For people of a certain temperament, politics should be all about spontaneity and the release of natural energies. In order to build a new Jerusalem, it is only necessary to raise a flag, sing a martial song and adorn the body with cockades and armbands. For a few months in the spring of 1848, it looked as though there might be something in this idea. In the great cities of Central Europe, students and artisans built barricades and demanded constitutions; in the countryside, peasants destroyed what was left of feudal institutions. The careers of prominent people as diverse as Prince Metternich and Lola Montez were dramatically ended. As Alexander Herzen remembered, in 1848 ‘all Europe took up its bed and walked … I do not envy those who were not carried away by that exquisite dream’.