From the 1815 until the 1871, Europe underwent a great change. As the revolution of the 1830s showed, the Vienna Settlement did not last, even though the great European powers were able for a while to take the situation under control with brutal repression. However, it was impossible to stop the liberal revolution, which led to important political events and deep social changes. In the political field there are three major events: the rise of Napoleon III, the unification of Germany and the Italian Risorgimento.
In the field of social changes there are the extraordinary doubling of the population, the new technologies, which made possible the development of communication and transportation, and the important consequences of the industrial revolution. Louis Napoleon Bonaparte came to power the 2nd of December 1852. With him, the Second Empire started. Years before, he was expelled to America, but with the fall of the July Monarchy in February 1848, he returned to France to reassert his claim to being Napoleon Bonapartes legitimate heir, and to take advantage of the new opportunities that suddenly presented themselves.
To obtain what he wanted, Bonaparte used the army and police to arrest his principal political opponents and to occupy the Assembly. After this he announced his assumption of power and proclaimed a new constitution, to be subjected to an immediate plebiscite, where Napoleon obtained a huge majority, and became president of France. But one year later, in another plebiscite, Napoleon received popular ratification of his assumption of the title of Emperor, as Napoleon III. Many observers saw this meteoric rise, as the beginning of a new era of absolutism.
However, the public opinion never considered Napoleon as a tyrant, as electoral statistics show. They trusted him, who did not disappointed their expectations. Napoleons agenda concerned the reorganization of the State, a new economical policy and a great program of public works. During Napoleons government, France underwent a deep change. After a long period of disorder, society found its stability, both on the political and economical side. In fact, Napoleon helped to foster an economic boom, which provided ample employment for the urban poor as well as for the young people, ambitious and well prepared.
He mobilized all the resources of the State to give a new aspect to his nation, which was developing a new urban dimension. The railroads, from the 3,600 km of the 1850, passed to 18,000 km in the 1870. The number of streets and navigable canals doubled and the merchant navy was improved. These changes were essential to guarantee the market growth. The States resources were mobilize for the massive rebuilding of Paris too. Boulevards, great squares and great buildings took the place of the old slums, and new sewer allowed the improvement of hygienical conditions.
All the expenses for these works were divided between the imperial government and the City of Paris. After having consolidated his regime in France, napoleon turned his attention to his position in Europe. His aim was to gain a new position of prestige for France, which was lost with the defeat of Napoleon I. He decided to conduct a strong foreign policy and to take side with all the countries claiming for their independence. Napoleon III helped Italy to reach his unification and to obtain from Austria that part of Italy they occupied for a long time.
The figure of Napoleon III was very important for France, also if his attitude could seem sometimes despotic. Another important event, which occurred in Europe in the 19th century, was the reunification of Germany. As for France the long struggle started in 1848. After several decades of repression, a strong desire for reform had developed among the educated and wealthy bourgeoisie. In March 1848 the German liberals started to push for their claims. The princes of the several little states belonging to the German Confederation, were obliged to grant constitutions and parliamentary assemblies and appointed liberal ministries all over Germany.
At the same time the German nationalists called a National Assembly in Frankfurt to prepare the unification of Germany as a liberal, constitutional state. However, they found several problem, most of all they did not know what should become part of the United Germany. At the end they advocated the exclusion of Austria from the German nation state and the foundation of a smaller empire under Prussian leadership. The deliberations of the National Assembly, however, soon became irrelevant because they were unable to face the growing of reaction all over the German Confederation.
The European Monarchs provided troops for bloody repression of the liberals, and Prussian army helped crush democrats in South Germany. In an act of desperation the National Assembly tried to save national unity by offering a German crown to the Prussian king. However, he refused to accept a crown from the revolutionaries. The revolution of the 1848 was a bloody failure, but the ideals did not disappear from the hearts of the Germans. To help the situation very soon arrived the industrial revolution, which allowed Germany to reach an economical unification and later the final and real unification on the geographic chart of Europe.
As for France, the social revolution in Germany was really rapidly, that in just two decades they reach the same level of industrialization of many other European nations. New factories were built, the production of textiles and iron increased, railroads grew and started to connect many distant regions, and coal production grew year by year reaching surprising levels. At this point the Confederation was ready to be unified and the situation was caught by Otto Von Bismarck, who became Prussian Minister President in 1862.
He accepted the necessity of national unification, but under the hegemony of the conservative, anti-liberal Prussian monarchy. Bismarck was a conservative landlords and not a German nationalist; moreover, he hated liberalism, democracy and socialism. However, he believed that charismatic leaders could become popular among the industrial and rural masses. In his policy, he acted as a liberal, but without believing in this ideology. In fact, he did not want to give the liberals an important role in government , he wanted just to conquer the popular favor.
He was a very strong figure in this part of History. He made possible the unification of Germany, even though his attitude was impetuous. He always insisted on the importance of power: unification would not come about trough speeches and declarations but by iron and blood. When it was the moment for Germany to start the political unification, they have to face the problem of their neighbors. In the 1863 the Danish government, which had constitutional rights on many two regions of the Confederation, Schleswig and Holstein, proceed to make Schleswig an integral part of Denmark.
The Germans did not accept this act, and so they declared war to the peninsula, with the help of the Prussian army. After a quick victory over the Danishes, Prussia sign a treaty that let Prussia govern the two regions. Two years later the Confederation have to face the Austrian threat. The Prussian army was defeated and Austria annexed many German states. Prussia formed a new union, The North German Confederation (because they annexed those states located at north of the main river), Bismarck drafted a constitution that granted universal suffrage.
In spite of the defeat, Germany became a strong powers, and this alarmed France, which for centuries had tried to keep it divided and weak (during the Napoleons wars, the Confederation was considered a buffer state between France and the rest of Europe). Napoleon, in 1870, declared war to Prussia. The French army was defeat by a well organized Prussian army, while Bismarck worked to obtain the consent of other princes of the Confederation for a unite Germany. At Versailles on 18th of January 1871, Bismarck proclaimed the king of Prussia, king of Germany.
The third important event of this period was the unification of Italy. A sense of national unity began to take root despite the restoration imposed by the Vienna Congress. This feeling was supported, like in Germany and France, by the intellectual and the middle-class in all the Italian States and by numerous patriotic association, as the Young Italy of Giuseppe Mazzini. They profoundly influenced society, even though their message often was unable to reach all the Italian population.
The congress of Vienna was follow in Italy, as in the rest of Europe by many insurrections, always repressed by the army. After the insurrection of Paris, in 1848 the region of the North decided to go against the Austrian empire, which had the control of Lombardy and Veneto. Encouraged by the uprising of Milan and Venice, the king of Sardinia Carlo Alberto intervened against Austria with the help of volunteers from various parts of Italy. The Italian army was defeated not only now, but also in another attempt the following year.
Carlo Alberto was obliged to abdicate in favor of Victor Emanuel II. In a852 Count Camillo Benso Di Cavour became the prime minister of the king. He played an important role in the unification of Italy. He based all his work on diplomacy. At the congress of Paris in 1856, concluding the Crimean War, fought by the army of Piedmont in a coalition with France and England against Russia and Turkey, Cavour made the possible to raise the Italian question. He made a secret alliance with Napoleon III, which accepted to intervene in favor of Italy when Austria would have declared war to it.
Italy provoke Austria, which declared war, and with the help of the French army the Austrian empire was obliged to sign the armistice of Villafranca, which concerned the cession of Lombardy. At the same time all Central Italy and Romagna rebelled, overturning the old regimes. Following the plebiscite that voted in favor of annexation to Piedmont (1860), there then began the construction, together with the territory of Southern Italy that had been taken by Garibaldi’s expedition of `The Thousand’, of the United Kingdom Of Italy.
This was to be proclaimed at Turin on 17 March 1861, though the acquisition of Rome and Venice were still outstanding. The latter was added five years later (1866) following an unfortunate conflict with Austria, which was resolved in Italy’s favor thanks to the intervention of Prussia; Rome was conquered by force, in the 20th September1870. With these events the territorial unity of the Italian nation was almost complete and it was now necessary to construct its own social, economic and cultural image.
From 1815 many things changed, but the most important is that Europe changed from a rural society to an urban one. Tanks to the industrial revolution the aspect, the economy and the social situation of many countries changed. As a consequence of this revolution, the European population in 50 years doubled and London, one of the biggest European cities, reached one million and an half of inhabitants. In the century between 1750 and 1850, the population of Europe passed from 150 million to about 270 million, and between 1850 and 1900 the population grew to 420 million.
Existing statistics indicate that from 1750 there was a steady decline in the death rate, due to the improvement of hygienical conditions and advance in medicine. A great contribute to the medical advance were the discoveries of Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch, who after many years proved that germs were not spontaneously generated, but reproduced themselves trough breeding and were the major causes of diseases. Those kind of discoveries were an impulse for the developments of medical technologies. The life condition were improved also by the efforts of many cities to improve their urbanization.
In fact, as in France, a great relevancy was given to the sewer. In the past, especially in the slums, the majority of the infections were generated by stagnant water. All these factor contributed to the rise of life expectancy, and thats why the population in Europe doubled. With the demographic revolution, the cities must enlarged themselves to host all their inhabitants. The cities became bigger and all the resources of the states were mobilized to realize new buildings, streets and services for the population. An important role in this period is occupied by the railroads.
Transportation, thanks to the invention of the locomotive, became easier. The railroads became the backbone of Europes inland transportation system. The construction of railway provided a new and powerful stimulus to the industries. In fact, the demand for iron and coal increased and so the work of many industries. Overseas as overland, people and goods moved faster and farther. In communication as in transport, a lot of inventions brought many European close to each others. The postal service was more efficient and faster thanks to the railroad.
Than, in 1844, the electric telegraph was invented, and due in part to its importance for the railroads, a network of telegraph lines spread all over Europe. In 1851 the first submarine cable was installed between Dover and Calais, in 1866 between Europe and USA, in 1870 and 1872 many cables were installed from Europe to India, and from Europe to Honk Kong. Also press improved a lot, and the production of paper became cheaper. This meant that newspapers could be produced cheaply and in great number. This allowed all the inhabitants to be aware on what was happening around them.