Europe in the 1820s: Uprisings, Liberalism, and Nationalism

Europe in the 1820s: Uprisings, Liberalism, and Nationalism


This article explores the political and social changes in Europe during the 1820s and their impact on society. It examines the liberal uprisings in Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Germany, the rise of conservatism, and the emergence of nationalism. The article also delves into the mid-century revolutions and the new social forces that drove them.

Table of Contents

  • The Spread of Liberalism Across Europe
  • Conservatism and a New Start
  • The Rise of Nationalism
  • The Mid-Century Revolutions
  • The Impact on Society


Q: What were the liberal uprisings in Portugal and Spain about?

A: In Portugal, the liberals proclaimed Maria de Glória queen, defeated Miguelist forces, and restored liberal reforms and constitution. In Spain, the death of King Fernando VII allowed the liberals to force through two constitutions, the first of which enshrined the power of aristocratic oligarchs and was based on pre-revolutionary constitutionalism.

Q: What happened during the carbonari uprising in Italy?

A: The carbonari rose up against the Austrians and papal rule in Italy. Although they raised the Italian tricolor across the Papal States and in the Duchy of Parma, rivalries among the various Italian cities, failure to interest the peasantry in their cause, and the Austrian army’s intervention ultimately led to the rebellion’s failure.

Q: How did Germany react to the Parisian revolution?

A: In Germany, people showed their solidarity with the Parisian revolution by wearing the tricolor cockade. Economic downturns brought unemployed and discontented craftsmen to the streets in various cities, and although the liberal middle class was able to play on government fears of “the mob” to extract reforms in some small and medium-sized German states, the failed 1848 revolutions were still a few years off.

Q: What was the impact of the 1830 revolution in Europe?

A: In the wake of the 1830 revolution, Europe experienced a range of political changes, with some states embracing reform while others cracked down on dissent. Germany saw a rise in censorship and the banning of political parties, festivals and demonstrations, while Switzerland reacted against external interference by pushing through a series of liberal reforms. Great Britain experienced rioting and political upheaval before passing a reform bill that extended the electorate by around 45%.

Q: What is the difference between conservatism and liberalism?

A: The conservatism of the post-1815 era was seen as a new start, replacing Enlightenment rationalism with religious faith, human instinct and emotion, tradition, morality, and a self-consciously historical sense of the past. Prominent conservative thinkers argued for the importance of monarchy, stability, and obedience to order, with the suppression of subversive thought as essential to society’s development. Liberals, on the other hand, began to advocate for greater rights and freedoms, with the principle of popular sovereignty spreading across Europe.

Q: What was the impact of the mid-century revolutions on Europe?

A: The mid-century revolutions were driven by a new social force: the junior and middle ranks of the officer corps. In the early to mid-1820s, they failed to win enough support, and the Holy Alliance and the Concert of Europe intervened where they saw fit. By 1830, new social developments led to the rise of the middle class and the urban crowd, and the peasantry remained universally quiescent.


The 1820s were a time of political and social change in Europe. From the liberal uprisings in Portugal and Spain to the rise of conservatism and the emergence of nationalism, the continent was in a state of flux. The mid-century revolutions were driven by a new social force and had a lasting impact on European society. While the outcomes of the uprisings were modest and, in some cases, short-lived, the changes brought about by the French Revolution and Napoleon were permanent, and society was fundamentally altered.

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