The Blessings of Peace of the Curse of the Corn Law, Cruikshank

© The Trustees of the British Museum

The victors of Waterloo imposed harsh laws across Europe in 1815, hoping to crush the liberal ideas of the French Revolution. The major powers of Austria, Russia, and Prussia formed a “Holy Alliance” to stamp out revolt.

But Europeans still hoped for liberty- the freedom to live in a country of their own, or to have a government of the people, for religious freedom. In 1848, revolution spread across the continent again, in France, Germany, Poland- and even in Britain.

Success was mixed- the French overthrew their last King, the Republic of the French Revolution at last achieved. In Germany and Poland, Holy Alliance soldiers killed revolutionaries and restored the status quo. In Britain, mass marches demanding votes were dampened by rain, and the revolution feared by the government never happened. Instead, Britain – and Europe – gradually became more liberal, more democratic, and more nationalist.