A lot ink has been expended discussing the revolutions of 1848 and their causes, only a small fraction of which I have read.
From my point of view, there seem to be two main schools of thought in explaining why the revolutions broke out when they did:
- The first school of thought, of which the Wikipedia article on the revolutions seems like a good representative, is that industrialisation caused a drop the standard of living of the urban poor - to such a point that they rose up in revolt.
- The second school of thought advances the counter-intuitive notion that revolutions tend to happen when things are getting better. Conditions for the poor leading up to 1848 were not markedly worse than before, but, the new urban bourgeoisie, on the other hand, was in a stronger position than ever; and the revolutions of 1848 are best understood as an attempt by this class to displace the old feudal aristocracy. (I'm no expert on the man, but I believe this was Marx's interpretation of events.)
Was there a drop in standards of living in France, Germany, Austria and Italy in the years leading up to 1848? And if so, was this a significant factor in bringing about the revolutions?