In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

313 Although historians, almost without exception, have maintained that the rapidly expanding insurrectionary convulsions of 1848 emanated from Paris, it is possible to single out a handful of dissenting opinions. Louis Garnier-Pagès, for example, contended that unrest in certain communes of the Abruzzi region, the province of Salerno, the city of Messina, and some parts of Calabria had been set in motion by events in Palermo.1 Marx makes the somewhat vaguer claim in The Class Struggles in France that “the bloody uprising of the people in Palermo worked like an electric shock on the paralyzed masses of the people and awoke their great revolutionary memories and passions.”2 Among twentieth-century commentators, Paul Ginsborg similarly writes of Palermo’s “electrifying effect on the rest of the peninsula.”3 Jacques Godechot has argued even more forcefully for the significance of the Sicilian events.4 He not only adds Genoa to the list of sites incited to rebel by the news of the uprising in Palermo but goes so far as to suggest that, even had the February revolution in Paris not taken place, the uprising in Sicily might have initiated a chain reaction that would have ended by engulfing the rest of Europe, albeit at a slower pace. More recently, Reinhart Koselleck has boldly claimed: “Not surprisingly, then, the revolution of 1848 first broke out in southern Italy, in Palermo and Naples, where constitutions were forced onto the ruling monarchy. From there it spread to France.”5 My inability to uncover evidence that Parisians active during the February Days made reference to or had in mind the previous month’s events in Palermo has convinced me that the Sicilian insurrection’s direct influence was largely confined to the Italian-speaking world. Still to be addressed is the intriguing fact that the kingdom of Naples and Sicily remained at the forefront of the 1848 events not APPENDIX B Did the Wave of Revolutionism in 1848 Originate in Paris or Palermo? 314 Appendix B just during the expansive revolutionary phase in the spring of that year but also as the political tide turned toward reaction as the summer months approached. Specifically, a follow-up insurrection occurred in Naples in mid-May. It was put down with the help of the lazzaroni (a term used to refer to the street people of that city, whom Marx categorized as lumpenproletarians) more than a month before the June insurrection in Paris was repressed thanks to the spirited participation of the Garde mobile (on whom Marx heaped even greater scorn.) In this case too, the Paris events were seen as pivotal in reversing the momentum of political developments on the Continent, while the role of the conflict in Naples went all but unnoticed. One difficulty in positing the Palermo insurrection as the starting point for the cataclysmic sequence of 1848 revolutions is that, while it may have preceded the February Days in Paris, it was itself anticipated by several other, significant insurrectionary episodes. For example, the so-called potato revolution of April 1847, which brought unrest (accompanied by a handful of barricades) to Berlin and other German towns, might just as readily be viewed as the point of departure for the spurt of mid-century unrest. Another candidate might be the renewal of the civil war in Switzerland, which had already produced two minor barricade events in Geneva as early as 1843 and 1846. However, in November 1847, the threat to Swiss national unity was dispelled when liberal forces supporting increased centralization of government defeated the Sonderbund, a coalition of breakaway Catholic cantons. Though Peter Stearns considers this episode to have been “independent of developments elsewhere,” its influence on Baden was clear, thus justifying its having occasionally been cited as the direct antecedent of the revolutionary wave of 1848.6 Agitation in Tuscany, which had prompted the grand duke to grant a charter by mid-February, could also be seen as a legitimate precursor , even though the provisions of the new charter had yet to be implemented at the time Louis-Philippe was forced to relinquish his throne.7 Certain participants in the 1848 uprisings pointed to yet more distant origins for the tumult of that year. Among them was the composer Richard Wagner, whose autobiography traces his personal awakening to the siren song of political rebellion back to the July revolution of 1830, even if the lesson he drew from that episode of his youth was that revolutionary change remained a remote prospect...


Additional Information

Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.