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The Hambach Festival of 1832 was the most important political demonstration in Vormärz

The term Vormärz refers to the epoch of German history between the July Revolution of 1830 and the March Revolution of 1848/1849 . Some historians take the epoch a little wider and let it begin with the Congress of Vienna in 1815. Geographically, the term is limited to the states of the German Confederation founded at the congress .

In political terms, the Vormärz was shaped by the emergence of nationalism , liberalism and socialism as well as by the restorative politics of persecution and oppression directed against it. The strongest bulwark of the Restoration , the restoration of the old forces, was the so-called Holy Alliance of Prussia , Russia and Austria . After his chancellor and foreign minister this period, based on the pan-European history, as era Metternich called.

The essential economic characteristic of the Vormärz was the gradual onset of industrialization . The transition phase from an agricultural state to an industrial state often brought with it social grievances. The pauperism , the structurally related poverty wide range of people, has been a characteristic appearance this time.

Art , literary and cultural history use the epoch term Biedermeier for the movements of this time that opposed the currents of the Vormärz .

The Free Religious Movement also had its historical origins in Vormärz .


The term Vormärz refers to the revolution of 1848 - also known at the time as the “March Revolution” . His time was understood vormärzlich the ruling before the revolution states and more generally all the outdated states.

In contrast to this fixed end point, the beginning of the epoch is defined differently in literature: For some historians the period of the Vormärz begins as early as 1815, when the era of the French Revolution and Napoleon Bonaparte finally came to an end with the Congress of Vienna (Vormärz im broader sense). In a narrower sense, the term only covers the years from 1830 to 1848, starting with the French July Revolution of 1830 . In political history in particular, the years from 1830 to 1848 are referred to as Vormärz, while the period from 1815 to 1830 is considered the age of restoration . In addition, there is - much less often - the definition of Vormärz as the immediate prehistory of the revolution of 1848: Accordingly, the era begins around 1840 with the accession to the throne of Friedrich Wilhelm IV in Prussia.

Political history

The German Confederation in Vormärz, with the great powers Austria and Prussia, of which only a part of the national territory belonged to the federation

Since the French Revolution of 1789, the Germans watched what was going on in France. Some were intrigued by the promise that freedom, equality and fraternity could be realized. The others were especially afraid of the violence that was used under Jacobin rule in the second, radical phase of the French Revolution. The French revolutionary troops and later Napoleon's army subsequently occupied large parts of Germany or made them dependent.

The time of the Napoleonic occupation directly or indirectly ensured that the number of individual German states decreased drastically through mediatization and secularization , from over 300 to a few dozen. 1806 came the end of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation . Most of the remaining German states became satellite states of Napoleonic France in the Rhine Confederation . In 1813 the united armies of Russia, Austria, Prussia and other countries succeeded in defeating Napoleon in the Battle of Leipzig . The disempowered French emperor was sent into exile to Elba a little later , from where he was able to flee after a short time. In 1815, after another hundred days of reign, he was finally defeated in the Battle of Waterloo . The European monarchs, who were discussing a territorial and political reorganization of Europe at the Congress of Vienna, absolutely wanted to prevent a new revolution and another tyrant like Napoleon. The German Confederation was founded in the same year as a loose confederation of states with a federal assembly in Frankfurt am Main, which included members appointed by the individual sovereigns. It should be strong enough to be able to defend itself, but not disturb the European balance of power, which is essentially based on the pentarchy . Ultimately, one of his tasks was to suppress political unrest.

In 1815 Prussia received large areas in the west with the Rhineland and Westphalia, Bavaria the Palatinate, and there were also medium-sized southern German states with Baden, Württemberg and Bavaria. All of this, along with the Kingdom of the United Netherlands , should prevent France from making new conquests. In the pre-March period, Germany was shaped by the competition between the two great powers Austria and Prussia, which was not decided in favor of Prussia until 1866 . These two major German powers were considered to be particularly conservative politically.

The ideas of the French Revolution stayed alive. The basic political demand of the young liberal and national movement that opposed the conservative rulers manifested itself in the formula “unity and freedom”. The resulting dispute with the restorative authoritarian state, which represented a contrary ideology and tried to defend it with tough repression, was characteristic of the political events of the entire epoch. The liberals formed the moderate direction; they wanted a constitutional monarchy and a parliament with the right to vote for the rich, which would help legislate in the country. The democrats or radicals, on the other hand, much more sharply demanded equality for all citizens, including in political terms, and universal suffrage for men. This opposition between liberals and democrats only became clearer in the years to come, and in some cases this lasted into the 1840s. The German fraternities , which met at the Wartburg Festival in 1817 on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the Reformation and the 4th anniversary of the Battle of Leipzig, were important bearers of the liberal and national ideas . Speeches were held and sung here under the motto “ Honor, Freedom, Fatherland ” and, finally, the writings of conservative authors were burned.

At the same time, the conservative forces such as the Austrian statesman Prince von Metternich wanted to preserve the old conditions or conditions that were restored in 1815. With the Karlovy Vary resolutions of 1819, for the adoption of which the murder of the conservative writer August von Kotzebue by the student Karl Ludwig Sand was a welcome occasion, a system of persecution and oppression began, which implied censorship and a ban on political organizations, including fraternities . Some citizens were discouraged and withdrew into private life, others organized themselves in apparently apolitical cultural associations. The latter were the basis for the rapid formation of political parties or groups in 1848. The singing clubs and gymnastics movement in particular played a major role.

In 1819 anti-Semitic riots broke out in some cities of the German Confederation in the course of the so-called Hep-Hep riots.

Certain events in this epoch politicized and mobilized parts of the population. Another French revolution in July 1830 led to unrest and reforms in many countries in Germany and Europe; Belgium broke away from the Netherlands, Luxembourg was divided. The Hambach Festival of 1832, at which the lawyer Philipp Jakob Siebenpfeiffer gave the main speech, was a mass demonstration during this period. The Frankfurt Wachensturm of 1833, with which the insurgents intended to trigger a general revolution in Germany, failed. Tensions between the Catholic Church in the Rhineland and the Prussian state made the Catholic population politically aware. In 1837 seven Göttingen professors, the so-called " Göttinger Sieben ", protested against the repeal of the constitution in the Kingdom of Hanover and were subsequently dismissed. The Rhine Crisis of 1840, when France claimed the Rhine as a natural border between France and Germany, sparked a wave of patriotism and hostility - in both countries. The song of the Germans , composed by August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben and the German national anthem from 1922 to 1949, dates from this period . For the Federal Republic of Germany only the 3rd stanza of the song was set as the national anthem.

End of the epoch, aftermath and reception

Gustav Heinemann also saw himself relatives, through his great-grandfather, in the tradition of the 48 revolution. In 1974 the Federal President founded the
memorial for the freedom movements in German history in Rastatt Castle .

Once again it was a revolution in France, the February Revolution of 1848 , which gave Germany a decisive impetus. The German March Revolution of 1848/1849 initially led to the implementation of many demands of the Vormärz in the individual states. However, these innovations were reversed after the failure of the revolution in the years 1849–1851, in the so-called epoch of reaction . This phase lasted until 1858, when the German question began to move again and Wilhelm I, a new king, took office in Prussia . Many ideas of the Vormärz, including the German five-party system that emerged at that time , and the universal suffrage of the March Revolution had a great influence in the period before the establishment of the Empire in 1867/1871.

In the German Empire and in the Weimar Republic , it was the left who looked back on the Vormärz and maintained certain lines of tradition. This applies less to the left-wing liberals than to the social democracy, which adopted catchphrases such as “ Despite everything ”. However, due to issues such as the economic unification thanks to the Zollverein and the early liberal-etatist ideas of Friedrich List , the epoch was remembered outside the actual political groups.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the Vormärz attracted a great deal of attention among left intellectuals because they recognized the feeling of living in a backward and oppressive society among the revolutionaries of the Vormärz. Songwriters like Hannes Wader or the group Zupfgeigenhansel played the political songs of the Vormärz. History also increasingly took up the epoch.

Social, economic and technological history

Replica of the eagle

The French Revolution brought a surge of modernization with it. In the occupied territories of West Germany, the Civil Code introduced equality for citizens before the law, and administration was improved. This had an impact on the rest of Germany. Serfdom was abolished around 1800 and in the following years ( peasant liberation ). The transition from traditional to modern society also saw adjustment difficulties; the term pauperism came up for the poverty in the backward areas . The 1840s in particular are known for famines and unrest.

Economic progress was also evident in the dismantling of customs borders. In 1818 Prussia abolished tariffs on merchandise between its own provinces. In 1834 several states founded the German Customs Union together with Prussia . In some areas there were the first signs of industrialization , even if it did not fundamentally change Germany until the second half of the century. The first locomotive in Germany, the Adler , ran in 1835 . Other significant technical developments of the era were steam navigation, telegraphy and photography. However, it took decades for a railway network or a telegraph network to unite Germany across the board, so that their full use only came into being in the course of the second half of the century. For the first time in German history, railways and telegraphy ensured that messages, people and goods reached their destination within days or faster and no longer within weeks.

Literary history

The term “Vormärz” is a vague collective term for the oppositional to revolutionary political literature of the decades before the German March Revolution of 1848. The beginning of this literary era is controversial; some put it at 1815 ( Congress of Vienna ), others at 1819 ( Carlsbad resolutions ), 1830 ( July Revolution ) or 1840 ( Rhine crisis ). The Vormärz stood in contrast to the literature of the conservative, restorative and politically resigned Biedermeier. Important genres of the Vormärz are the letter , the travelogue and the political poem .

The boy Germany , whose publications in 1835 by the Frankfurt parliament were banned, is perhaps the most important group of authors that time. The representatives of this current wanted to achieve the political consciousness of the bourgeoisie and demanded a committed literature that was oriented towards social reality. Their turning away from the ideals of literary classics found expression in Heinrich Heine's creation of words from the end of the art period . The main representatives of Young Germany were Karl Gutzkow , Heinrich Laube , Theodor Mundt and Ludolf Wienbarg .

While the Young Germans, whose literary and political effectiveness reached their peak in the mid-1830s, mainly used various forms of prose and founded their own magazines , the Vormärz poets, who were more active in the 1840s, tried primarily through committed poetry for progress to act. The most important authors in this direction include August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben , Ferdinand Freiligrath ( Ça ira , New Political and Social Poems ) and Georg Herwegh (Poems from a Living Man) . In this context we should also mention Robert Eduard Prutz and Georg Weerth ( humorous sketches from German commercial life , life and deeds of the famous knight Schnapphanski ), who was often referred to as the first “poet of the German proletariat” by Marxist- oriented literary scholars.

In addition to these groups, there are various individual authors who at different times contributed in their own way to the progressive and pre-revolutionary tendencies of the pre-March literature. Ludwig Börne with his critical journalism (letters from Paris) was a role model and a pioneer for the young Germans.

The works of Georg Büchner ( Woyzeck , Lenz , Der Hessische Landbote , Leonce and Lena , Danton's death ) are also included in the literature of the Vormärz . Although he was in contact with Gutzkow at times, he considered the strategy of Junge Deutschland to be too strongly oriented towards the bourgeoisie. Büchner and Christian Dietrich Grabbe each gave the genre drama new impulses in their own special way .

Heinrich Heine distanced himself from the Young Germans with his high aesthetic standards, but largely shared their social criticism. It was therefore no coincidence that the Bundestag's decision to prohibit the works of Junge Deutschland included him. The Vormärz poets, whom he criticized and caricatured as “ tendency poets ” when they first appeared , subsequently inspired him to write political contemporary poems such as The Silesian Weavers and the Verse epic Germany. A winter fairy tale , which are among his most radical expressions.

Other authors who belong in the context of the literary Vormärz include Ernst Dronke and Adolf Glaßbrenner , not to forget the authors who were more publicized at this time, such as Louise Aston (My Emancipation) or Fanny Lewald ( Some thoughts about Upbringing of girls ) women-specific or, as Bettina von Arnim ( this book belongs to the king ), made social issues a topic.

Authors and works

Author Works
Bettina von Arnim (1785-1859) This book belongs to the king (reports)
Ludwig Börne (1786–1837) Letters from Paris (letter collection)
Heinrich Heine (1797-1856) Germany. A winter fairy tale (narration); Travel pictures; journalistic texts; Poems
Friedrich Wilhelm Schulz (1797–1860) The death of pastor Friedrich Ludwig Weidig
Anton Johann Gross-Hoffinger (1808–1875)
Ferdinand Freiligrath (1810–1876) Ça ira . New political and social poems (poetry collections)
Karl Gutzkow (1811–1878) Wally the Doubter (1835)
Georg Büchner (1813–1837) Dantons Tod , Woyzeck (dramas), Leonce and Lena (comedy), Lenz (story); The Hessian Landbote (pamphlet)
Louise Aston (1814–1871) My emancipation (defense after being expelled from Berlin)
Georg Herwegh (1817–1875) Poems from a living person
Georg Weerth (1822-1856) Humorous sketches from German commercial life ; Life and deeds of the famous knight Schnapphahnski (satirical feuilletons); Poems
Annette von Droste-Hülshoff (1797–1848) The Judenbuche (story). Droste-Hülshoff took a realistic-naturalistic path all his life.

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Vormärz  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Compare Dieter Langewiesche: Europe between Restoration and Revolution 1815–1849 , p. 1: "[...] the terms Restoration , Vormärz and Biedermeier , with which the conditions in the area of ​​the German Confederation are usually named."
  2. ^ Meyer's Large Conversational Lexicon . 6th edition. Bibliographisches Institut, Leipzig / Vienna 1909 ( [accessed on June 18, 2019] Lexicon entry “March achievements”).
  3. Florian Vaßen (Ed.): Restoration, Vormärz and Revolution of 48. In: The German literature in text and presentation. Volume 10, Reclam, p. 29.