Austrian Revolution (1848–1849)
PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: The Austrian people vs. Emperor
PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): Austria
MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: Uprising against
conservative Hapsburg regime, especially foreign minister
OUTCOME: Austria adopted a new constitution that called
for national equality, an end to serfdom and feudalism,
and a reformed court system.
APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS:
Rebel forces, unknown; government troops, about 10,000
CASUALTIES: Rebels, 3,000 killed; government forces, 219
killed, 1,047 wounded
The year 1848 was one of widespread revolution in
Europe, with uprisings in France, Italy, Germany, Hungary,
and Schleswig-Holstein, although only those in Italy
and Hungary were protracted. The other uprisings were
brief, albeit intense, and they were for the most part confined
to urban centers.
Particularly hard hit during 1848 was the Hapsburg
Empire, which embodied all the corrupt and bigoted conservatism
that the young egalitarian zealots of Europe
most despised. Hapsburg authorities had to put down
uprisings in Italy and Hungary as well as one in the very
heart of their empire.
On March 13, 1848, hordes of Viennese poured into the
streets of the Hapsburg capital to protest the policies of
Emperor Ferdinand I (1793–1875) and, even more, Prince
Fürst von Metternich (1773–1859), the emperor’s archconservative
foreign minister. In response to the initial tumult,
Ferdinand dismissed Metternich and promised a host of liberal
reforms, including the promulgation of a new constitution.
Some 30 Viennese died in the first wave of the uprising,
which subsided after the departure of Metternich and the
promises of the emperor—although not before sparking
similar revolts in Cracow, Poland (then a part of the Hapsburg
domain), on April 25–26 and Prague (now the capital
of the Czech Republic, but at the time part of the Hapsburg
Empire) on June 11–18. Hapsburg forces responded brutally
in both cities, making extensive use of artillery against the
rebels. Hundreds of citizens died in both cities.
In Vienna the uprising was renewed on October 6 in
sympathy with an uprising in Hungary. The 10,000-man
army that had crushed the rebellion in Prague was
marched into Vienna on October 25, and by October 31
the new Viennese uprising had been quashed. Government
losses were 247 killed and 1,047 wounded. The
rebels manning the barricades lost at least 3,000 killed.
Although the Austrian uprising had been extinguished,
Ferdinand I yielded to popular pressure and abdicated
in favor of his nephew Franz Joseph (1830–1916) on
December 2. Only 18 at the time of his rise to the throne,
Franz Joseph would prove a long-lived emperor and would
carry the faltering Hapsburg dynasty into the next century
and the cataclysm of WORLD WAR I.
See also FRENCH REVOLUTION (1848); GERMAN REVOLUTION;
HUNGARIAN REVOLUTION (1848–1849); ITALIAN
REVOLUTION; SCHLESWIG-HOLSTEIN REVOLT.
Further reading: Robert John Weston Evans and
Hartmut Pogge Von Strandmann, eds., The Revolutions in
Europe, 1848–1849: From Reform to Reaction (New York:
Oxford University Press, 2000); Peter Jones, The 1848 Revolutions
(New York: Addison-Wesley, 1995); Priscilla
Robertson, Revolutions of 1848 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton
University Press, 1968).