This is the earliest-known photograph of a crowd of people, and it shows protesters amassed at a rally in London, in 1848.
Eighteen-forty eight saw regimes shaken across Europe and elsewhere in a wave of revolutions that mostly failed. More liberal forms of government were being demanded "from Brazil to Hungary." Though few of the revolutions were completely successful, the upheavals ushered in some reforms as well as plenty of repression.
Will this year turn out to be like 1848, but with even greater successes? After events in Tunisia and Egypt, and the ongoing unrest in Bahrain and Libya, it's worth reading this posting by a BBC economics editor, Paul Mason. His posting is quite long, running to 20 points as to why there is this unusual turmoil around the world at present. I have posted the first six, below. Mason says that highly connected and educated young people are uncertain of their futures, have no fear of existing regimes, and are seeking a more equal apportioning of power and access to power, as well as expansion of economic opportunities...
1. At the heart if it all is a new sociological type: the graduate with no future
2. ...with access to social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and, e.g. Yfrog, so they can express themselves in a variety of situations ranging from parliamentary democracy to tyranny.
3. Therefore truth moves faster than lies, and propaganda becomes flammable.
4. They are not prone to traditional and endemic ideologies: Labourism, Islamism, Fianna Fail Catholicism etc... in fact hermetic ideologies of all forms are rejected.
5. Women very numerous as the backbone of movements. After twenty years of modernised labour markets and higher-education access the "archetypal" protest leader, organizer, facilitator, spokesperson now is an educated young woman.
6. Horizontalism has become endemic because technology makes it easy: it kills vertical hierarchies spontaneously, whereas before - and the quintessential experience of the 20th century - was the killing of dissent within movements, the channeling of movements and their bureaucratization.