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1848: Year of Revolution Paperback – October 19, 2010

3.7 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In this account of a turbulent year in which most European thrones were shaken or toppled, Rapport smoothly blends drama of battles on the barricades and perspective on the causes and consequences. As ever in revolution, severe economic distress of workers dovetailed with protest by liberals and radicals to ignite a political explosion, initially in Italy but contagiously in France. Rapport’s telling of the February Revolution in Paris, and of ensuing popular revolts in Prussia, the Hapsburg Empire, and the Italian states, periodically pauses for his keen observations about disagreements within the temporarily triumphant revolutionary camps. After the political revolutions, discord between liberals hoping to establish constitutional order and radicals fomenting social revolution gave conservatives and reactionaries openings to mount counterrevolutions. Such are the political labels of the contending forces, but Rapport’s emphasis on leaders installed in the history books about 1848—including Mazzini, Kossuth, Bismarck, and Marx—reminds readers of the force these key individuals exerted on the course of events. Striking an excellent balance between narrative and explanation, Rapport will engage the history audience. --Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Wall Street Journal
“A fully nuanced portrait of a tumultuous year.”

New York Times
“A lively, panoramic new history ... a good yarn, with a keen eye for ground-level details.”

Seattle Times
“Absorbing ... anyone wishing a vivid account of a crucial period in European history can spend many hours engrossed in this book.”


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Reprint edition (October 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465020674
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465020676
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #563,276 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Having just read Jonathan Keates excellent The Siege of Venice, and while presently half way through Jasper Ridley's Garibaldi, I was tempted by 1848 when it appeared at my local bookshop; so, putting aside Garibaldi, I plunged headlong into Mike Rapport's brilliant narrative, emerging the richer for the experience.

The subject matter for 1848 is wide ranging and complex in the extreme but Mike Rapport gives us a highly readable, cohesive narrative that bristles with all the hopes and disappointments of the time.

We are given cameo appearances of some of the main personalities involved: Alexander Herzen, Karl Marx, Kossuth, Mazzini, Garibaldi, Bismarck and Napolean III, who has all the odiousness of a modern day politicain; comfortably voted into power, the author makes a fine point in reminding us of his act of perjury. There are others of course, all contributing to this lively narrative.

Despite pre-1848 social unrest and revolutionary tremors, 1848 was a phenomenon in itself where a population explosion coupled with food shortages impelled the peasantry and working class to merge spontaneously with a liberal middle class, whose agenda was directed at a broadening of the constitution and male suffrage, and freedom of the press and opinion within a congenial atmosphere for reform. This drag net of unrest cut across many social groups where the working class were just one segment. Interestingly, Karl Marx appeared intransigent even then, attempting to radicalise this surge by insisting on a class war of workers against the status quo and almost ignoring or holding in contempt the diversity of the groups involved.
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Format: Hardcover
1848 marks the beginning of general revolution in Europe, the first crack in von Metternich's reactionary order, the greatest upheaval since the French revolution in 1792. The revolutions of 1848 are even more remarkable than their predecessor in that they were so widespread and multiple, with uprisings in Western, Central, and Eastern Europe.

Due to its ubiquitious nature, a major event like 1848 poses special problems for any historian wishing to provide an account for the general public. Mike Rapport rises admirably to the task, however. His new book is a concise, readable summarization of the events of that fateful year, from the glorious spring and summer that raised such high hopes for the cause of revolution and reform, to the gathering of the counter-revolutionary forces that slowly crushed resistance everywhere in the grim days of autumn.

Rapport gives a good general view of the factors that led to revolution in 1848. At that point, Europe had been held in check for over 30 years by repressive, reactionary regimes,all cobbled together by von Metternich at the Treaty of Berlin of 1815 in a careful balance of power enforced by the great powers: Great Britain, Russia, Prussia, France, and Austria. Despite the old's order's best efforts, long repressed grievances and issues came to a boil in 1848. These varied from peasants seeking an end to serfdom and feudal duties, to liberals who wanted sensible reform, to radicals who wanted a republic instead of a monarch, to (very importantly)nationalists who wanted their own country. For various reasons, reactionary pigheadedness large among them, the old order either could not or would not address these issues.

Rapport succinctly tells how these factors led to insurrection.
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Format: Hardcover
I had so much hope for this book. And perhaps it really is everything the other reviews claim, but for someone coming to the book with only a general knowledge of European events mid-19th century, it was difficult to keep everything straight.

That means, in the end, that I don't feel like I learned much.
I consider this a great failure on the part of a book that seems dedicated to providing a basic summary of the events of 1848 to an (albeit educated) popular audience.

The narrative suffered greatly in approaching the pan-European revolutions chronologically, rather than by geographical area. By jumping to a different country every 20 pages--and therefore entirely different circumstances, with different key players and problems to overcome--facts get muddled if you aren't already familiar with them. Blame me for not knowing much about Mazzini before coming to this book (I am again assuming this is for an educated popular audience), but when I haven't been reading about him for 70 pages and then he suddenly makes another appearance I don't much remember who he is. Mazzini? What? Manin? Hm? I don't know.

Rapport also packs his sentences with numerous pieces of vital information, a trait of academic writing but fatal in narrative history. Each sentence carries an average of three different points, it seems, which makes the going slow and difficult.
Turning to a random page: "His [Jelacic's] dizzying rise began in the summer when Batthyany, well aware of Hungary's shortage of munititions, ordered him to buy ammunition from abroad and to learn how percussion caps were made--a skill which, ironically, he duly studied at the imperial fireworks factory in Wiener-Neustadt" (p. 313).
Let's play a game.
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