New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice • From the bestselling author of The Sleepwalkers comes an epic history of the 1848 revolutions that swept Europe, and the charismatic figures who propelled them forward
“Refreshingly original . . . Familiar characters are given vibrancy and previously unknown players emerge from the shadows.”—The Times (UK)
As history, the uprisings of 1848 have long been overshadowed by the French Revolution of 1789 and the Russian revolutions of the early twentieth century. And yet in 1848 nearly all of Europe was aflame with conflict. Parallel political tumults spread like brush fire across the entire continent, leading to significant changes that continue to shape our world today. These battles for the future were fought with one eye kept squarely on the past: The men and women of 1848 saw the urgent challenges of their world as shaped profoundly by the past, and saw themselves as inheritors of a revolutionary tradition.
Celebrated Cambridge historian Christopher Clark describes 1848 as “the particle collision chamber at the center of the European nineteenth century,” a moment when political movements and ideas—from socialism and democratic radicalism to liberalism, nationalism, corporatism, and conservatism—were tested and transformed. The insurgents asked questions that sound modern to our ears: What happens when demands for political or economic liberty conflict with demands for social rights? How do we reconcile representative and direct forms of democracy? How is capitalism connected to social inequality? The revolutions of 1848 were short-lived, but their impact on public life and political thought throughout Europe and beyond has been profound.
Meticulously researched, elegantly written, and filled with a cast of charismatic figures, including the social theorist Alexis de Tocqueville, the writer George Sand, and the troubled priest Félicité de Lamennais, who struggled to reconcile his faith with politics, Revolutionary Spring offers a new understanding of 1848 that suggests chilling parallels to our present moment. “Looking back at the revolutions from the end of the first quarter of the twenty-first century, it is impossible not to be struck by the resonances,” Clark writes. “If a revolution is coming for us, it may look something like 1848.”
About the Author
Christopher Clark is a professor of modern European history and a fellow of St. Catharine’s College at the University of Cambridge. He is the author of The Sleepwalkers, Time and Power, Iron Kingdom, and other books.
“Refreshingly original . . . it’s fascinating, suspenseful, revelatory, alive. Familiar characters are given vibrancy and previously unknown players emerge from the shadows. Clark’s prose is beautiful but also crystal clear.”—The Times
“Magnificent, authoritative and deeply-researched . . . a supreme work of scholarship.”—The Telegraph
“Exhilarating, heroic, horrifying and tragic, the events of the mid-19th century in Europe invite a good retelling . . . Christopher Clark’s new book is, arguably, the best to date . . . deeply researched, rich, engaging and though-provoking. There is now no better place to turn for readers who want to immerse themselves in this period and to reflect on how it resonates today.”—Literary Review
“An engrossing dissection of a revolutionary year in European society.”—The Independent
‘Full of characters, colour and story, but also makes the arresting case that the revolutions . . . changed Europe and the world in ways felt to this day . . .the history teacher you wished you’d had.”—Daily Mail
“Christopher Clark is that rare thing: a great historian who is also a brilliant storyteller, with a gift for sketching scenes and delineating characters with a few deft brushstrokes. Revolutionary Spring is a beautifully written, richly detailed account of a historical moment that rhymes and resonates, in many strange ways, with our own era of turmoil and disruption.”—Amitav Ghosh, author of Sea of Poppies and The Great Derangement