Louis Napoleon was elected president of France’s Second Republic in 1848, but when the National Assembly refused to sanction a second term, he led a coup d’etat against his own government, and, with the approval of the French voters, he became Emperor Napoleon III. Against the tide of laissez-faire liberalism, his regime took the economic lead, notably in the rebuilding of Paris. The decline of the Ottoman Empire sparked the Crimean War (1854-1856), the result of Britain and France’s fear of Russian expansion. Russian ambitions were thwarted in the costly conflict, and both Russia and Britain subsequently retreated from European affairs during the era of the unification of Germany and Italy.
Italian unification was led by Count Camillo di Cavour (d.1861), prime minister of Piedmont-Sardinia. An alliance was made with France against Austria, and victories in 1859 enlarged Piedmont’s territory. Giuseppe Garibaldi (d.1882) led an uprising against the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, and in 1861 a kingdom of Italy under Piedmont’s House of Savoy was realized except for Rome and Venetia, which were taken over by 1870.
In 1862, Otto von Bismarck became Prussia’s prime minister. A brilliant diplomat, he maneuvered larger Austria into declaring war against Prussia in 1866. With its superior army, victorious Prussia united the northern states into the North German Confederation. In 1870, Bismarck edited an exchange between a French envoy and the Prussian king to make it appear that the king had insulted France. In the subsequent war, France was defeated, and the Second German Empire was the result. Under Bismarck, nationalism was allied with conservatism, whereas earlier in the century nationalism had been associated with liberalism.
Austria compromised with Hungarian nationalists, creating the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary. Russia’s defeat in the Crimean War led to reforms under Alexander II (r.1855-1881), including the freeing of millions of serfs. Conservatives feared the tsar went too far, but others wanted more reform, which led to the tsar’s assassination in 1881. Britain escaped disruption because of economic growth and Parliament’s willingness to make necessary reforms. The American Civil War (1861-1865) ended with the Union preserved and slavery abolished, and in 1867, Britain gave Canada dominion status, including the right to rule itself in domestic matters.
Karl Marx (d.1883), with Friedrich Engels (d.1895), published The Communist Manifesto in 1848, but initially it passed unnoticed. According the Marx, “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” In the modern world it was the middle-class, or the bourgeoisie, which controlled the means of production, but Marx predicted that the proletariat would rise up, reorganize society on a socialist model, and create a classless society.
In science, the laws of thermodynamics, the germ theory of disease, electromagnetic induction, and chemistry’s periodic law changed the world, as did Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859), with its theory of the struggle for existence, the survival of the fittest, and the emergence of new species. In health care, Louis Pasteur and others developed vaccines against specific diseases, the antiseptic principle reduced infections, and the discovery of chloroform lessened surgery’s pain. Medical schools and medical associations were established, although initially closed to women. Science was applied to the study of society, notably by Auguste Comte in his system of positivism, which led to the discipline of sociology.
It was the age of realism in the arts, exemplified in the novels of Gustave Flaubert and the works of Charles Dickens. Gustave Courbet painted scenes of everyday life. In music it was the twilight of romanticism, with Franz Liszt’s symphonic poems and Richard Wagner’s operas, where Germanic myths were the subject matter, appropriate in the age of nationalism.
Reading 1: Pages 657-663
The France of Napoleon III:
Louis Napoleon: Toward the Second Empire
The Second Napoleonic Empire
Foreign Policy: The Mexican Adventure
Foreign Policy: The Crimean War
Reading 2: Pages 663-669
National Unification: Italy and Germany:
The Unification of Italy
The Unification of Germany
Reading 3: Pages 669-677
Nation Building and Reform:
The Austrian Empire: Toward a Dual Monarchy
Great Britain: The Victorian Age
The United States: Slavery and War [optional]
The Emergence of a Canadian Nation [optional]
Reading 4: Pages 677-680
Industrialization and the Marxist Response:
Industrialization on the Continent
Marx and Marxism
Reading 5: Pages 680-684
Science and Culture in an Age of Realism:
A New Age of Science
Charles Darwin and the Theory of Organic Evolution
A Revolution in Health Care
Science and the Study of Society
Reading 6: Pages 684-687
Science and Culture in an Age of Realism:
Realism in Literature
Realism in Art
Music: The Twilight of Romanticism