, not to mention Finns, Irish, and others. France, the cause of it all (French Rev/ Napoleon) came out pretty well. The BRAPF nations met in concert in 1818 (Aix-la-Chapelle,) 1820 (Troppau,) 1821 (Laibach,) and 1822 (Verona) to plug lib-nat "cracks in the dike." Italian and Spanish insurrections were crushed (thank you Metternich [Italy,] and Bourbons [Spain.]) Greece presented a special case. Was Greece a "crack" or a "no crack"? We'll discuss (i.e. I'll lecture.)

image source < >

The BRAPF nations experienced a messy divorce at Verona as Canning (who replaced Castlereagh in 1822*) entered into negotiations with American Secretary of State John Quincy Adams (under President James Monroe) to prevent Spain from crushing the lib-nat uprisings of Bolívar, San Martín, et al. One outcome of Verona was Monroe's pronouncement of the Monroe Doctrine, about which you already know quite a bit. "Crack" or "no crack"? Remember (as Californians) where Russian interests lay at this juncture.

image source/Verona <>
"Crash Course" in Latin American Revolutions (scroll to 37)
< >

*Castlereagh and Canning were not pals, to put it mildly and had fought a duel in 1809
over the prosecution of war. Some historians speculate that Castlereagh's suicide
in 1822 was triggered by blackmail threats about revealing his alleged homosexuality (Moss).

In Russia, officers in the prestigeous Guards Regiments (notably the Moscovsky) had drunk the heady lib-nat wine in Paris during the occupation. They staged their own demonstration in December, 1825, during the inter-regnum and succession crisis of that year. Loyal regiments called out by Tsar Nicholas I "shot to kill," and the nascent movement for reform was crushed. "Crack" or "no crack"? Duh!

image source < >
For more on the Decembrist Revolt in Russia (not a "crack,") visit
< /users/pmckee/russianweb/19thc.html >
and scroll down to the transition between Alexander I and Nicholas I
visit < > and
scroll to 3:00
See Kagan, et al. 10th edition, pp. 615-616
for the autocracy of "Nick the Stick."

Five of the Decembrist conspirators went to the gallows: Ryleev, Pestel, Bestuzhev, Muraviev, and Kakhovskoy. Though a plotter, Pestel was not present on that fateful December day; his role was acknowledged, and he met the same fate as the other four. Their unsuccessful action on that fateful day launched the Russian Revolutionary movement that achieved its goals (more or less) in 1917, of which, more later.

image source < >

Nicholas I's domestic policies imposed a "deep freeze" over 19th century Russia. The "Nicholas System" of Orthodoxy-Nationality-Autocracy ("One Faith, One Nation, One Tsar") was the theoretical "tripod" of power upheld by the de facto tripod of Army, Tsar, and Secret Police (perfected a century later by Lenin and Stalin.) And, don't forget the great "roofless prison." Ironically, the reign of "Iron Nicholas" also witnessed the flowering of the "golden age of Russian literature."

image source <>

1830: "When France sneezed, Europe caught cold."

The next "crack" (or "no crack?") came where everyone--certainly Metternich--expected it, in the perpetually volatile Paris. The 19th century "city of light" pulsed with a flamboyant, rebellious, crazy, Romantic fever. In addition to the artists ( Romantic Art ,) the great poets and authors plied their craft (Victor Hugo, Dumas fils, Musset, Vigny, George Sand) and composers (French or otherwise) like Chopín, Lizst, Berlioz performed to rave reviews. Artists, intellectuals, and students made common cause with lib-nat ideas, to the consternation of Bourbon monarchs, Louis XVIII (Provence) and Charles X (Artois.) Tallyrand, the perennial political survivor--having served Louis XVI, the Directory, Napoleon, and the restored Bourbons--is caricatured in the contemporary cartoon (left,) which suggests how many times Tallyrand was able to "float on the tides."

image source < >
Charles X out-Metterniched Metternich in his support of ultra-conservative royalism. Theoretically operating under constitutional limitations, he worked throughout his reign to restore privilege and the Catholic Church, to limit the franchise, and to indemnify émigré families. He took advantage of Ottoman disarray during the Greek insurrection to partner with Britain and Russia, to move French forces into North Africa, to capture Algiers on July 9, 1830, and to establish a French protectorate in Algeria (to the extreme consternation of the Brits.) A scant two weeks later, he announced the July Ordinances, which made sacrilege punishable by death, restored education to the Church, canceled the Constitutional Charter, removed thousands of bourgeois voters from the rolls, and restored the Bourbon fleur de lys as the official flag of France (McKay, et al. 767; Kagan, et al. 617-618). The July Ordinances triggered the "July Days," the destruction of the Bourbon regime, and the establishment of the so-called "July Monarchy." It was, after all, July.

image source < >

It took Parisians 3 days to throw their furniture out the window and erect barricades in the streets. The tricolor appeared all over the city. "To the barricades," "down with the king," "to the guillotine" were shouted by an increasingly frenzied mob. While there was fighting in the streets, it turned out that the army had no stomach for a "peterloo massacre"or a "whiff of grapeshot." Charles X abdicated and fled to England. The "July" Monarchy of the Bourgeois/Citizen King replaced the Bourbons. "Crack" or "no crack"? See Kagan, 618, for more on the "July" Monarchy.

image source < >

The Delacroix work most familiar to Euro students is "Liberty Leading the People," commemorating the 1830s "July Revolution." It presented a powerful allegory of Revolution! "Liberty, a majestic, partly nude woman, whose beautiful features wear an expression of noble dignity, waves the people forward to the barricades..." (Tansey and Kleiner (946). Note that Liberty is wearing the "phrygian cap," the emblem of a freed slave. She is accompanied by a pistol-toting street urchin, an armed dandy in top hat, a proletaire (the sans-culottes of '89,) and a multitude of less clearly defined figures. "The flashes of light suggest gunfire, while the intermingling of light and shadow echoes the confusion of battle..." (946). Although the French government purchased the painting, they withheld it from public view as they "deemed its glorification of liberty too inflammatory..." ("Eugene Delacroix"). A young Parisian working woman who fought on the barricades may have been Delacroix's inspiration if not model.

< >
Follow link for "Do you hear the people sing" from production of Les Mis
an Edward Lloyd Webber musical that commemorated the July Revolution

< >
Or, a dramatization rather than a concert
< >
From the 2013 movie < >
"To the Barricades" < >


Lib-Nat uprisings swept across Europe, some achieving autonomy or independence;
some achieved political reform: Belgium (Kagan, et al. 618) broke free from the Kingdom
of the Netherlands, securing recognition of its independence and neutrality (both
to be guaranteed by the Great Powers.) Poland, Egypt, the various Italian principalities
were not so lucky.

The lib-nat virus nearly toppled the British "squirearchy." Robert Peel and his supporters had sponsored reforms (see "bobbies" above,) including concessions to Catholic Ireland. British elites were particularly fearful of a growing militant Catholic nationalism. Peel and Wellington enacted Catholic emancipation in 1828 as a "liberal measure for the conservative purpose of preserving order in Ireland" (Kagan, et al. 620). According to eminent historian McKee, Peel and Wellington "reformed to prevent revolution," especially after 1830 when lib-nat uprisings swept the continent and toppled Charles X and the Bourbons. "...[t]here was a high level of economic discontent" in Britain.... Not only hysterical conservatives...thought that the country was on the brink of revolution" (Ryan 47). Kagan does not agree.

image source < >

The British Parliament at the beginning of the 19th century comprised an upper house (Lords) of about 400 non-elected, hereditary lords of the realm and Anglican Church. The House of Commons had 658 members who were related to and influenced by the Lords. Some of the Members of Parliament represented districts "that hardly existed physically.... Old Sarum consisted of empty fields..." (Ryan 45). See left for Constable's rendering of Old Sarum, a "rotten" borough if ever there was one. About 20 great landlords controlled the House of Commons, had boroughs in their "pocket." Neither Manchester nor Birmingham had an MP in that august body, while sparsely populated Cornwall had 45.

image source < >
The two biggest issues facing British leaders in 1830 were the harsh, repressive Corn Laws (see above) and the flagrantly unrepresentative nature of Parliament. The death of George IV, accession of a new king, William IV, and revolution on the continent galvanized Whigs and reforming Tories to rectify the first problem. It took three tries, political shenanigans, and deal-making--not to mention urban violence--but in 1832, the Great Reform Bill enfranchised the middle class and redrew electoral districts to conform more accurately to demographic realities, i.e. to eliminate the "rotten" and "pocket" boroughs. The House of Lords, which had twice rejected the Bill, was brought to heel first by widespread domestic unrest, and second by threats from the crown to "pack the house" by appointing amenable, reforming peers. Did the Brits dodge a bullet? "Crack"? or "No Crack"?

image source <>

After 1832, Robert Peel worked with other "Tory Liberals" and like-minded Whigs
to move in the direction of freer trade, to let old mercantilist laws lapse,
and to sponsor a rash of important legislation:
*the abolition of slavery (and its vigorous enforcement by the royal navy);
*baby steps towards regulation of woman and child labor;
*abolition of capital punishment for some categories of crime;
*the Ten Hours Act.

The Great Reform Bill of 1832 broadened the franchise to about 1,000,000, but it did
nothing to assuage the disgruntled working class, which remained unrepresented in the House of Commons. They turned to organization and demonstration, as had their fathers at St. Peter's Fields in 1819. They formed the Chartist Movement and gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures (maybe as many as 3,000,000) to a petition demanding expansion of the franchise. Their specific demands included: universal manhood suffrage, annual elections to the House of Commons, abolition of property/wealth qualifications for voting, salaries for MPs (Kagan, et al. 627). UMS was too much, even for Robert Peel.

image source < >

The Corn Laws, which protected the landed elites, remained intact. The Anti-Corn Law League, founded in 1838, made no better headway than the Chartists. The caption reads, "Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread." Bad weather, poor harvests, and (again) the "skyrocketing price of bread" brought hardship to the rural and urban poor in Britain (and on the continent, but that is another story.) Once again Robert Peel, now Prime Minister, stepped forward, willing to spend all of his political capital to do the right thing, repeal the Corn Laws. What drove him to uncompromising action was the Potato Blight.

image source < Bloy >

Catastrophe struck Ireland in the 1840s as the potato crop failed in successive years after 1845. Hundreds of thousands (maybe as many as 1,000,000) died of starvation and exposure. "This series of Irish potato crop failures was the worst natural disaster to strike nineteenth century Europe" (Kagan, et al. 625). The Great Hunger prompted Peel to lead the House of Commons in the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846. His party never forgave him; his career was over. Parliament debated whether to send food to the starving: Sir Charles Trevelayan commented against, lest it set up a "culture of dependency" (Egan 3). Britain did not send aid to Ireland and allowed the suffering and dying to go on. As for Ireland, hundreds of thousands emigrated and stored up animosity for UK.

image source < >

The Irish artist, Daniel Macdonald, memorialized the An Gorta Mor--the Great Hunger--in a powerful 1847 painting, "An Irish Peasant Family Discovering the Blight of Their Store," which depicts the family discovering the dark rot that has destroyed their potatoes. Indeed, the year 1847 was so horrific that it was known at the time as "Black 47." Not only did hundreds of thousands of Irish starve, but their absentee landlords evicted them when they could not pay their rent. British official, Charles Trevelyan, in charge of famine relief commented that the the misery was "the will of God visited upon a 'selfish, perverse and turbulent people'" (Barry, Dan C27).

< >


Note the explosion of the potato-dependent Irish population until a hair before 1850 and its precipitous decline. New York Times columnist Timothy Egan called British policy a "de facto genocide" (3). According to Irish nationalists to this day (not from Ulster, however,) centuries of British rule "attempted to strip the Irish of their language, their religion, and their land..." the outcome of which was famine and death: 1 out of 8 died of starvation (Egan 3) in what many historians call "The Great Hunger." Egan quotes a contemporary, "The Almighty...sent the blight, but the English created the famine" (3). As noted, Sir Charles Trevelyan commented on the defective character of the hungry Irish--No aid!

< >

In a postscript to his career, Sir Charles Trevelyan received a knighthood.
At The Hunger Museum in Quinnipiac, Connecticut, a portrait of Sir Charles
has the caption, "For crimes against humanity, never brought to justice" (Egan 3).

In the 1840s, weather and revolution both raised their ugly heads. Cold, damp, rainy weather brought crop failure and famine, the worst example of which racked Ireland. Food riots erupted in urban centers all over Europe. The price of bread... you guessed it. Home Secretary Peel called in all of his political debts and forced the repeal of the Corn Laws through both houses of Parliament in 1846.

left < image of Chartist/food riot in Glasgow >
right < image of Chartist demonstration demanding change >

While the potato blight softened the heart of Peel, British elites,
including Peel, refused to address the Chartist demand for universal manhood suffrage.
What the bourgeoisie secured for themselves in Britain and France they were unwilling to extend to the workers

1848--Springtime of Nationalities
Collapse of the Dike? (alas, no)

However, "When France sneezed, Europe caught pneumonia"!

1848 began in France where there was growing discontent with the political and economic status quo under the "Bourgeois/July"monarchy of Louis Philippe. In a nation of 30,000,000, 3% of the population enjoyed the franchise. His chief minister, Guizot, remarked, "Get rich, then you can vote." In Britain after 1832, 20% could vote. To complicate Louis Philippe's political life, he had to cope with Bourbon restoration critics, republican critics, and Bonapartist critics. The highly politicized romantic poets, artists, jounalists, intellectuals, etc. staged public debates and published articles, all demanding change. Louis Philipped was having none of it and closed down a political banquet in February, 1848.

image source Louis Philippe < >

Within days, the furniture was out and the barricades were up in the streets of Paris. Panic-stricken police at first held their fire, but then panicked and retaliated, killing 40 protesters who immediately became martyrs to police brutality; the rioters stormed Prime Minister Guizot's home and the Hotel de Ville. It took 3 days to unseat the Louis Philippe.

image source < >

The mob demanded not a Bourbon restoration, not a Bonapartist revival, not a son of the deposed king but a republic. The 2nd Republic was born in the chaos of the "February Days," 1848. The Chamber of Deputies accepted the charge of the Parisian radicals and formed a 10 man provisional government to draft a constitution, create a republican government, and rule until the constitution was completed and elections could be held.

image source < >


In addition to lib-nat Romantics, women made their presence felt in Paris in 1848, as did the American ladies at Seneca Falls in that same year. The ubiquitous George Sand, part of a radical, feminist movement self-styled the Vesuvians, formed political clubs and urged their rural sisters to demand the vote. One of them said, We are"like lava, so long held back, that must pour out around us..." ("Vesuviennes"). The Vesuvians were heir(esses) of Pauline Léon. This caricature (right) by Eduard de Beaumoont presented a negative view of feminism and how militant women partied and neglected their children.

image source < >
"The Woman Question" Seminar < >

More moderate women founded women founded a newspaper, Voix de Femmes;
while they agreed that a woman's chief roles and duties were domestic,
they asked their menfolk and government for education and greater
awareness of women's issues.

Eugen Weber on social issues/social conditions--The Western Tradition #46
< >

Meanwhile, the Provisional Government, dominated by the utopian socialist Louis Blanc and the romantic poet, Lamartine, moved "left." They enacted a bold social program that included a minimum wage of 2 francs a day, a 10 hour work day, and a broad program of public works called the National Workshops. 200,000 unemployed workers decamped to Paris and set up their tents on the Champs de Mars. The Constituent Assembly, elected by UMS, convened in Paris in May: as a legitimately constituted authority, it closed the radical clubs, cancelled the national workshops, sent the workers home. Out came the furniture; up went the barricades. Proletarian Paris faced off against the regular army in the Bloody June Days. Guess who won? The lesson to be learned here is that rural France was much more conservative--both politically and socially--than radical Paris.

image source Horace Vernet's depiction of June, 1848 < >

In the civil war of the Bloody June Days (yep, it was June,)
the army shot to kill; casualties numbered 10,000, with an additional 12,000 deported.
The Constituent Assembly promulgated a constitution for the Second Republic and called
for presidential elections. Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, nephew of Napoleon, won the presidency.

As soon as he could, Prince-President Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, later Napoleon III, took steps to demolish working class tenements and widen the streets to prevent the kind of urban insurrection that unseated his predecessor, Louis Philippe. To that end, he hired Baron George-Eugène Haussmann to transform the city of Paris, and, oh yes, to beautify it into the tourist mecca that it became and remains. Note the narrow crooked street (left,) perfect for a "furniture out/barricades up" urban insurrection. Haussmann's urban design included public parks, a new sewer system, public monuments, the organization of the city into arrondisements (of which there are now 20.)

image source Marville < >--scroll down
Pissarro ( < >) and
Caillebotte ( < > ) both
captured the essence of the new Paris.


And now, back to the Springtime of Nationalities, when Europe caught pneumonia.

The Hapsburg domains were vulnerable to lib-nat uprisings because of the Metternichean dike (lib) and the polyglot (nat) nature of the Austrian Empire. During the "March Days," the furniture came out and the barricades went up in Budapest, Vienna, Prague, Milan, and Venice. As in Paris, the rebels represented a (temporary) alliance between students/intellectuals and the working class. The big question facing such leaders as Palacky (Prague) and Kossuth (Budapest) was what would be the reaction of the "vested interests" (clergy, aristocracy, army)? Although Metternich fled and the Emperor abdicated in favor of his young nephew, Franz Josef, the loyalty of the army and its aristocratic officers insured that the system remain intact. Chief minister Bach presided over the empire with "a standing army of soldiers, a sitting army of officials, a kneeling army of priests, and a creeping army of informers" (Palmer, et al. 489).

image source < >

The Pan-Slavs, meeting in Prague, were sent home by General Windischgratz.

A key moment in the crushing of the Springtime, and an ominous portent of things to come, came with Nicholas I's military assistance to the young Austrian Emperor, Franz Josef. Nicholas I sent crack Russian troops to Hungary, occupied Budapest, and sent the lib-nat revolutionaries packing. A re-invigorated Austria enacted harsh reprisals against the Magyar rebels. Déak, Kossuth, and Andrassy fled. Image (right) shows the Hungarian surrender. Franz Josef owed a debt to Nicholas for Hungary, and indeed, his empire.

image source < >

1849 marked a kind of apogee for Nicholas I ("the stick"):
He had crushed Poland in 1833 and absorbed it into the Russian Empire;
he established a quasi-protectorate over the Ottoman Empire;
he consolidated the Eastern Alliance with Austria and Prussia.
However, Britain's Foreign Minister, Lord Palmerston, was quite nervous about
the Russian Bear and its proficiency in swimming.

The March Days were replicated in the German states, where the primary question at Frankfurt and elsewhere was, what was Germany? Or, to put it another way, did Germans want a kleindeutsche or a grossdeutsch definition of their nationhood? After several days of street fighting, Frederick William IV of Prussia promised reforms to the Berlin rebels but dispatched the army to disperse the Frankfurt delegates. Waiting for the storm (see left) to pass, Frederick William IV promulgated a constitution, established a representative assembly, and told everyone to go home...which, essentially, everyone did.

image source < >

The outcome of the March Days/Springtime of Nationalities was that,
although Metternich was gone, his system--with some modifications and concessions--
remained intact. The lib-nat rebels, like their working class counterparts, realized
that they needed firepower. Karl Marx would provide the blueprint
for a radicalized working class (think of Etienne Lantier and Souvarine from Germinal.)
Britain and Russia dodged the 1848 bullet: Britain because of timely reforms;
Russia because of the harsh, repressive policies of Nicholas I.

As noted above, Russia was the big winner of 1848.
Was Russia dikish or floodish (duh)?

After 1848, European attention returned to the international arena, specifically revisiting the Eastern Question. You will recall the Greek Insurrection and the indpendence of Greece and Serbia, the autonomy of Moldavia and Wallachia; you will also recall that Shelley worried that the imminent disintegration of the "sick man" would leave Russia as "doctor-in-chief." The Punch cartoon (right) illustrates a general British fear of Russian ambitions in the Ottoman Empire. This rivalry would end the long peace and trigger the Crimean War.

image source < >

The great rivalry of the 19th century--Britain v. Russia--was global: the more Russia pursued its Ottoman ambitions, the more Britain sought to "protect" the Ottomans; as the Russian state expanded southeast into the "stans," British foreign policy worked to contain the spread and to consolidate its own control over India, "jewel in the crown...." In a clandestine war, known to the diplomats of the day as "The Great Game," Britain and Russia carried on a behind-the-scenes "cold war." While both powers tried to secure a foothold in Afghanistan, neither was successful.

image source of cartoon of "The Great Game" < >

The "wild card" in the run up to the Crimean War was Lous Napoleon Bonaparte, Napoleon III since the plebiscite of December, 1852, created the 2nd Empire. The new Emperor of the French saw his mandate to restore the image and honor both of his uncle and his nation, to punish Austria (Congress of Vienna) and Russia (1812.) To that end, he ingratiated himself with Britain and espoused the cause of the suppressed lib-nats under Austrian and/or Russian thumbs, so to speak. To that end, he stirred up trouble between the Ottomans and Russia, between Britain and Russia.

image source < >


Hostilities erupted in 1853: the long range causes of the Crimean War could be traced to the geopolitical rivalries described above and naval issues, as Nicholas I was determined to dominate the Ottmans and gain access to the Mediterranean, at that time a "British lake." Another factor was Franz Josef's fear of Russia's "universal monarchy" in Eastern Europe; another was a (misguided?) romanticism towards war--there hadn't been one for such a long time. Russia's attack on the Turkish fleet at Sinop led France and Piedmont/Sardinia/Savoy to join Britain in its defense of the Ottomans. Austria and Prussia declared neutrality. The allies sailed through the Straits into the Black Sea and attacked the Crimean Peninsula.

image source < >
Crimean War documentary < >
In October, 1854, the Russian general, Prince Menschikov, led an attack against the British position at Balaclava near Sevastopol, defended by the 93rd Highlanders, "a thin red streak tipped with a line of steel." Encouraged by the demonstration of force of the "brave lads," General, Lord Raglan, ordered the cavalry to pursue the Russians. In the ensuing confusion, and amidst conflicting views and understanding of the situation, Lord Cardigan led his famous Light Brigade into "the jaws of death," in the immortal words of Tennyson. Casualties on both sides were horrendous.

< >

In 1936, Hollywood made a movie The Charge of the Light Brigade (starring Errol Flynn);
it is still gripping almost 80 years later

< >
really annoying and unauthentic music from Iron Maidan--turn off
1968 version in color: watch the charge "into the jaws of death"
< >
Compare Pickett's Charge from Gettysburg < >

Crimean War British documentary--worth a look< >
four minute version of Crimean War < >
Mrs. McKee's fave on the Crimean War < >

Elizabeth Southerdon Thompson Butler captured the essence of British despair after the disastrous Charge of the Light Brigade.

Balaclava < >

When Nicholas read the reports of the devastating losses in Crimea, he turned his face to the wall
and died of a broken heart, little realizing the enormous ramifications the defeat would have on Russia.
He left the throne to his son, Alexander, who succeeded him without contest in 1855.
Crimean War casualty statistics (sources vary, I chose a medium one):

With regard to the Crimean War, it is worth noting how it was filled with portents for the future:
industry determined outcome (as was the case in the American Civil War );
women played a role as nurses (Florence Nightingale in Crimea, Clara Barton in the US);
the camera brought the war(s) into livingrooms far from the scenes of battle;
journalists and newspaper correspondents reported eye-witness accounts to a readership back home.

For more on Crimean War as first modern war, visit < >

Finally, with the defeat of Russia--perennial defender of the Dike and restorer of Hungary
--the Romantic lib-nats had another shot at achieving national unification and freedom from
foreign rule, whether under liberal-democratic institutions or their opposite. The lib-nats,
especially Cavour and Bismarck (more nat than lib) understood the realities of power--Realpolitik!
The philosophical giants of the 19th century, Marx and Darwin, seemed to validate Realpolitik.
You're on your own for Marx, Darwin, and oh, yes, Freud (see Kagan!)

Romantic, Realpolitiking Italian lib-nats demanded unification and liberation from Austrian, papal, or other foreign rule. The "big three" comprised Mazzini (Young Italy/Risorgimento,) Garibaldi (romantic charisma/military panache--the 1000 "redshirts,") and Cavour (pragmatic chief minister of P/S/S.) Cavour allied P/S/S with Britain and France in the Crimean War, assuming an Austrian defeat and a seat at the inevitable peace conference but was thwarted by Austrian neutrality. Then, Cavour taunted Austria with P/S/S modernization, westernization, and industrialiation. Confident with a French alliance, he ordered military exercises on the border with Lombardy. A glance at the map illustrates why Lombardy was first on the agenda.

image source Italy 1859 < >

Napoleon III extracted a high price for his support from Cavour and Victor Emmanuel--Savoy and Nice, territories on the French-Piedmontese frontier containing the usual mixed population. In the ensuing Italian victory in the Austro-Italian War (1859-60,) Italian principalities and city-states erupted in lib-nat enthusiasm, clamoring for annexation to Piedmont/Sardinia. Garibaldi and his "1000" appeared in Naples and joined the lib-nat frenzy and defeat of Austria. The outcome (see left) was unification and proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861. It would take two more wars for Italian nationalists to absorb Venetia and the Papal States.

image source Italy 1861 < >
Three Minute History of Italian Unification < >

While regionalism remained strong in Italy, historians comment that the various
states opted for "Italy" rather than particularism, or, to put it another way,
they "drowned" in Italy. By 1871, Venetia and the Papal States were "redeemed."
Who's left as "little lost lambs" or Italia Irredenta? Look at the "A" for Austria.

Like Italy, "Germany" was a "geographical expression" comprising many germanies but no Germany; even the German lib-nats were not sure what Germany was and spent hours debating it and searching for it. Prussia took a leading role in forging a new Germany with the formation of a customs/tariff-free zone--the Zollverein--(not including Austria.) Although Prussian lib-nats failed in 1848 like their Italian counterparts, Frederick William IV did promulgate a constitution, extend the suffrage, establish a representative body (Reichstag)--benevolent gifts from a "divinely ordained" monarch. Note Schleswig and Holstein in red.

image source < >


Prussia stood aside in the Crimean War, but patriotic junkers worried about Prussian military vulnerability in the Age of Realpolitik. The new king, Wilhelm I (1861-1888,) relying on the advice of his generals, von Moltke and von Roon, moved expeditiously to modernize the army, adopt new weapons, extend the draft, etc. He submitted his budget to the Reichstag, which promptly rejected it. The confrontation between crown and parliament raised the question: where did sovereignty lie--with the elected representatives or with the King? A two year stalemate led Wilhelm to appoint Otto von Bismarck as Chancellor. Bismarck re-interpreted executive power, extended old taxes to cover the expenses of modernization, and ordered the Prussians to pay. They did. Note size of image--Bismarck is important!

Bismarck image source < >

Bismarck--realpolitiking pragmatist that he was--offered this comment:
"...The great questions of the day will not be decided by speeches and majority decisions--
that was the mistake of 1848-1849--but by blood and iron" (quoted in Kagan, et al. 671).

Bismarck presided over the unification of Germany in wars against Denmark over Schleswig-Holstein in 1864, against Austria (erstwhile ally) over Holstein (1866,) and the decisive one against France (Franco-Prussian War, 1870.) Note on the map (left) that Holstein and Schleswig would contain mixed populations (Danes and Germans.)

image source < >


Like Cavour, Bismarck led Prussia into three short, sharp, decisive wars that unifed Germany. These wars also: accelerated the decline of Austria; facilitated Italian annexation of Venetia and the Papal States; enabled the Hungarians to achieve autonomy in the Ausgleich of 1867; destroyed Napoleon III's French Empire; caused another French Revolution; redrew the map of Europe; altered the balance of power; contributed to the crises that culminated in the Great War. Image (right) shows a contemporary photograph of a devastated Napoleon III and an arrogant Bismarck. Check out Kagan on the Ems Dispatch.

image source/Sedan < >
To add insult to injury, Bismarck and Wilhelm (now Kaiser Wilhelm I,) announced the establishment of the German Empire in January, 1871, in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. The Treaty of Frankfurt snatched Alsace and Lorraine from France. While the Italian states "drowned" in the new Italy, the German states were "prussianized" by a triumphant Prussia.

image source < >
"Unification of Germany" < >
Three Minute History of German Unification < >

Having been the warmonger par excellence, 1861-1870, the Iron Chancellor
redirected his energies after the Franco-Prussian War to maintaining peace. He allied with Austria-Hungary and Russia in the Three Emperor's League (DreiKaiserbund,) pledged to refrain from naval and colonial ambitions to placate Britain, and encouraged French expansion in West Africa and Indochina to distract their interest from Alsace-Lorraine. Note in the graphic that France is isolated (and weeping.)

image source < >

See Kagan for Bismarck's policies on women (k-k-k: kuchen, kinder, kirche--kitchen, children, church)
and his failed kulturkampf with the Roman Catholic Church of Pius IX

Alexander II and the Great Reform

Russian defeat in the Crimean War necessitated far-reaching if not immediate reforms,
notably emancipation of the serfs. Alexander II (1855-1881), the Tsar-Liberator, announced his
intention to do so, although he was unable to carry out his pledge until 1861.

Alexander II ascended the throne during the Crimean War and quickly sued for peace. Recognizing as had his great predecessor Peter the Great that "serfs make stupid soldiers," he announced their emancipation as the first order of business, "freeing the serfs from above before they freed themselves from below," as his advisor Pogodin put it. Alexander II, the Tsar-Liberator, continues to puzzle historians: did he free the serfs and initiate the Great Reform out of humanitarian concern for their suffering? Or, did he reform as much as he had to and as little as he could get away with to preserve, essentially intact, tsarist autocracy? Like his great contemporary, Abraham Lincoln, Alexander II was driven by the contingencies of war to sponsor enormous change in a large, diverse, heterogeneous nation; like Lincoln, he was loved and despised; like Lincoln, he died at the hands of determined assassins. Unlike Lincoln, the terrorists from the People's Will (Narodnaya Volya) had been hunting him down like a dog for more than two years.
Alexander II launched the Great Reform with the Emancipation Manifesto in 1861, preceding Lincoln's Proclamation by two years. The Emancipation Manifesto set in motion a series of related ancillary reforms that addressed the judiciary, education, local government and the military. Alexander II hoped for praise and appreciation from his grateful "children," but the intelligentsia responded by demanding a constitution, a bill of rights, and a representative assembly.

image source < >

Like his predecessors, Alexander II turned to "stunning territorial annexations," expanding in Central and East Asia, exacerbating already troubled relations with Britain. He established Russian protectorates over Tashkent and Samarkand (participating in the Great Game and threatening, yet again, the Northern Approaches to India) in Central Asia; he seized the Maritime Province/Ussuri District adjacent to Manchuria, where Russians built the great port city of Vladivostok. He made Russia one of the so-called "China Powers" again worsening relations with Britain. It didn't endear him to Gladstone and Disraeli when he sold Alaska to the United States in 1867, making it not available to add to Canada.

Anonymous 19th century portrait of Alexander II from the collection of Mrs. Merriweather Post, courtesy of Hillwood, Washington, DC.

Conservative aristocrats criticized Alexander II for destroying their livelihood (land and serfs) while radical students and intellectuals criticized him for tweaking rather than truly altering Russia's basic institutions. The revolutionary movement moved into high gear, evidenced by a proliferation of secret societies, one of which, the People's Will (narodnaya volya) blew up the Tsar in 1881.

image source < >

Well you might ask, what is going on in Victorian Britain, which played no major
role in the decisive wars that united Italy and Germany and dramatically altered
the balance of power in Europe? In the 2nd half of the 19th century,
Britain focused on internal reform and external imperialist expansion.

Victoria ascended the throne of her greatuncle, William IV, at the age of 17 in 1837. Internally, her ministers--Robert Peel, Lord Melbourne, the Duke of Wellington--continued to enact reforms such as the abolition of slavery in the British colonies, some regulation of industry and manufacturing, support for free trade, repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846, as noted above.

image source Young Victoria < >
See trailer < > for 2009 film Young Victoria

Victoria's consort, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha spearheaded the showcasing of British manufacturing and industrial leadership with the Great Exhibition featuring the state-of-the-art Crystal Palace. People stood in awe,
in 1851: they viewed the Crystal Palace as a "marvel of engineering and a symbol of an optimistic age of
technological achievement" (Witt 347).

image source < >
For more on the Crystal Palace, < /users/pmckee/19thcentury-art/19thc-index.html >

Lord Palmerston masterminded British foreign policy in the first half of Victoria's reign, characterized by an aggressive pursuit of British commercial interests (Opium War) and an anti-Russian posture everywhere (Crimean War.) British merchant ships, notably those of the East India Company, exported British manufactured goods to India and to China through the Portuguese "factory" at Macao. With demand for Chinese porcelain, tea, silk, and jade ("chinoiserie,") soaring, the British experienced an unfavorable balance of trade and payments with the Qing Dynasty, that is a drain of specie. And then came opium!

< image source < >

image source < >
Each chest contained approx. 140 pounds of opium; 40,000 chests imported in 1840.
Stats differ depending on where you look and who's writing.

British manufaacturers wished to sell their textiles to what they perceived to be a massive Chinese market, but Ming and Qing emperors refused to open their ports or interior to broader trade or to negotiate for an exchange of diplomats. To break into China, the British began to transport highly addictive Indian opium into southern China, where processed opium had been used medicinally for pain relief since ancient times. From 4000 chests of opium delivered to southern Chinese ports, notably Macao, in 1820, the number of chests skyrocketed to 30,000 by the 1830s. Addiction spread.

image source < >

The Daoguang Emperor dispatched Imperial Commisioner Lin Zexu to enforce his decrees against sale and possession of opium. An experienced and honest scholar-bureaucrat, Lin did his best against what the Chinese viewed the activities of British drug lords. He arrested opium traffickers, confiscated opium pipes, seized and destroyed hundreds (perhaps thousands) of opium chests. He wrote a famous letter or memorandum to Queen Victoria begging her to cooperate in curtailing the iniquitous trade. His determined efforts had no impact on her (if, indeed, she read the letter) but did provoke British retaliation in the First Opium War (1839-1842) and the disastrous Treaty of Nanking/Nanjing ("Lin Zexu").

image source < >

The First Opium War (1839-1842) represented a paradigm shift in terms of being the first example of "gunboat diplomacy" on the eve of the Age of Realpolitik: wanting trade with China, Britain simply blasted the country open, as seen in a dramatically uneven war and draconian Treaty of Nanjing, which opened five Chinese ports to British and then European trade and gave the British a 99 year lease on Hong Kong. The Second Opium War and Second Treaty Settlement expanded British, European, and American presence in China. Almost simultaneously, the India Act of 1858--Britain's response to the Sepoy Mutiny--consolidated British authority in the Sub-Continent, commencing the Raj.

image source < >

Consider, as African Studies students are considering, whether:
the flag follows trade; trade follow the flag.

In the second half of Victoria's reign, Britiain continued its imperialist expansion but stood aside from the wars of unification on the continent. In domestic affairs, workers continued to agitate for the vote, succeeding when Parliament passed the Second Reform Act of 1867. The Second Great Reform Bill enfranchised urban male heads of household increasing the electorate to more than 2,000,000. The ensuing elections brought the great liberal, William Ewart Gladstone, to power. 1867 also began a re-examiination and re-design of the British Empire as Canada achieved Dominion status and autonomy within the imperial framwork.

image source < >
Gladstone's Great Ministry (1868-1874) brought signal changes to British domestic policy: the legalization of unions, the secret ballot, education reform, civil service reform, to name a few. The Bank Holiday Act of 1871 created 6-1/2 day week, or the weekend, triggering an explosion of leisure and athletic activities. Gladstone's cabinet to your right.

image source < >

By 1873, many Brits seemed to feel that the pace of domestic change was moving too quickly and that the balance of power was being revised (unifications of Italy, Germany) revised without British participation. In his Crystal Palace Speech, Conservative leader, Benjamin Disraeli, called for a re-emphasis on crown, church, tradition, and empire. Disraeli's achievements would be stunnningly imperial! As Prime Minister (1874-1880,) he presided over British acquisition of the Suez Canal and Victoria's assumption of the titie Empress of India. If you don't know, the Suez Canal links the Red Sea with the Mediterranean and comprised a short cut to India ("Jewel in the Crown,"); it was an essential link in Britain's imperial lifeline.When Disraeli left office in 1880, Britain was deeply embroiled in Egypt, Sudan, and South Africa.

image source < >

For conservatives (Disraeli) and Liberals (Gladstone,) one of their biggest challenges was the "Irish Question"--religion, politics, culture, nationalism, and economics comprised bitter controversies that poisoned relations between the two, with the Irish having strong memories of Britain's harsh policies during the Great Hunger. Gladstone threw his support in favor of Parnell and Home Rule, but Parliament was having none of it. Only in Ulster did Protestants hold a majority, and they remained adamant for Union and against Home Rule. For "Irish nationalists" in the North, the nation meant Britain. The issue festered into the 20th century, culminating in the Easter Uprising of 1916 and the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922. Ireland remains divided.

image source < >


France: The Third Republic

In the harsh world of Realpolitik after the Crimean War, the Franco-Prussian War (1870)
dramatically altered the balance of power, destroyed the Second Empire of
Napoleon III, and ushered in the Third Republic. Its early crises of bloodshed
and civil war rocked France to its foundation.
It is worth emphasizing here that
Prussia's industrial might pre-determined the war's outcome, though clearly
the French did not (and would not necessarily) agree. France's catastrophic defeat at Sedan
and the loss of Alsace-Lorraine at the Treaty of Frankfurt cast a dark shadow over the Third Republic.


In addition , the violent suppression of the Paris Commune left scars on the Third Republic, which jeopardized its survival. The then famous but now essentially forgotten artist, Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier, produced an epic canvas depicting and memorializing heroic French troops defending their tricolor. Alas, the Prussians bombed and starved Paris into submission. To add insult to injury, Bismarck staged a victory parade of 30,000 triumphant Prussians marching through the Arc de Triomphe and down the Champs -Élysées. Meissonier took extraordinary pains to make this painting--as well as his others--as realistic as possible. His characteristic heroic and meticulous style soon gave way to new artistic genres. Scarcely mentioned in art history books today, he was the most famous artist in Europe in the 1860s. (If you go to the Cantor, you may see a portrait of Leland Stanford commissioned and painted by Meissonier.)


The workers of Paris refused to stomach the hated Prussians or the cowardly regime that accepted Bismarck's draconian terms. Hundreds of protesters hauled cannon up the heights of Montmartre to blast the meeting place of the Assembly. Naming themselves Communards--in honor of the radical Paris commune that led the Septembre Massacres and toppled the monarchy in 1792--they re-adopted the old republican calendar and replaced the tricolor with the red flag of revolution. Civil war erupted in Paris culminating in the horror of La Semaine Sanglante (The Bloody Week) as the Communards went down to defeat before the disciplined onslaught of regular troops. Reprisals were ferocious: perhaps as many as 10,000 Comunards were executed with thousands more deported. The French themselves could hardly believe the slaughter. In 1873, the Assembly commissioned the construction of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Sacré Coeur) to commemorate the more than 50,000 who gave their lives on both sides in the bloody commune.


The Third Republic thus produced two startling and distinctingly different architectural wonders
to celebrate its survival, its sacrifices, its technological and industrial achievements--Sacré Coeur
(above) and the Eiffel Tower (below)

France showcased its industrial prowess and commemorated the centennial of the French Revolution in 1889. The design of the Eiffel Tower, by Gustave Eiffel, was chosen in a competition comprising 700 entries for the Paris World's Fair. It was a monumental and controversial achievement in its day, now beloved by tourists.

 < > (left)
< > (right)

Two decades into its fraught existence, the Third Republic faced its greatest internal crisis in the Dreyfus Affair, referred to at the time simply as "L'affaire." It galvanized liberals, conservatives, monarchists, radicals, socialists on all political fronts and raised the ugly head of Anti-Semitism in republican France. Accused, tried, convicted, and sentenced for treason in 1894-5, as well as culpability in France's ignominious defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, Captain Dreyfus was sent to the French penal colony of Devil's Island for his alleged crimes. Anti-Semitic rioters burned Dreyfus in effigy in 1898. The reality was much more complicated

image source < >

The last decade of the 19th century brought economic hardship. An influx of Russian emigrants*, fleeing the vicious pogroms of Tsar Alexander III, sought employment and competed for jobs, flooding the ranks of unskilled labor. At the same time financial scandals spuriously linked to Jewish bankers fueled the flames of discontent. When reports of military secrets being sold to Germany were sensationalized in the "yellow press,"** the obvious culprit was Captain Dreyfus--the first Jewish officer to earn a position on the General Staff. In a sequence of events that could have enlivened contemporary mystery-spy novels, Dreyfus was convicted on forged evidence and lying witnesses who saw in the unfortunate Dreyfus a convenient scapegoat for all of France's problems; the "anti-Dreyfusards" came from the highest ranks of the notoriously Anti-Semitic aristocracy, clergy, and military: better to send Dreyfus to Devil's Island than to impugn these French institutions. Emile Zola's daring letter, "J'Accuse," helped to energize the "Dreyfusards," to secure a new hearing for Dreyfus, reveal the identity of the real traitor, and eventually to exonerate Dreyfus and restore him to the General Staff.

image source < >
Dreyfus Affair < >
Dreyfus Affair < >
< >

*You might recall from APUSH, that many Eastern Europeans
and Jews came to the United States in the 1890s.
**You might also recall the role that the "yellow press" played
in igniting the Spanish-American War













Barry, D. H. "French Women Insurgents." Encyclopedia of 1848 Revolutions. Ed by James Chastain. Online available.
< >

Barry, Dan. "The Rebel Who Painted the Potato Blight." Weekend Arts II--The New York Times.
18 February 2016. Online available.
< >

Bloy, Marjie. "The Metropolitan Police."The Victorian Web. Online available.
< >

Bloy, Marjie. "The Campaign for the Repeal of the Corn Laws." The Victorian Web. Online available.
< >

Broad, William. "A Summer without Sun." Science Times: The New York Times. 25 August 2015. Online available.
< >

Egan, Timothy. "Paul Ryan's Irish Amnesia." Review: The New York Times. March 16, 2014.

Goldstein, Joseph and David Goodman. "A London Guide For 1 Police Plaza." The New York Times. 16 April 2014.

Kagan, Donald, et al. The Western Heritage, 10th edition, vol C. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2010.

Kimmelman, Michael. "Glimpsing a Lost Paris, Before Gentrification." The New York Times. March 10, 2014.

McKay, John, et al. A History of Western Society, 9th edition. Boston and New York:
Bedford/St. Martins, 2008.

Moss, Stephen. "Homophobia and High Office." The Guardian. Online available.
< >

"Prinny's Regency 1811- 1820." The Happy Fox. Online available.
< >

Ryan, Alan. "A Big British Moment." The New York Review. January 9, 2014.

Rhyne, George. "History 232: Modern Italy." Dickenson College. Online available.
< >

Schwartz, Robert. "Women: Conformity and Resistance." The France of Victor Hugo: History 255 Presents. Online available.
< >

Wikipedia contributors. "Vesuviennes." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
5 May 2015. Weg. 26 August 2015. Online available.
< >

Wikipedia contributors. "Year Without a Summer." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 22 Aug. 2015. Web. 26 Aug. 2015. Online available.
< >