European History pt. 49 — Mid Century Agitation

Last time I started on a short chapter that tried to do a kind of potted intellectual history of the early 19th century. I found it kind of tedious, so I’m basically skipping it. Most of it was about nationalism and how various movements formed secret societies with national identities as well as reviving peasant languages of one type or another (in Russia particularly).

Eastern Question

If you remember, Metternich managed to solve the eastern, Polish question by getting Russia to accept a congressional Poland. As soon as the ink was dry on this proposal though, agitation begun. Poland wanted to be re-unified and did not want Russian control. They longed to be connected with Prussian Poland and Austria Hungary Poland.

Germany Proper

Metternich was watching Germany closely, and he didn’t like what he saw. He saw the creation of Burchenschafts, youth clubs that were in favor of a peasant (read, democratic) Germany. A German writer who was an informant for Russia was assassinated. The assassin was sent gushing letters of gratitude. Metternich could not stand for these agitations and so called various leaders together at Carlsbad. There they issued the Carlsbad decrees which renewed repression in parts of Germany and Austria Hungary. Some German leaders retracted constitutions that they had granted.


In England, parliament passed the corn laws to raise the revenue for landowners. This made grain much more expensive and the lower classes rebelled. There were some uprisings and some peaceful protests, some organized by the powerful new factory class. Most people at the time joined in the call for annual elections of parliament by universal male suffrage along with the repeal of the corn laws. At one such peaceful demonstration, British soldiers fired on the crowd in what was termed the “Peterloo” massacre (1819). It was also at this time that a conspiracy to assassinate all the members of the cabinet was hatched. They were caught on Cato street, hence “cato street conspiracy”


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