Aachen riot of August 30, 1830 - Aachener Aufruhr vom 30. August 1830

The Aachen uprising of August 30, 1830 was a pre-industrial bread uprising in the context of the July Revolution , which caused a sensation regionally because the rebels could only be pushed back by the vigilante group. The social protest was triggered by the escalation of a premodern economic crisis. The turmoil originally began in Liege , where the workers turned against the possessing classes. From Belgium the rebellious spirit spread among the working population of Verviers and Aachen as well as in other cities.


On Monday noon on August 30, 1830, there was a run-up at the Dicke Pipe, a meeting place for factory workers, as there had been penalties on payday for the payment of wages at the C. Nellessen, JM Sohn cloth factory , which had been at that time since the death of the senior manager Franz Carl Nellessen by his four sons Heinrich (1789–1866), Carl (1799–1871), Theodor (1802–1888) and Franz Nellessen (1805–1862). The clipperJacobi spoke to a colleague about the fact that a tenth of his weekly wages had been deducted from him because of a damaged cloth. During the lunch break, the procedure, which was perceived as injustice, was discussed. So it was decided to go to Nellessen to sue for the deductions. Likewise, people complained about the low earnings and the machines that were held responsible for them, so that their destruction was demanded.

The workers then moved in front of the gates of the Nellessen cloth factory, with the curious crowd quickly growing to several hundred people. There they loudly called for the penalties to be removed and attempts were made to break into the factory. The project failed because the factory workers of the Nellessen company prevented them from moving into the factory. When the gendarmes arrived at the meeting place, the crowd took out their aggression on the failed attempt on the gendarmes. The pursuit of the gendarmes shifted the action, and a little later the crowd moved to the house of industrialist James Cockerillat Friedrich-Wilhelm-Platz No. 7 in Aachen, the later house of the recreation society. He was known for his wealth and was held responsible for the spread of the machines in Aachen, whereby a large number of employees had lost their jobs. During the unrest, the red flag was shown as a symbol of the labor movement . [1]

Cockerill's furnishings and furniture were completely destroyed and the house looted, after which they moved to the prison in order to free the prisoners imprisoned there based on the model of the Paris Bastille Tower, most of whom had only committed minor crimes and administrative offenses (these so-called armies People-offenses at that time were mostly wood crime, garden theft or the like). In order to free the prisoners, tools were needed, which they tried to obtain from Mechanikus Stiel. But here, too, resistance from the workers was encountered. Some of the rioters moved to Friedrich-Wilhelm-Platz, while the rest went to the apartment of the brewer Ben to get guns, which they succeeded.

Due to a lack of soldiers, a vigilante guard was formed, which finally succeeded in ending the riot and restoring "peace and order" in Aachen.

The industrial development in Aachen until 1830

Aachen was at the forefront of the German Confederation in early industrialization and the development of the closed factory system . A large proportion of the urban population in 1830 was dependent on the cloth industry, either in factories or as domestic workers.

James Cockerill delivered the first modern spinning machines to Aachen in 1807. In the years that followed, semi-mechanical, hydro-powered hand spinning machines became popular in factories with a centralized system. The first high-pressure steam engine was used from 1828–1829, and others followed in 1830. The favorable geographical location on the border, proximity to raw materials, the early establishment of the Chamber of Commerce and the use of large merchants such as David Hansemann as well as Prussian trade policy contributed to the rapid industrialization of Aachen after 1814/15 at.

However, economic development stalled in the 1820s, which particularly affected industry in western Prussia. The pressure of competition was intensified by the liberal customs laws of 1818 . The continental blockade was lifted and the market opened to western competition without creating new markets in the east. The compulsory guild was lifted during French rule and customs borders with France and the Netherlands were set up, which led to a slump in sales in the Rhenish textile industry.

This forced the factory owners to cut production costs and lay off workers.

Living and working conditions of workers

The workers in Aachen were hit hardest by the economic situation; their hardship was the main cause of the uprising. In particular, the payment of earnings in goods ( truck system ) was not unusual in the Aachen administrative district , whereby the workers were often cheated of their wages.

A characteristic of the situation was that there were only a few employers, but many wage workers living scattered about who were left without legal protection when determining working conditions.

At best, wages were enough to secure the subsistence level. If a worker had a family, they often lived in great need. In addition, the manufacturers in Aachen displayed an inhumane attitude.

The cloth makers and hand spinners were hardest hit by the machinization. The technical innovations led to the lowering of labor costs and the reduction of the required manpower, but also to an increase in quality. Well-qualified and well-paid professions were downgraded to factory proletarians and unemployment became a problem.

Increasing impoverishment changed the emotional situation of the lower classes, who viewed the social and economic disparities as injustice.

While the former middle class, the self-employed and craftsmen sank into poverty, the winners of this structural change were the merchants and publishers. The poorer strata, on the other hand, only had the bare minimum for life. The group of poor and rich diverged economically. In the Aachen riots, these social and economic changes were in the foreground.

The Riots - A Social Protest Or A Political Revolution?

The change from an agricultural to an industrial society did not take place without social protests. In the Rhineland in particular, during the early industrialization period, there were repeated tumults with similar causes.

Some were associated with the destruction of machines, and most were associated with attacks on the factory and private buildings of the entrepreneurs. Especially when there were layoffs and people lost their income and thus their livelihood, there were spontaneous rioting with the aim of obtaining the bare essentials for survival. These social conflicts were the forerunners of the great political revolutions in France and Brussels . But while the Aachen protest turned against the modernization processes, the revolutions in Brussels and Paris had a political character. There, the bourgeois elite supported the riot. All social classes had the same goal, namely to remove an unloved regime.

There had been riots in Verviers too. The news of the success in Verviers reached Aachen through Walloon migrant workers and encouraged the people to protest. The unrest continued and other industrial cities such as Cologne , Düren , Barmen and Elberfeld were hit.

No politically motivated connection could be seen between the Aachen event and the uprisings abroad. The escalation was not a political dispute aimed at overthrowing the rulers.

A failure in negotiating the wage cut left the crowd in despair and anger. The undisciplined actions under the influence of alcohol precluded a planned organization of the protest and the ringleaders were not directly affected. The "Aachen riot" was a social protest against miserable living conditions.


  • Althammer, Beate: rule, care, protest. Elites and lower classes in the textile cities of Aachen and Barcelona 1830-1870. Edited by Dieter Dowe (= publication by the Institute for Social History, Braunschweig, Bonn). Bonn 2002. (Zugl. Diss. Trier 2000). ISBN 3801241254 .
  • Venedey, Jakob: Presentation of the negotiations before the Assize in Cologne about the participants in the riot that took place in Aachen on August 30, 1830. Cologne 1831.
  • Heinrich Volkmann : Economic structural change and social conflict in early industrialization. A case study on the Aachen uprising of 1830. In: Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie, special issue 16. Opladen and Cologne 1973, pp. 550-565.

Individual evidence

  1. Frank Möller: The local unity of the bourgeois movement . In: Lothar Gall (Ed.): City and bourgeoisie in the transition from traditional to modern society . R. Oldenbourg Verlag, Munich 1993, ISBN 3-486-56030-1 , p. 406 ( Google Books )