Heléna Tóth

The Historian’s Scales: Families in Exile in the Aftermath of the Revolutions of 1848

This essay examines political exile in the aftermath of the 1848 revolutions from the perspective of the history of the family on the basis of case studies from the Habsburg Empire and the German lands. I focus on two processes: first, the ways in which family members of political refugees (and political prisoners) became refugees themselves; and second, the role of family members of political refugees in obtaining amnesty for the entire family. Although officially most of the family members of political refugees were immigrants who went through the official channels to obtain passports, they treated their own migration as a political matter and, equally importantly, they were treated by bureaucrats in their home countries as political migrants. These perceptions, in turn, had consequences when the family decided to return from abroad. An understanding of the process whereby families became unwilling migrants in the aftermath of the revolutions of 1848 sheds light on how amorphous the practice of political exile was in the middle of the nineteenth century, as well as on the breadth of the collective aspects of this punishment.

keywords: political exile, 1848 revolutions, history of the family, Habsburg Empire, Germany, refugees