The 1848 revolution of the liberals refers to the various national movements pioneered by educated middle classes alongside the revolts of the poor, unemployed and starving peasants and workers in Europe. While in countries like France, food shortages and widespread unemployment during 1848 led to popular uprisings, in other parts of Europe (such as Germany, Italy, Poland and the Austro-Hungarian Empire), men and women of the liberal middle classes came together to voice their demands for the creation of nation-states based on parliamentary principles. In Germany, for example, various political associations comprising middle-class professionals, businessmen and prosperous artisans came together in Frankfurt to form an all-German National Assembly. This Frankfurt parliament drafted a constitution for a German nation to be headed by a monarchy subject to a parliament. Though such liberal movements were ultimately suppressed by conservative forces, the old order could never be restored. The monarchs realised that the cycles of revolution and repression could only be ended by granting concessions to the liberal-nationalist revolutionaries.
The political, social and economic ideas supported by the liberals were clearly based on democratic ideals. Politically, they demanded constitutionalism with national unification—a nation-state with a written constitution and parliamentary administration. They wanted to rid society of its class-based partialities and birth rights. Serfdom and bonded labour had to be abolished, and economic equality had to be pursued as a national goal. The right to property was also significant in the liberals’ concept of a nation based on political, social and economic freedom.