The failure of the potato crop in 1845 and 1846 and of the grain harvest in 1847 caused severe distress in Germany.
Prices rose, and serious shortages led to food riots. At the same time, unemployment was rising sharply as a result of a slump in trade and a wave of business failures.
Because of this, there were widespread outbreaks of unrest, including
- Rhineland: Attacks on millowners
- Thuringia and Saxony: attacks on factory machinery by artisans
- Vienna: a revolution in March which forced the resignation of Metternicht.
- Berlin: barricades were erected in the streets, and clashes between the army and the demonstrators led to the Prussian King, Friedrich Wilhelm IV, withdrawing his troops from the city. He appointed new liberal ministers and promised to call elections for a new assembly.
- Bavaria: in Munich, King Ludwig I was overthrown, mainly due to his personal unpopularity.