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As pointed out, one of the fundamental means to express new ideas and to make claims to the different political agents during the Revolution of 1848/49 was the Petition Movement. On a time table, the Petition Movement can be divided into three historical phases paralleling the developments on the larger, national scale. In the first phase, the beginning of the revolution, petitions were addressed to representatives of the "old regime". They pressed monarchs and governments to install democratic principles including the right to form an association, freedom of the press, freedom of trade, and a new judicature. During the second phase of the Petition Movement, when a parliament was firmly established in Frankfurt, petitioners pointed to more specific interests, such as those of the churches, the craftsmen, and the workers. In the last period, beginning in the winter of 1848, the picture had changed drastically. The old alliance between nobility and military had recovered from its shock and it became eventually clear, that the revolution would fail. Still, petitions unsuccessfully urged the King of Prussia to accept the crown and the constitution proposed by the provisional parliament. By the end of the third phase, almost half of the city's inhabitants were in some ways actively involved in the petition movement and thus had made a political statement.
As outlined above our approach to explain the rise of the Petition Movement is twofold: First, we will examine in how far the movement can be explained as a process that takes place within the social structure of the city. The reconstruction of the social landscape at the time of the revolution allows us to develop and test this structural model of mobilization. Secondly, we will use additional information about the actors to identify mechanisms of recruitment and mobilization that took place beyond the scope of the general structural model. But, before we move on to present the empirical results we have to present some of the theoretical considerations behind the general model and we need to introduce the operationalization of these theoretical concepts.