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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Time for a change of orthodoxy?, May 6, 2009
This review is from: The European Revolutions, 1848 - 1851 (New Approaches to European History) (Paperback)
Sperber's book is impeccable as a bird's eye view of the 1848 revolutions. It is probably the most up-to-date general work on the subject. The book has considerable background on the restoration or 'pre-March' period, without which the events of 1848 are meaningless. And it marries social and economic with political history, providing a coherent narrative (or narratives) alongside anecdotes of revolutionary experience and a description of the revolutions at ground level. Finally, Sperber provides a chronology, something which, useful in most history books, is essential to follow the tumultuous flow of 1848-49.

That said, I was mildly disappointed that this remains a recycling of the same used, mainstream views (after all, the book belongs to the New Approaches to European History collection). Because the revolutions were seen as a major missed opportunity by guilt-ridden German historians, and because of the weight of Marxist writing (the Communist Manifesto was issued in 1848 - you may know that already) portraying the radicals as the only `true' revolutionaries, 1848 has long been the subject of a dominantly leftist reading. This reading contains limited consideration of the revolutions as an originally liberal movement, or of the socially conservative dimension of the nationalist programs, and it attributes a debatable continuity between these and the second-round, radical uprisings.

Apologies if this is long-winded. I know of no general work that takes a less pro-radical angle. For Prussia and Austria-Hungary, Christopher Clark (The Iron Kingdom 1600-1947) and C.A. Macartney (The Habsburg Empire 1790-1918) respectively have good chapters on the subject, and Ginsborg is worth reading on Manin and the Venetian exotica.
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26 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A well researched and excellently written take on this perio, February 10, 2001
By 
Jeff Williams (Clinton, NY USA) - See all my reviews
Not only is this an extremely informative title, but it does something virtually unheard of in a scholarly text: make the reader laugh. While providing all the essentials that one desires in an history, Sperber has a great knack for the telling (and often comic) details of history that make it so much fun to read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, May 25, 2013
By 
R. Albin (Ann Arbor, Michigan United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The European Revolutions, 1848 - 1851 (New Approaches to European History) (Paperback)
An excellent overview and analysis of the great European Revolutions of 1848-1851. This concise and well written book provides the basic narrative, a great deal of analysis, including comparison with other revolutions, particularly the French Revolution, and some historiography. Sperber opens by describing the considerable social and political tensions in Europe during the 1840s, emphasing the considerable diversity of European society from relatively developed and politically advanced France to the highly traditional rural societies of Eastern Europe. In contrast to the usual emphasis on urban populations, he particularly highlights rural unrest, discussing both the strains induced by persisting seigneurialism in some parts of Europe and increasing capitalist agriculture in other parts of Europe. Increasing populations, declining wages and living standards, the economic strains of nascent industrialization, and the the exclusion from political participation of the great majority of the public were the backdrop of the Revolutions. A series of poor harvests in the 1840s and economic problems incited public unrest and pushed many European states past their breaking point.

Sperber also has a fine and unanachronistic analysis of political currents before and during the Revolutions. Included are excellent descriptions of liberalism, radicalism, conservatism, nationalism, and incipient socialism. The complicated relationship between the different political strains, social status, confessional differences, and nationalism is explored particularly well. The differences between the different political and national tendencies became particularly important after initial successes of the Revolutions and were major contributors to the faltering of the Revolutionary movements and the later successes of conservative reaction. The descriptions and analyses of different events in different parts of Europe is excellent and includes regions often neglected such as southern Italy and what we now call Romania. There is specific and useful criticism of Marxist and nationalist historiographic traditions.

The 1848 Revolutions are commonly regarded as failures, because of the success of reaction in most European states. To a considerable extent, this resulted from fission of revolutionary movements with liberal partisans joining conservatives against radicals. The key role of military support of reaction is emphasized. Sperber has a thoughtful perspective on the outcome of the Revolutions. He suggests that a desire to avoid the radicalism of Jacobin period of the French Revolution on both the right and the left played a role in preventing revolutionary success. In some smaller states, there were expansions of constitutionalism and rights. The experience of the Revolutions, despite the considerable repression of the 1850s, did result in expansions of political life in some important respects. He suggests also that the experience of the Revolutions purged the European Left of the Jacobin emphasis on civic virtue.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, February 20, 2015
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This review is from: The European Revolutions, 1848 - 1851 (New Approaches to European History) (Paperback)
Full of pertinent information, this book helped me receive an A on a research paper.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, January 5, 2015
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This review is from: The European Revolutions, 1848 - 1851 (New Approaches to European History) (Paperback)
Nice reference book
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3 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Liked It., February 18, 2012
By 
Harry Allan (Hackensack, NJ USA) - See all my reviews
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I think this is a very good book for someone who wants to know more about a period that gets almost no attention in the US.
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