Do democracies need a revolution? The revolution of 1848 then, and now

19 ma
19 juni 2023

In Revolutionary Spring. Europe aflame and the fight for a new world, 1848-1849 Christopher Clark describes 1848 as ‘the particle collision chamber at the center of the European nineteenth century’, a moment when political movements and ideas were tested and transformed. The insurgents asked questions that sound modern to our ears.

Such as: ”What happens when demands for political or economic liberty conflict with demands for social rights? How do we reconcile representative and direct forms of democracy? How is capitalism connected to social inequality?” The revolutions of 1848 were short-lived, but their impact on public life and political thought throughout Europe and beyond has been profound.

After the key note lecture by Christopher Clark, parallels to the current day and age are drawn in a discussion with invited experts and the audience. Do democracies need revolutions? Can freedom thrive without? And what about the situation of the Netherlands, where no revolution took place at all and that still went through a democratic transformation in 1848?

The main language is English.


  • 7.30 p.m. – Welcome and introduction, Beatrice de Graaf, Professor of History of International Relations & Global Governance, Utrecht University
  • 7.35 p.m. – Christopher Clark, Professor of History, University of Cambridge – Fighting for a new world: the 1848 revolutions in Europe 
  • 08.15 p.m. – Panel discussion chaired by Beatrice de Graaf with Annelien de Dijn, Professor of Modern Political History, Utrecht University, and Glenda Sluga, Professor of International History and Capitalism, European University Institute in Florence and University of Sydney
  • 09.00 p.m. – Drinks

Location: KNAW Trippenhuis – Kloveniersburgwal 29, Amsterdam

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