Hungarian Revolution of 1848-49

Date: From 1848-03-15 to 1849-10-04

Place: Hungary

The Hungarian Revolution of 1848-49 was one of the revolutions that convulsed Europe in 1848 and 1849. Autonomy for Hungary within the Austrian Empire had long been the goal of Louis Kossuth and other Hungarian political reformers, as had their desire to see Magyar domination of Hungary. News of revolution in France gave them the crisis they were hoping for to actuate their plans. On March 3, 1848, as news arrived of revolution in Paris, Kossuth delivered a speech in the Diet of Hungary calling for parliamentary government for Hungary and constitutional government for Austria. Kossuth's speech sparked revolution in Vienna and Budapest, and on March 13, the Viennese mob forced the resignation of Austrian Prime Minister Klemens von Metternich, and Emperor Ferdinand V acceded to demands of Magyar reformers and established an independent Hungarian government. The Diet promulgated a series of laws designed to transform Hungary into a parliamentary state, which Emperor Ferdinand signed in April. To all intents and purposes, Hungary had become an independent state, tied to the Austrian Empire only by dynastic tradition. Opposition from Croats, Slovaks, and other ethnic minorities to Magyar dominance, however, and the Austrian government's attempts to enlist Hungary in crushing revolution in other Hapsburg lands threatened the new state. The Diet agreed to supply troops to quell the revolt in Italy, on the condition that Austria disarm the Serbs and other ethnic minorities aligned against the Magyars. It also voted to raise money for defense of the state against Austria. In September, Austria declared war on Hungary, and the Diet created a Committee of National Defense with Kossuth as president. Now the virtual dictator of Hungary, Kossuth pushed Hungary toward complete political and economic independence from the Austrian Empire. In December 1848, Emperor Ferdinand abdicated in favor of his nephew Franz Joseph, but the Diet refused to recognize Franz Joseph as king of Hungary, and called the nation to arms against Austria. Franz Joseph revoked the April Laws and outlawed Kossuth and the Hungarian government. In the war of independence that followed, Austria enjoyed initial success, leading Franz Joseph in March 1849 to promulgate a constitution for the Austrian Empire, in which Hungary would become a subject province. On April 14, the Diet responded with the Hungarian Declaration of Independence, declaring the Austrian Hapsburgs had forfeited all rights to rule Hungary. The Diet appointed Kossuth president-regent of the Hungarian Republic. Defeat of imperial forces and Hungarian intransigence convinced Franz Joseph to accept military aid from Russia, and in May, a combined Austro-Russian force invaded Hungary, crushing Hungarian resistance. On August 11, Kossuth abdicated, and he and his supporters fled to the Ottoman Empire. The last remnant of the Hungarian Army surrendered to the Russians at Világos on August 13, and by the end of August, the Austrians and Russians had subdued Hungary. From October 1849 to July 1851, Austria ruled Hungary by martial law, which witnessed wholesale atrocities against the rebels and Magyars, including the execution of Hungarian generals and the confiscation of Magyar estates. In 1851, Austria replaced the military government with civilian authority, which refused to recognize a historically distinct Hungary and sought to incorporate Hungary into one unified state. This continued until the Dual Monarchy of 1867, which created the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

James Wycliffe Headlam, "Kossuth, Lajos [Louis]," The Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1911), 15:916-18; Walter Alison Phillips, "Hungary: II. History," The Encyclopædia Britannica, 13:916-18.