Originally published 07/12/2013
Peter N. Stearns
Analogy is always tempting amid contemporary uncertainties. It can also be distracting or misleading.From the outlet of the Arab spring, drawing parallels with 1848 in Europe has offered potential insights. Here are two situations in which revolution spread quite rapidly across a region, though of course not uniformly, and in which claims about human rights and political representation loomed large.Other connections now suggest themselves, two years into the process. Most obviously, the 1848 revolutionaries, in centers like Berlin, failed (like their counterparts in Egypt) to secure the military or provide reliable alternatives to it. This would haunt the revolution then, as it is doing today. 1848, again in centers like Prussia, was also bedeviled by tensions between social and political goals, on the one hand, and other ideologies (nationalism then, Islamism now?), which ultimately hampered revolutionary drive.