1848 became known as ‘the year of revolutions’ and ‘the springtime of nations’ because there was political turmoil, fighting and unrest right across Europe resulting in ministries and monarchies being toppled and new nation states proclaimed.
The underlying causes were agricultural, economic and demographic.
1. Agricultural failure
From 1845 onwards grain harvest across Europe were poor and this was exacerbated when the ‘fallback crop’, potatoes, were hit by a destructive ‘blight’. The result of the potato blight in Ireland is estimated to have been one and a half million deaths, but right across Europe peasants and small farmers starved, often to death. Hence the nickname for the decade as a whole, ‘the Hungry Forties’.
2. Economic downturn
Food shortages combined with an economic downturn resulting from overproduction, particularly in the textile industry, which saw textile workers and artisans thrown out of work in all Europe’s industrialised areas, the north…
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