Reform and Revolution 1815-1848: Crash Course European History #25

Hi I’m John Green and this is Crash Course
European History so today we’re looking at early 19th century Europe, which is to
say everything from 1815 to 1848, when various forms of excrement hit various fans. You’ll recall that at the Congress of Vienna,
Prince Metternich and his allies tried to extinguish the fires of social ferment and
prevent another French Revolution—or indeed any hint of revolution. But despite the Congress of Vienna’s determined
efforts to prevent them, reform and activism heated up after 1815 alongside industrialization. [Intro] In the 19th century, people were looking inward
at the domestic policies of each kingdom or state, which was a sharp difference from the
early modern period when kingdoms were constantly fighting one another with domestic issues
being much less of a concern. But much of what was happening outside of
Europe did affect Europe, of course. In the 1810s and 1820s, for instance, North,
Central, and South American people gained their independence from Portugal and Spain. Simón Bolívar, one upper-class leader of
the independence movement, took his inspiration, and to some extent his aesthetic, from Napoleon,
who, he believed, had freed people from the old regime of absolutism. Which is an interesting take on Napoleon. Oppressed by the heavy taxation inflicted
by “enlightened” administration on the colonies, native peoples, African slaves,
and other poor people backed elite, locally-born leaders like Bolívar. And they were all united in their resentment
of Spanish domination. By 1830, colonists’ victories put mainland
Spain at its weakest in three centuries. So, while distant ferment liberated much of
the Spanish and Portuguese empires, within post-Napoleonic Europe, citizens’ groups
of all sorts blossomed across the continent and reformist uprisings against rulers flourished,
often having developed in secret given the operation of censorship and not-so-secret
police. Literacy grew following the Enlightenment’s
emphasis on education, technology, and rational thought. Constitutions and the rule of law were increasingly
longed for and valued. Even many aristocrats were themselves surprisingly
restless and ready for change. Russian aristocrats feared that, despite their
own centrality in defeating Napoleon, the czar would exercise his dictatorial inclinations. Because, you know. Czars. And many in the Russian nobility were now
acquainted with the possibilities for a different kind of political system—especially one
guided by the rule of law and constitutions. In December 1825, some of the aristocratic
elite challenged the new Tsar Nicholas I in order to make his supposedly more liberal
older brother Constantin tsar instead. But these “Decembrists” were mowed down
or captured by loyal units of the army. Some were executed and many were sent into
exile in Siberia, where they made new towns and cities into cultural centers. Albeit, cold ones. By this time, a large contingent in the Russian
aristocracy were more deeply cultured and polylingual than the upper classes in any
other European kingdom, but the possibility for a non-autocratic Russia seemed to end
with the Decembrist defeat. Nicholas and his successors upheld the monarchy,
relentlessly clamping down on any threats to it, including a Polish uprising in 1830-31,
continuing Poland’s run of poor fortune that would remain essentially the only constant
in European history for another 160 years. Let’s go to the Thought Bubble. 1. In 1830, another revolution broke out in France, 2. bringing about a quick but consequential change
in government. 3. It began after Charles X ushered in strict
censorship, 4. compensation for aristocratic losses in the
revolution of 1789, 5. and similarly regressive measures such
as imposing the death penalty for any pilfering of church objects. 6. Opponents, many from the well-educated and
land-owning upper class 7. and others from the religious object pilfering
class, 8. took these moves as harbingers of a return
to absolutism, 9. which to be fair, they were. 10. As street protests erupted, these opponents
also worried that commoners would demand that France become a republic once again. And they didn’t want that. 11. In what is known as the “Three Glorious
Days” of July 1830, 12. they installed Charles’s cousin Louis-Philippe
as king and created a constitutional monarchy 13. —that is, they returned the country to the
situation of the early 1790s with a government based on a form of popular sovereignty instead
of divine right. 14. The new king Louis-Philippe expanded voting
rights, known as suffrage, to around 170,000 men, 15. but that was still a tiny fraction of the
30 million French citizens. 16. Social unrest remained high as France became
a more industrialized economy with more people living in cities. 17. Both living and working conditions for common
people were often terrible. 18. The silk workers of Lyon, for instance, went
on strike in 1831 over poor pay, 19. and even briefly seized the city’s arsenal 20. before the revolt was eventually put down. 21. In short, the entrenched system of power wasn’t
going to allow another fully populist revolution. Thanks Thought Bubble. So, Prince Metternich’s ambitions for a
tranquil citizenry had clearly failed to materialize. Across the Austrian lands there was the kind
of discussion and agitation that came from reading books, meeting in cafés, and having
a better education: More people wanted a say in their governance, and expected rights that
would be protected by the state. But this agitation percolated mostly in secret,
thanks to Metternich’s censors and secret police. In Italy, the Carbonari, a secret society
aiming for constitutional government in parts of Italy, directed uprisings in 1820 and 1830. But the forces of the Holy Alliance of Austria,
Prussia and Russia put down both revolts. Also during these decades, Hungarian nobility,
also operating in Metternich’s orbit, lobbied for separation from the Austrian empire, but
without much luck. Serbia and Greece had more success in pulling
away from the Ottomans. The Serbs became an independent principality
under the Ottomans in 1817 after an uprising in 1815. And the Greeks won complete independence from
the Ottomans in 1831. For romantics such as the English poet Lord
Byron, these were the struggles of heroes seeking revolutionary freedoms. Did the Center of the World just open? Is my Norton Anthology of Poetry in there? Ah Lord Byron. He wrote a poem from Greece in 1824 called,
“On this Day I Complete My 36th Year.” In that poem he writes, “Awake! Not Greece, She is awake.” In fact, Byron went to Greece in the 1820s
to aide in the independence movement. He also died there. Just a few months after this poem was written,
actually, in which he says, “my days are in the yellow leaf. The flowers and fruits of love are gone. The worm, the chancre, and the grief are mine
alone.” That’s what it was like to be 36 in 1824. Ah god, I hope my days aren’t in yellow
leaf. OK, let’s talk about Peterloo. Struggles in Britain during these decades
were tinged with the rebellions of Irish Catholics against official religious discrimination. Simultaneously, in the difficult years immediately
following Waterloo when harvests failed and the cost of living rose, crowds of working
people by the tens of thousands gathered in cities across Great Britain to listen to calls
for change. Parliament wanted to protect aristocratic
agricultural interests, which tells you a lot about the British Parliament at the time,
and so they raised the price of grain by passing the Corn Laws. Orators demanded their repeal. And the upper classes were on edge. Then in 1819, during a protest in St. Peter’s
Field, Manchester, police shot into the crowd and killed some 15 people and wounded 500. The so-called “Peterloo Massacre”–a term
created by pundits to invoke Waterloo–was followed by the draconian Six Acts that allowed
government searches, prohibited large assemblies, and punished anti-government publications. But outrage and activism continued in Great
Britain and Ireland. The Irish were especially hard hit by the
economic downturn, which resulted in the confiscation of peasant lands by Great Britain. And in 1801 a series of laws joined Ireland
to the rest of Great Britain (together, the laws are referred to as The Act of Union). And despite this purported unity, discrimination
among Catholics remained powerful allowing almost unchecked confiscation of Catholic
property and other assets. In 1823, Irish activist and lawyer Daniel
O’Connell formed the Catholic Association which lobbied for allowing Catholics to have
high positions, including membership in the British Parliament. And the Catholic Association’s activism
plus the accumulation of middle- and working-class grievances eventually led to the Great Reform
Act of 1832. This act eliminated “rotten boroughs”—that
is, districts where aristocrats would become members of parliament almost by birthright,
even in some “districts” that had no actual residents. The Great Reform Act also gave representation
to new industrial cities—like Manchester—that had no parliamentary representation at all. And more men got the right to vote, including
middle-class property owners and those paying an established minimum rent. But of course the definition of that minimum
rent was kept high enough to keep lots of other people, including most ordinary workers,
and all women, were still left out. OK, so we saw in our episodes on industrialization
that in France a group of aristocrats, calling themselves socialists, wanted to better society
due to a belief that the late eighteenth century revolutionary era had focused too much on
the individual and should focus more on the health of the whole. Their socialism entailed philanthropy. And by the 1820s a new group of socialists,
especially prominent in England and France, had a different take on the issues of the
day. In Britain, Robert Owen, who had made his
fortune in textiles, inspired the creation of utopian communities. In these communities, factory hands would
work a limited number of hours and have benefits including education. And profit was to take a back seat to the
overall well-being of the community and all of its individual members. Owen’s ideas gained traction among reform-minded
industrialists, and officials, and workers, and thinkers, especially since industrialization
with its child labor and incredibly high rates of maiming and workplace death was rather
dystopian. Similarly in France during the post-Napoleonic
period, Claude Henri Saint-Simon, Charles Fourier, and Auguste Comte devised ideas for
well-run communities that emphasized harmony and efficient management. One common idea was belief in the rational
organization of human societies. Engineers and planners featured prominently
in utopian ideas as their skills would make society operate without tensions and uprisings—that
is, like a well-designed machine. These thinkers’ “socialism” contributed
to the formation of modern social sciences: sociology, economics, anthropology, and government. And around the world, people set up phalansteries–the
name of communities based on Fourier’s writings–organized around the personality characteristics he
outlined. Although German lawyer and theorist Karl Marx
scorned these ideas and the communities based on them, they also helped pave the way for
the socialism to come. Now God knows that we’re going to talk more
about Marx.. what’s that Stan? Oh, Stan informs me that I can’t talk about
Marx and God knowing anything, because to Marx religion was the opiate of the masses. We’ll talk more about Marx, and his use
of the term “socialism,” in the next episode. Then and now socialism had many meanings,
and its definition was ever evolving. The same could be said of the word “liberal,”
which was also evolving from a seventeenth-century belief in basic liberties at birth to the
idea of free trade in the eighteenth century to the concern with accessibility to suffrage
in the nineteenth and twentieth. But for now, I just want to note that as people
became better-educated and were exposed to ideas of individual rights and popular participation
in government, it became very difficult for the powerful to hold onto that power without
popular support. Your education, and mine, is similarly an
opportunity to be exposed to many different ideas, so that we might be productive, critical,
and thoughtful contributors to the political and social lives of our communities, as well
as the economic life of our community. And just as the people of early 19th century
Europe were shaped by the voices they listened to and the ideas they encountered, we are
also shaped by those voices. So listen carefully, and as my friend Amy
Krouse Rosenthal once wrote, Pay attention to what you pay attention to. Thanks for being here. We’ll see you next time.

Comments 43

  • gulags has entered the chat

  • It was Engels who differentiated between the utopian socialism of Owen, Saint-Simon, and Fourier and their scientific socialism based on Hegel and Feuerbach; the chief difference of which was the application of Hegel's idea of dialectics with Feuerbach's materialism to Marx's analysis of political economy, thus leading to what we understand as core to Marxism – the idea of class struggle shaping all societies.

    As for Marx and religion, Marx did say religion was the opium of the masses. But he also said that it was the "sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions." Literally right before he said it was the opium of the masses. Marx didn't hate religion. He understood it as necessary relief to an oppressed proletariat, while at the same time noting it as a tool of the bourgeoisie to maintain the superstructure.

  • It’s funny how educated people vote against things like brexit, and the conservatives

  • ugh going straight from Byron to Irish disenfranchisement gave me the worst emotional whiplash man

  • Wow, first "let them eat brioche" and then using the common misunderstanding of "religion is the opiate of the people"? I'm starting to lose faith in y'all.


  • I wasn't aware that John was still making videos. Its still good to see him back in the saddle!

  • Greeks after getting free from Ottoman rule, were now paying far higher taxes.
    As they were now heavily in debt to the banks in Europe.

    They have yet to recover from that debt train that continues till today into the foreseeable future.

    Out of the frying pan, into the fire.

  • In Italy, the Carbonara, …….

  • Socialism has ruined societies for a thousand years. Nothing new under the sun.

  • Want to note that Simon Bolivar renounced his admiration of Napoleon when Napoleon crowned himself Emperor.

  • Thanks for the Poland reference, and bring back Me from the Past!

  • I am so happy you included some important Irish history but you left out one important area the potato famine which caused such damage and devastation to the Irish population we are still dealing with the aftermath of population decline today

  • Great chapter, thanks a lot. However I missed a mention to the Liberal Triennium (1820-1823) in Spain, when a liberal government ruled Spain after a military uprising against the absolutist rule of Ferdinand VII; and how the so-called Hundred Thousand Sons of St. Louis crushed it.

  • Could you do a video explaining the difference between democratic socialism (actual socialism, post-capitalist system, socializing the means of production, which is definitely not Bernie Sanders or AOC’s platform) and social democracy (not socialism, an FDR style mixed-economy, well-regulated capitalism, the Nordic or Scandinavian model, or welfare state with a strong social safety net more in line with people who claim to be democratic socialists like Bernie or AOC)

    Ps: keep up the good work

  • "The so-called "Peterloo Massacre" a term created by pundits to invoke Waterloo"

    Apparently the habit of people to remove the Water- from a word and affix the suffix predates Watergate

  • Should have mentioned how European powers forced foreign kings onto the newly formed Greek state since this was an episode that revolved about abslutism

  • Just as a little extra bit of info, the Peterloo Massacre is considered by many to be one of the main events in the development of the trade union movement in Britain.

  • I am a 35 year old white Man living in the Piedmont of North Carolina. High School grad but no college. I make 18 dollars an hour.

    How do I compare with the rest of the world? I wonder.

  • ayyyy Serbs gettin' a shout out

  • Thank you for covering Catholics and Russia. I feel like they're often left out of Western, Protestant histories.

  • Just saying that according to what I've read it was not the Decembrists who formed these cultural centres in Siberia, but their wives who followed their men into exile and had to keep them alive with food parcels. Sadly history is rarely kind to women.

  • Wait, Robert Owen? You mean THE Robert Owen? The one who coined the term Dinosaur???

  • dang greece woke af

  • Thank you for mentioning the Greeks. They rarely get mentioned….

  • You didn't mention the revolution of Tudor Vladimirescu of 1821

  • Crash Course is probably my favorite channel on youtube

  • If the started this series one week earlier, it would’ve matched my school curriculum

  • a spectre is haunting crash course

  • 2:10 Boys face the teacher (with cane!) in the middle, while girls sit on the side and back. yeah

  • Let's hear it for a liberal education.

  • lesson from history: leaders and rulers rarely, if ever, accept the concept of a knowledgable citizen. citizens sadly rarely seek knowledge.

  • I like the way you did the old videos also you should go over 7 grade history

  • The Polish are "the Mongols" of this season.

  • It is Bolívar, with the accent in the í; not Bolivár with the accent in the a.

  • I'm surprised there wasn't any discussion of the Liberal wars in Portugal or the 1st Carlist war in Spain since it provides a good example of a country experiencing widespread and rapid change as a result of some of the forces discussed in the video such as greater literacy. Yet at the same time as everything changed in Spanish society, so too did little fundamental change as well.

  • Where is the old crash course that I love. Where the energy!

  • Not tsar, but Emperor*

  • Socialism used to mean philanthropy?!

  • Does Music hall, and Cabaret emerge now?

  • Women should not be allowed to vote.

  • Where is the open letter? 🙁

  • My days are in the yellow leaf. The flowers and fruits of love are gone. The worm, the chancre, and the grief are mine alone.'' That indeed what it was like to be 36 in 1824

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