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Title:Revolutions in the Republican Imagination: American Perceptions of the 1848--1849 Revolutions in Europe
Author(s):Norman, Matthew David
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Johannsen, Robert W.
Department / Program:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):History, United States
Abstract:The sudden, dramatic revolutions that occurred throughout Europe in 1848--49 captured the imagination of Americans and generated a diverse variety of responses. The establishment of the Second Republic in France, the Hungarian struggle for independence from the Hapsburg Empire, and Louis Kossuth's 1851--52 tour of the U.S. were of especial interest, and this work focuses on the ways in which Americans perceived and responded to these events. In attempting to explain why Americans were so fascinated by European revolutions and revolutionaries, the dissertation examines the interaction of the past, present, and future in the thoughts and words of a wide array of people. An anxious country looked to Europe with feelings of both hope and fear, for by the middle of the nineteenth century, Americans worried that they were losing touch with their own revolutionary heritage and questioned whether they would be able to uphold the legacy of 1776. As the generation that witnessed the birth of the republic faded into memory, Americans sought to maintain connections with this past. This heightened revolutionary consciousness occurred at a time when the divisive slavery issue threatened to destroy the "model republic" that the Founding Fathers had established. Though a decisive victory had recently been won in the war against Mexico, the status of the territory gained in this conflict was a highly contentious issue that endangered the future of the Union. The mid-century revolutions, however, transcended the boundaries of political and regional identity, as Americans regardless of either party affiliation or section appropriated the events in Europe for their own ends. Politicians attempted to capitalize on the European revolutions by engaging in a symbolic diplomacy that sought to maintain links with an idealized revolutionary past and offered reassurance that the nation was fulfilling its mission as the model republic for the world to emulate. Abolitionists viewed European revolutionaries as kindred spirits in the universal struggle for freedom, while Southerners were horrified at the prospect of European radicalism infecting the country. Though the 1848--49 revolutions in Europe were not responsible for the American Civil War, an examination of how Americans perceived these events lends important insight into the political, cultural, and intellectual atmosphere of this critical period in history.
Issue Date:2006
Description:312 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2006.
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI3223682
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-25
Date Deposited:2006

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