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Q1. What was “Congress of Vienna”?


After Napoleon’s domination of Europe from around 1800 to 1814, the rulers of Europe wanted to insure that no one would ever be able to come so close to taking over all of Europe again. Napoleon had spread the idea of liberalism, in Western and Central Europe and also spread the idea of nationalism in East and Central Europe.

Congress of Vienna attempted to turn back the clock to restore the Europe that had existed before the French Revolution.  Austrian minister, Metternich led much of the deliberations at Vienna. The Congress System that Metternich established was Reactionary, that is, its goal was to preserve the power of the old, monarchical regimes in Europe.

the four powers chiefly instrumental in the overthrow of Napoleon Austria, Prussia, Russia, and Great Britain concluded a special alliance among themselves with the Treaty of Chaumont, in March 1814, a month before Napoleon’s first abdication. They were later joined by 5 other nations including France under Louis XVIII.

Each had nation had its own goals. Prussia wanted to enlarge its territory. Russia wanted Poland, but it also wanted “collective security”. And Austria and Britain simply wanted a balance of power that would maintain stability and the status quo in Europe. The Congress was dominated by members of the old regime and aristocracy. Their hope was to design a political landscape wherein no one power could dominate.

The secret Austrian-British-French alliance to stop Russia and Prussia from combining to gain all of Poland and Saxony just shows how complicated the negotiations were.

Realizing that breaking up France would upset the balance of power, destabilize Europe, and lead to more revolutions, the allies restored it to its old position, punishing it with only a mild indemnity and short military occupation.

French got a new king, Louis XVIII, was a constitutional, not an absolute monarch.  Even in defeat, the French Revolution had made progress.

The members of the Congress were all afraid of a strong France, so they created strong border states. This treaty changed the political map of Europe.

  • Britain took South Africa from the Dutch to secure its sea route to India.  In compensation, the Dutch got the Austrian Netherlands from Austria, which in turn received control of Northern Italy.
  • The Grand Duchy of Warsaw formed by Napoleon gave birth to Poland under control of Czar of Russia.
  • Germany, largely to Napoleon’s administrative work, was consolidated into 38 states.

For the time being, the Congress of Vienna did restore the old order and a period of relative international peace known as the Concert of Europe. As a result, the lines laid down by the Congress of Vienna lasted, except for one or two changes, for more than 40 years.

These changes would contribute to nationalist revolts in succeeding years. The seeds of revolution had taken root and were spreading rapidly across the face of Europe.


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