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Julia A. Schmidt-Funke: The Revolution of 1830 as a European Media Event, in: European History Online (EGO), published by the Leibniz Institute of European History (IEG), Mainz 2017-08-16. URL: URN: urn:nbn:de:0159-2017073107 [2018-12-27].

Similar to the earlier revolution in 1789 and the subsequent one in 1848, the revolutionary upheaval in Paris in July 1830 served as a signal for further revolutionary movements in other countries, which shook the European states to their foundations up to the spring of 1831. These rebellions were brought about, influenced and accompanied by an intensive transfer of news and ideas, by the reactivation of a system of revolutionary symbols and by numerous declarations of international solidarity. In this way, Europe emerged in the revolutions of 1830/1831 as a communicative space, and a space of memory and action.

Table of Contents
The European Revolutions of 1830/1831
Revolution and European News Transfer
Revolution, Memory and the Political Public
1830/1831 as a European Media Event

Texte intégral



The European Revolutions of 1830/1831

In 1830 and 1831, several European states were shaken by revolutionary protests which – similar to the revolutions of 1848/1849 though the initial situation and result differed – were connected with one another and were related to one another by contemporaries. Within a few months, unrest and rebellions broke out in France, Belgium, the German Confederation (Deutscher Bund), Poland and the Italian states , which in many places resulted in the government being restructured, and in the case of Belgium even resulted in the foundation of a new state. A large portion of the continent was in a state of flux, which called into question the reordering of the system of European states that the European powers had negotiated 15 years previously at the Congress of Vienna. The consequences of these revolutionary shocks could be felt right up to the middle of the decade.

The protests began in Paris, when King Charles X (1757–1836)  of the restored Bourbon dynasty issued a number of ordinances on 25 July 1830 restricting the freedoms that had been laid down in the constitution which had been forced upon the restored monarchy in 1814. Restrictions were placed on the freedom of the press. The Chamber of Deputies, which had only been elected in June 1830, was dissolved, and voting rights were restricted. Resistance to these measures quickly spread to ever broader sections of the population of Paris, and during the street fighting of the so-called Trois Glorieuses from 27 to 29 July, that population succeeded in gaining control of the city . And there were definite echoes of the revolution of 1789. The Louvre was stormed, the tricolour was hoisted, and a new national guard was formed under the leadership of the veteran Marie Joseph Marquis de Lafayette (1757–1834) . Consequently, Charles X was forced to accept the formation of a liberal transitional government, which declared the duke of Orléans Louis-Philippe (1773–1850) , who came from a junior line of the Bourbon dynasty, lieutenant general of the kingdom. Though Charles X had abdicated in favour of his grandson Henri (1820–1883)  on 2 August 1830, both chambers of the French parliament decided on 8 August to bestow the crown on Louis-Philippe. He was crowned king of the French on 15 August 1830.

While the new government in Paris sought to calm the internal and external political situation, the revolutionary wave spread to Brussels on 25 August 1830 . Dissatisfaction with the rule of the House of Orange, which ruled Belgium together with the northern Netherlands in a United Kingdom that had existed since 1815, resulted in a struggle for an autonomous state. The rebels succeeded in defending Brussels against Dutch troops, and they were able to form a provisional government on 26 September 1830, which declared Belgian independence on 4 October. After the European great powers had de facto recognized the new state in January 1831, a Belgian constitution came into effect on 7 February 1831, and on 4 June 1831 Léopold I (1790–1865)  was crowned king of the Belgians.

By September 1830, the revolutionary wave had also reached the states of the German Confederation among others. Revolutionary conditions emerged in Brunswick, Electoral Hesse and Saxony, but the situation was very tense in other German states also. The very heterogeneous German revolutionary movement was fed by a mixture of social protests, constitutional demands and demands regarding customs duty.

In eastern Europe, the Kingdom of Poland was rocked by the attempted assassination of the Russian governor on 29 November 1830, which was carried out by Polish officers. Similar to Belgium, there was dissatisfaction in so-called Congress Poland with the settlement reached in 1815. In a union of crowns, the Russian tsar was also king of Poland and he merely sent a viceroy to Warsaw. This office was held by a brother of the tsars Alexander I (1777–1825)  and Nicholas I (1796–1855) , Grand Prince Konstantine (1779–1831) . Though the attempt on his life failed, Constantine fled from Warsaw shortly afterwards. In the subsequent period, the revolutionary movement became increasingly radical and in January 1831 it deposed Tsar Nicholas as king of Poland. The subsequent war between Russian and Polish troops lasts until the early autumn of 1831 and culminated in the total defeat of the Poles.

Beyond the Alps, rebellions occurred in early February 1831 in the northern Italian dukedoms of Parma and Modena, as well as in the Papal States. Provisional governments were formed on 5 February in papal Bologna, on 9 February in Modena and on 15 February in Parma. But the movement was soon brought to an end by the arrival of Austrian troops in March 1831.

As early as the autumn of 1830, calls for liberal constitutions and political participation had also become more insistent in numerous cantons of Switzerland. On the Iberian Peninsula, particularly in Andalusia, the situation was also tense, though the smaller rebellions that occurred there were quickly put down. There was also unrest in Great Britain, where agrarian and early industrial social protests combined with demands for political participation.

Revolution and European News Transfer

The ordinances of the French king Charles X had aimed among other things to restrict the freedom of the press granted in 1814. Consequently, the liberal Paris newspapers, including Le National, Le Temps and Le Globe, were published on 27 July 1830 without official authorization, and were consequently confiscated by the authorities. Thus, from the beginning the liberal press of the French capital had a vital interest in placing protests against royal violations of the constitution on a broad basis. Influential publicists such as the editor-in-chief of Le National, Adolphe Thiers (1797–1877) , were thus drivers of the revolution and took up political offices after the Trois Glorieuses. There was therefore a close connection from the very beginning between the revolution and the media, which created ideal conditions for the reporting of the events in Paris throughout Europe, which soon began.

The news from France resonated in a European communicative space, in which an increasingly differentiated newspaper industry established itself as distinct from private and official correspondence, and assumed responsibility for professional news transfer. However, in 1830 the numerous horse couriers that were employed by the governments and the large merchant and banking houses were even quicker than regular post and the postal delivery of newspapers. The building of paved roads had shortened journey times; steam-powered shipping and the first railways had accelerated communication ; and telegraph lines were also already available.

In 1830, the main British and French daily newspapers, such as the Times and the Moniteur, were read throughout Europe, after their distribution network had spread through large parts of the continent in the 18th century. To a lesser extent, the most influential German-language daily, the Allgemeine Zeitung of the Tübingen publisher Johann Friedrich Cotta (1764–1832)  established in 1798, also had a European readership. The distribution of these newspapers had been assisted by a series of technological innovations, which from the turn of the century had simplified and accelerated the printing process for the large daily newspapers, thereby making bigger and bigger print runs possible. Of particular importance were the paper machine invented by Nicolas-Louis Robert (1761–1828)  in 1798 and the rapid press developed by Friedrich Koenig (1774–1833)  and Andreas Friedrich Bauer (1783–1860)  in 1811. After these inventors had succeeded with the help of British capital and know-how in turning their inventions into businesses, the paper machine and the rapid press – which by now was also steam powered – returned to the continent, where they replaced the older technology in the 1820s. Additionally, the publishers endeavoured to make the editorial process more efficient. In addition to full-time editors, the most influential newspapers also engaged a dense network of journalists and correspondents, who sent in regular news and reports.

These developments made it possible for news of the ordinances of Charles X, and soon afterwards news of the Paris revolution, to travel across Europe in a short space of time. The response of the media to the rebellions in Belgium and Poland in the subsequent months was no less intensive. The extraordinary intensity and speed of news transfer was already apparent to contemporaries. Thus, the Allgemeine Politische Annalen of the liberal poltician Carl von Rotteck (1775–1840)  commented a few weeks after the Trois Glorieuses: « Die Nachricht von diesen Ereignissen durchlief Europa mit reißender Schnelligkeit. » The newspaper also discussed the restrictions which the press was subject to in many states. But – as it pointed out – even government censorship had failed to prevent the transfer of news throughout Europe, particularly as the news from Paris spoke for itself to an extent: « Auch die Tagblätter unter Fessel und Verschneidung sprachen freier und klüger, indem sie das Geschehene und Gesprochene nacherzählten. »

It was horse couriers of the Rothschild banking house who brought first news of the events in Paris to London. The Times already reported on the situation beyond the English Channel from 28 July 1830 onward. On 3 August, it published a detailed article compiled from reports in French newspapers and in an accompanying commentary it praised the actions of the revolutionaries.

Cotta’s Allgemeine Zeitung first carried a report on the ordinances on 1 August in the form of correspondence from Paris dated 26 July. The same edition also provided a translation of the ordinances in a special supplement. On 3 August, the Allgemeine Zeitung cited reports in trade courier dispatches that there had been fighting in Paris and that the national guard had been mobilized under the command of Lafayette. The edition on 4 August carried the first report on the provisional government and on the « revolution that has broken out in Paris ». However, the readers of the Allgemeine Zeitung were not given a comprehensive report until 6 August 1830, after the editor had « finally received correspondence and liberal newspapers from Paris ».

A large portion of the European elites received news of the events in Paris in the communications centres of the international spa resorts. For example, the French ambassador in Electoral Hesse, Sabatier de Cabre, learned of the events in Paris while visiting the baths in Wiesbaden. Karl vom und zum Stein (1757–1831)  received his first information from Ems, and Heinrich Heine’s (1797–1856)  sister Charlotte Embden (1803–1899)  most probably found out about the Paris events from the same source. Heine himself was taking the waters on Heligoland at the time, where he learned of the July events around 6 August through newspapers sent over from the mainland. Heine related his memory of this moment in his memorial to Ludwig Börne published 10 years later:

Eben diese Geschichte las ich im Paul Warnefrid, als das dicke Zeitungspaquet mit den warmen, glühend heißen Neuigkeiten vom festen Lande ankam. Es waren Sonnenstralen, eingewickelt in Druckpapier, und sie entflammten meine Seele, bis zum wildesten Brand. … Auch die übrigen Badegäste traf der Pariser Sonnenstich, zumal die Berliner … Sogar die armen Helgolander jubeln vor Freude, obgleich sie die Ereignisse nur instinktmäßig begreifen.

According to Heine’s account, news of the events in Paris caused similar excitement among the Hamburg clientele taking the waters in the seaside resort of Cuxhaven. The news from Paris gave the Bavarian king Ludwig I (1786–1868)  a fright when it reached him on 3 August in Brückenau. The news reached the Prussian king Frederick William III (1770–1840)  in Töplitz in Bohemia; it reached the Russian foreign minister Count Karl Robert von Nesselrode (1780–1862)  in neighbouring Karlsbad; while the Austrian state chancellor Prince Clemens Wenzel Lothar von Metternich (1773–1859)  and his confidant Friedrich von Gentz (1764–1832)  were informed of the July revolution at Metternich’s summer residence in nearby Königswart. Already on 31 July, couriers had brought them the Moniteur of 26 July, in which the ordinances were printed. Other couriers who had travelled via Frankfurt arrived on 2 and 3 August, and on 4 August they had already learned of the victory of the Paris revolutionaries. In the subsequent days, the circle around Metternich intensively read the latest French newspapers to find out more about the events.

Away from the spa resorts and capital cities, it is likely that many people learned of the Paris events in a similar way to the publicist and politician Johann Georg August Wirth (1798–1848)  in Bayreuth. According to his own account, he learned of the restriction of liberties by Charles X relatively late – in the first days of August – from passing trade couriers. But the crowd of curious people that quickly gathered was soon able to ascertain from the daily newspapers that the association Ressource subscribed to that Charles X had been overthrown. The German newspapers published extracts from French newspapers, and these reports of events were often read aloud to groups of people.

On 1 August 1830, couriers of the banker Ascan Wilhelm Lutteroth (1783–1867)  brought news to Hamburg that Charles X had fled and of the barricade fighting in Paris. The first news from Paris reached Weimar in Thuringia on 3 August 1830; two days later they learned of the overthrow of the French king. The inhabitants of Vienna had also learned of these events by 5 August.

News of the revolution in Paris reached St. Petersburg on 11 August 1830. Though Tsar Nicholas I initially prohibited the press from reporting on the events, rumours nonetheless spread through the aristocratic salons, the cafes and the universities. These were disseminated on the one hand by well-informed members of the high aristocracy, and on the other hand by foreigners living in Russia, particularly the French themselves. By the time the July revolution was officially reported to the Russian public on 19 August by the state-controlled press, news of it had not only already spread through St. Petersburg and Moscow, but also to the provincial Russian cities.

According to the account of a former French soldier, news of the revolution did not reach Kiev until 20 August, where it caused quite a stir « surtout dans la classe la plus élevée de la société ». The Decembrists and their families in exile in Siberia probably also learned of the July revolution before the end of August through letters and newspapers. They greeted the news with great excitement. Here also, enthusiasm for the revolution was primarily limited to the elites. The prison guards, by contrast, were « perplexed » by the wild jubilation of the Decembrists because « they knew nothing about politics. »

In the weeks and months after the Trois Glorieuses, the newspaper reports were supplemented by eye-witness accounts published in monograph form. The Paris events prompted many witnesses to record their experiences in diaries, letters and memoirs, of which only a small portion made it into print. Some eye-witness accounts were initially published in French and were soon translated into many European languages, while others were written by foreigners living in Paris in their native languages. Publishers in Lugano, Glasgow, London, Utrecht, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Karlsruhe, Stuttgart, Leipzig and Quedlinburg put these sensational reports in print. These publications were the start of « eine mehrere Jahre anhaltende Konjunktur von Paris-Büchern, Augenzeugenberichten, Skizzen, ‘Silhouetten’, ‘Gemälden’, historischen und politischen Analysen » which fed the legend of Paris as a metropolis.

Some of the reports contained graphical illustrations, depicting key figures and scenes of the Trois Glorieuses. For example, the Full annals of the revolution in France published by the British writer and humourist William Hone (1780–1842)  in September 1830 contained portraits of Louis-Philippe and Lafayette, and depictions of the raising of the red flag at the Porte St. Denis and the storming of the Hôtel de Ville and the Palais de Justice. The Paris news was also depicted in graphical form in the medium of the illustrated broadsheet, which was typical of the time. Companies such as the Pellerin publishing house in Épinal, which produced illustrated broadsheets for the European market, and Campe publishers in Nuremberg and Kühn publishers in Neuruppin, which concentrated more on the German-speaking territories, produced these sheets in high print-runs around 1830; the total annual production of these publishers was in the hundreds of thousands of broadsheets. The interconnection between European events manifested itself particularly clearly in the medium of the current affairs illustrated broadsheet (Aktualitätenbogen), though this medium enjoyed a relatively small readership compared with more folksy material. A broadsheet printed in Nuremberg probably in late 1830 or early 1831 depicted « Die denkwürdigsten Tage des Jahres 1830 » (The most memorable days of 1830), which included scenes from Paris, Brussels, Leipzig, Dresden, Brunswick, Hanau, Antwerp and Warsaw .

Revolution, Memory and the Political Public

The significance that was attributed to these events everywhere was informed primarily by the crises, upheavals and wars that people had experienced in the preceding four decades. The memory of 1789 loomed so large everywhere that neither the governments nor the politically-aware public nor the masses could be indifferent to the recent revolution in Paris. To many, the Trois Glorieuses seemed like a return of the first French Revolution. They thus assumed that the unrest in distant Paris would affect their daily lives in some form. This view was further strengthened by the outbreak of the Belgian rebellion in August 1830, which started the spread of the revolution from west to east. This was accompanied by widespread fear of a potential war, which reached its highest point in the first half of 1831 and which repeatedly flared up until the end of 1832.

Opponents and supporters of the revolution both inside and outside France viewed the French nation as the instigator of Europe, as a state – as Metternich put it – « dessen Schicksale so tief in das europäische Leben eingreifen ». Already on 4 August 1830, the liberal Journal des débats suggested that « En effet, tout ce qui se fait en France est un événement européen ». In February 1831, the conservative Courrier de l’Europe commented that « C’est une destinée de la France de ne pouvoir faire chez elle aucun changement qui n’aille à l’instant même porter des changements semblables au bout du monde. »

Writing in the Paris newspaper Journal des débats on 19 August 1830, Victor Hugo (1802–1885)  evoked the memory of Revolutionary and Napoleonic France and emphasized the leading role played by his country in Europe. In a poem entitled A la jeune France which he dedicated to the school pupils and students who were caught up in the fighting during the Trois Glorieuses, he wrote: « L’Angleterre jalouse et la Grèce homérique, / Toute l’Europe admire, et la jeune Amérique / Se lève et bat des mains, du bord des océans. »

The July revolution not only reawakened memories of 1789 and Napoleon, it also reactivated the system of symbols that had developed after the first French Revolution and had become known throughout Europe. This included first and foremost the tricolour being made the state flag of France again. As they had done after 1789, supporters of the revolution again wore blue-white-and-red cockades, for example the French trade couriers who entered the fortress of the German Confederation in Mainz, where they were promptly ordered by the authorities to take them off, or the elegant Irish lady who attended a gathering in September 1830 in Dublin wearing an appropriately coloured headdress.

The raising of cheers for Lafayette and Napoléon I (1769–1821) , the singing of La Marseillaise and La Parisienne   by the French poet Casimir Delavigne (1793–1843), and the re-enactment of revolutionary scenes on theatre stages were other ways of expressing one’s solidarity with the French revolutionaries. The erecting of liberty poles was also very common, for example in Palatinate-Bavaria, though this symbol received rather idiosyncratic new meanings there.

Heinrich Heine described his memory of this reactivation of revolutionary symbols during the summer of 1830 as follows:

Lafayette, die dreyfarbige Fahne, die Marseillaise … Fort ist meine Sehnsucht nach Ruhe. Ich weiß jetzt wieder was ich will, was ich soll, was ich muß … In allen Sprachen bringt man den Franzosen ihr wohlverdientes Vivat, …. In Hamburg flattert die Trikolore, überall erklingt dort die Marseillaise, sogar die Damen erscheinen im Theater mit dreyfarbigen Bandschleifen auf der Brust, und sie lächeln mit ihren blauen Augen, rothen Mündlein und weißen Näschen …

The system of revolutionary symbols was supplemented with expressions of international solidarity in the form of money collections, speeches and banquets. Thus, shortly after the July events, the Municipalité de Paris and the national guard received donations for the support of loved ones of those killed in the street fighting and for the wounded. The Moniteur regularly reported on such « souscriptions », listing the donors and the sums of money that they had given. For example, the donations listed in the Moniteur on 23 August 1830 had been signed by the residents of eight French cities, including Calais and Amiens, the national guard of the village of Arcis-sur-Aube, various French individuals, a man from Geneva, numerous Britons, the Americans living in Paris, as well as the American consul in Lorient. The largest donation – 10,000 francs – was made by Lord Thomas Cochrane of Dundonald (1775–1860)  and his wife, and more than 40,000 francs were donated in total on that day.

In addition to donations, the French revolutionaries received numerous messages of congratulations from Great Britain. The decision to send these messages was taken at public meetings. Such meetings were held in England, Scotland and Ireland, though different societal groups were the driving force behind them in the different countries. Radical reformers in England and members of the nationalist movement in Ireland both declared their solidarity with the French July revolutionaries. These meetings were advertised in the local newspapers, which also reported on them in detail afterwards. At these gatherings, the events in Paris were recapitulated and commented upon, so that they could then be related to the situation in one’s own country and to one’s own political demands. The messages of congratulations that these meetings agreed upon were sent to the French Chamber of Deputies, and this was then reported on in the local press. At a meeting in Belfast on 31 August 1830, for example, a text addressed to « The Honourable Chamber of Deputies of the French Nation » was formulated. It was published in the Belfast Newsletter soon afterwards. A few weeks later, the Belfast Newsletter then published a letter from Jacques Laffitte (1767–1844) , in which he thanked the inhabitants of Belfast.

Other types of political publics also developed from the winter of 1830/1831 onward in response to the Polish rebellion . Similar to the Philhellenic movement  of the 1820s, in many countries in Europe associations were founded to support the Polish struggle for emancipation and the Polish emigrants by sending declarations of solidarity, by collecting relief supplies and by organizing benefit events . The wave of Polish emigrants moving westward after the rebellion was defeated attracted particular attention, which was echoed in the press. It was thus also possible for people who did not live along the travel route of the emigrants to follow their plight.

All over Europe, the supporters of the revolution drew most of their strength from the memory of the Revolution of 1789 and the Empire. However, many of them faced the problem that the universal principles of liberty, equality and fraternity that they advocated were closely linked with a glorification of the French nation, which they could not share because it ran counter to their own nationalist pride. To this extent, the joy that people felt about the July revolution was dampened somewhat by the fact that it appeared to confirm yet again the French vanguard role in Europe .

Thus, in the late summer of 1830 British supporters of the revolution distributed pamphlets calling on people to follow the French example, and they used such slogans during the rural unrest as « The Time is at hand!!! Be ready, be firm and follow France » and « Liberty and Equality! Remember! Those who are not for us are against us. Look at France! » But at the same time they asked « Must Frenchman always take the lead? »

The example of the tricolour demonstrates how the revolutionary symbols underwent a nationalist adaptation. In Belgium and in the German Confederation, the colours of the Brabant (black, yellow and red) and those of the Lützow Free Corps (black, red and gold) respectively were initially place alongside the blue-white-and-red banner, but then increasingly replaced the latter. In Italy, the green-white-and-red tricolour had already established itself from the days of the republics of the 1790s, while the Polish rebels adopted the colours of the white-and-red Polish royal flag.

Under these circumstances, an « International of nationalists » emerged, which sought to attain the desired political change through the creation of liberal nation states and attributed a vanguard role to their respective nation in this process. The representatives of this movement made use of a broad palette of forms of political action, which stretched from public appeals in the periodical press and in pamphlets, to founding associations and holding festivals, and to secret organizations, terrorist attacks and guerrilla activity. The newspaper Deutsche Tribüne published by Johann Georg August Wirth between 1831 and 1832, the foundation of the Preß- und Vaterlandsverein in Palatinate-Bavaria, which was connected with the Deutsche Tribüne, and the Hambach Festival held  in May 1832 were as must a part of this context as the secret associations  initiated by Giuseppe Mazzini (1805–1872)  in the years after the July revolution, which in 1834 joined together under the name Giovine Europa (Young Europe).

1830/1831 as a European Media Event

In the events of 1830/1831, political protest and the media were very closely connected. The existing European communicative space enabled a quick and intensive transfer of news and ideas. The events were narrated, commented upon and discussed in many publications. In addition to the print media, various types of political publics emerged, which to an extent reverted to proven symbols and actions, but also created new forms of expression.

Due to the Europe-wide memory of the Revolution of 1789, contemporaries attached great significance to the July events and their consequences. At the same time, this memory enabled them to react not only with shock and surprise, but also to evaluate the events by the standards of preexisting value structures. In this process, Europe itself became an « appellate authority » and a political argument both for opponents and supporters of the revolution. The revolutions of 1830/1831 thus unquestionably constituted a transnational media event, which contributed to the formation of Europe as a communicative space, and a space of memory and action.

Julia A. Schmidt-Funke

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