The French Revolution of 1789 initiated revolutions in a number of European countries, replacing the idea of a monarchy with the idea of a republic built on enlightment ideals. Which European countries escaped the turmoil and why?

  • 7
    Why should a country have to have a reason for not having a revolution?
    – dan04
    Jun 18, 2012 at 10:57
  • Considering the US revolution not only was first but also heavily contributed to the bankruptcy of the French Monarchy (French king bankrolling it with his navy, in effect, causing the French Revolution), I would suggest renaming this entry.
    – user1015
    Jun 19, 2012 at 18:52
  • @dan04: Because revolutions come up because the time is ripe for them, and this more often than never is not hindered by borders?
    – sbi
    Jun 21, 2012 at 10:47
  • 3
    @sbi - or, as Lenin pithily put it in 1913, the cause of a revolution is "when the tops can't, the bottoms won't". I should probably translate it so it doesn't sound like BDSM manual though :)
    – DVK
    Mar 26, 2013 at 13:49

4 Answers 4


Most of the government changes in the wake of the French Revolution were at the point of Napoleon's (very effective) sword, and were ultimately undone by the sword as well.

Where you get dramatic internal-driven change wasn't really after the first French Revolution, but the Second (1848). This touched off a series of Liberal revolutions which today we might call a "European Spring", although over 50 countries all over the world were affected.

England itself escaped, probably because it already had a relatively Liberal government. Ditto for the Netherlands. Russia, I'm guessing was not quite ready. Their definitive revolution had to wait for 50 years. The Iberian peninsula also escaped relatively unscathed, chiefly because they'd just finished similar wars a couple of decades earlier.

One of the lessons a lot of leaders (Bismarck prominently excepted) took from 1848 was that having a relatively liberal government, like England and the Netherlands, Spain, and Portugal, actually appeared to make your country more stable in such times. This caused a lot of "Liberal" reform to be voluntarily instituted over the next few decades.

  • 2
    +1 with a correction: Spain did have practically almost constant upheaval during the 19th century (e.g the Carlist Wars). It wasn't usually called "revolution" but it was essentially it. Dec 23, 2012 at 1:43
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    The Austrian Empire did not have a revolution induced by the French Revolution. It had a very conservative government in the "Vormärz" period between 1818 and 1848, a stump revolution in 1848, and a less conservative government afterwards. Things came to a climax there only in 1918, when the monarchy ended and altogether different times began.
    – Drux
    Mar 25, 2013 at 21:33
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    The Hungarian Revolution started in March of 1848 and French Revolution is most commonly credited as the reason for it. And more uprisings in Austrian Empire came the same year. Unfortunately Poles couldn't join it, as we already did local uprising in 1846 and didn't recover yet. What does "stump" mean? Mar 26, 2013 at 9:26
  • @Darek Wędrychowsk I use the term "stump" revolution to indicate that nothing much changed there: Chancellor Metternich left office, in came a fresh Habsburg face as ruler, and that was largely it.
    – Drux
    Mar 26, 2013 at 10:09
  • 1
    You forget about the 1830 revolutions, which brought a parlamentary monarchy to France, the independence of Belgium, and several other minor rebellions.
    – SJuan76
    May 6, 2015 at 8:45

The UK didn't have a revolution and still has (roughly) the same state.

  • 6
    UK had its revolution about 100 years earlier. A Glorious one :)
    – quant_dev
    Jun 18, 2012 at 15:17
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    You could consider that England had a 'slow revolution' that sidelined the monarchy and extended the democratic franchise to all adults. Jun 20, 2012 at 16:54
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    @quant_dev - or you could say the English civil war was the first revolution in europe. The resulting monarchy/parliament power balance even after the restoration was pretty stable
    – none
    Jun 20, 2012 at 21:40
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    @mgb: interesting point. Why is the french revolution seen as the paradigm for all future ones, whilst the english civil war is quietly buried would be a good question. Jun 21, 2012 at 19:09
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    @MoziburUllah - I think the picture is that the English civil war 'failed' since we got a king back. While the French revolution 'succeeded' in spite of them getting a succession of monarchs/emperors
    – none
    Jun 22, 2012 at 2:43

Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth didn't have any revolution that was inspired by French one. Because of the strong belief in the ideas of enlightment among the court and nobility, in 1789 the country was already in the time of drafting their own constitution, what in 1791 was finalized with signing the Constitution of May 3.

That led to Polish–Russian War of 1792 that is also called War in Defence of the Constitution. The lose of it soon led to Second Partition of Poland, as Frederick William II of Prussia demanded Greater Poland as a recompense for cooperation in the coalition against French.

The reaction fow that was Kościuszko's Uprising in 1794, which was quickly followed by Third Partition and the end of Commonwealth of Poland (which was a new constitutional name of previous Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth).

  • 2
    Do you think they invaded in order to "correct" the Polish constitution, or what this only a convenient proxy cause for a territory grab, as usual.
    – Drux
    Mar 26, 2013 at 10:03
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    It was a bit more complicated. Russians convinced a group of influent Poles that they should establish Targowica Confederation against the constitution and ask Russians for help. That led to Polish–Russian War of 1792 that is also called War in Defence of the Constitution. The lose of it soon led to Second Partition of Poland, as Frederick William II of Prussia demanded Greater Poland as a recompense for cooperation in the coalition against French. But you'll right, I'll edit the answer. Mar 26, 2013 at 10:19

Switzerland did not have a revolution after the French Revolution. It had had its revolution CENTURIES earlier, under William Tell.

  • 2
    Hmm ... not a revolution in a verbatim sense, but Switzerland had a new constitution imposed by Napoleon.
    – Drux
    Mar 25, 2013 at 21:33
  • And a Sonderbundskrieg in 1847, which may be different from the 1848 in other countries but has something in common with revolutions.
    – Pere
    Jan 7, 2021 at 19:09

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