By Mike Rapport
Dramatic as they are, the impact of the Arab Spring revolutions is dwarfed by those of 1848 Europe, where governments fell in France, Austria, several Italian states, and across much of latter-day Poland, Hungary, Germany, Ukraine, Romania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Mike Rapport's excellent and timely book, 1848: Year of Revolution, takes a panoramic view of the sprawling set of rebellions, suppressions and invasions that helped to create today's Europe, and offers insights into contemporary uprisings as well. Rapport implies that revolutionaries' level of success depended on whether they ultimately sought simple political change or combined political and social change. As psychologists have shown, people will take risks in the hope of gain but are several times less willing to risk losing what they already have. 1848 is a sweeping and complex narrative and as in any epic and heroic tale it requires attention to myriad actors, numerous monarchs, ministers, advisors, generals, reformers and revolutionaries. Moving from broad view to intricate detail is a feat in itself; but through it all, Rapport's conclusions are sharply drawn. He reminds us that: "The events of 1848 gave millions of Europeans their first taste of politics: workers and peasants voted in elections and even stood for and entered parliament. The civil liberties that flourished all too briefly that year also provided Europeans with the free space in which they—including women—were politicised, through participation in political clubs and workers' organisations."