Fall of Eagles: the Romanovs, Habsburgs and Hohenzollerns, 1848 - c.1920

In eighteen months, between March 1917 and November 1918, three ruling dynasties who between them had shaped the destiny of Europe for centuries - the Habsburgs, the Romanovs and the Hohenzollerns - were swept from power as a result of the First World War. This course offers an introduction to Europe in the nineteenth-century and, in particular, the experience of these three dynasties. We will begin with the attempts by the European powers to restore the dynastic system after the upheavals of the revolutionary and Napoleonic wars at the Congress of Vienna in 1815. From there we will consider the series of liberal and national revolutions and revolts which swept over Europe in 1848. In Paris the monarchy of Louis Philippe was overthrown and the second Republic proclaimed. In London Chartist demonstrators demanded manhood suffrage and a living wage. In Vienna, Prague and Berlin students and intellectuals called for constitutional government and national self-determination for the constituent peoples of the various empires. Yet the dynastic states survived these upheavals and consolidated their grip on power. Even the President of the second Republic, Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, soon abandoned republican rhetoric and proclaimed himself Emperor in 1852.

From the debacle of 1848 we will examine how the dynastic states endeavoured to manage and tame the twin ideologies of nineteenth-century Europe: nationalism and liberalism. Topics we will examine include the ways in which German nationalism were annexed to a conservative agenda based on Prussian power; the repeated attempts of the Habsburgs to adapt to the rapidly changing political realities in Europe and to re-fashion their patrimony into a cohesive multi-national state. In Russia the regime made valiant attempts to square the circle of reform within a system of autocracy. Our course will close by examining some of the reasons why Europe rushed into war so enthusiastically in August 1914 and why this war - the first 'total' war - resulted in the 'fall of eagles'.

Dr Andrew Lacey
October 2017

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