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Labor Unrest in Breslau (March 22, 1847)
As the last and perhaps worst famine of the ancient regime spread through Europe in the mid-1840s, and as the impoverishment of the working classes (and parts of the middle classes) reached a new climax, the readiness of the underprivileged classes to revolt frequently led to collective violence. The revolutions that erupted across Europe in 1848 were preceded by isolated occurrences of local unrest in the mid-1840s. For instance, in June of 1844, the Prussian province of Silesia saw the famous “Weaver’s Revolt," an uprising of former tradesmen who had been relegated to receiving the lower wages of laborers’ and were thereby discriminated against under the new economic order. Prussian troops crushed the revolt with much bloodshed. On March 22, 1847, nearly a year before the outbreak of the March revolution in 1848, another social conflict shook the Silesian capital of Breslau. After the exhaustion of municipal funds led to the dismissal of Breslau workers from public works projects aimed at alleviating that year’s famine, workers roamed the city, stopping in front of the homes of the mayor and the district governor, where they vocally demanded employment. As the image shows, troops eventually intervened to quell the rebellion. Wood engraving by an unknown artist, 1847.