What political and social changes in Western and Central Europe account for the virtual disappearance of revolutionary outbreaks in the half-century following 1848?
In the years following the great revolutions of 1848, Europe experienced radically fewer revolutions than it had during the first half of the century. Although powerful central governments maintained their opposition to revolution, the reason for the drought of revolutions was something else entirely. Rather than submitting at last to conservative bullying, the voices for violent change quieted themselves in the face of growing liberal reform, heightened nationalist fervor, and an increasing standard of living.
In Germany, a growing awareness of one's volk, one's proud German heritage, led the splintered Holy Roman Empire to coalesce into the Germany of modernity. Far from suffering from an unruly population, Bismarck ruled over an enthusiastic nation well aware of its strength and accomplishments. Deeply humiliated by one of these accomplishments-the Franco-Prussian War-France experienced a revival of nationalist fervor directed against Germany. This fervor helped a supposedly temporary constitution survive over half a century until the two nations' conflict was finally solved. Certainly not all of Europe relied on emotional patriotism to prevent revolution, but in some countries nationalism brought citizens closer to their central state.
A common theme throughout much of Europe, however, was a widespread increase in the standard of living. Workers still yearned for political rights in many countries, but the undeniable fact that bread was on the table eased much of the radical-and hopeless-mob action of the early 19th century. Increased standards of propriety served to check popular passions. With the increasingly refined middle class setting the standards of industriousness and loyalty rather than imperious aristocrats imposing policies upon the populace, workers began focusing more on...