Sunday, September 5, 2010



Following Napoleons defeat in 1815, the victorious European powers redrew borders of Europe in such a fashion as to restore political stability. The Great Powers succeeded in establishing a peace that lasted for almost a century.

A. The Congress of Vienna
Prince of Austria Klemens von Metternich, Britains Viscount Castlereagh, Frances Maurice de Talleyrand, Russias Tsar Alexander I, and Prussias King Frederick William III dominated the Congress of Vienna, which first convened in September 1814. Unwilling to burden Frances Louis XVIII with a punitive peace, the allies were very lenient in their demands of France. France returned to its 1790 borders, paid a 700 million franc indemnity, and suffered a short period of military occupation. Britain and Austria were concerned with restraining Russia and Prussia while containing France. The kingdom of the Netherlands, Austrian territories in Italy, and the German Confederation served as bulwarks against future French aggression. While competing Russian and Prussian interests made the issue of Poland more problematic. Congress Poland emerged with nominal independence from Russia. Prussia gained substantial lands from the negotiations in Vienna, but failed to achieve geographical unity. Russia meanwhile acquired Finland, and Sweden received Norway. Satisfied with the defeat of Napoleon, Britain gained no land and even returned French colonies.

B. The Alliance System

Two alliance systems were developed to protect the settlement at Vienna. The Quadruple Alliance Austria, Britain, Prussia, and Russia pledged to protect Europe from French expansion. This alliance would soon become the Quintuple Alliance with the addition of France in 1818. The Holy Alliance engineered by Alexander I, pledged Prussia, Austria, and Russia to renounce warfare and advance the interests of Christianity. Furthermore, the major powers agreed to meet regularly to discuss European affairs in the so-called Congress System. In 1822 France, overlooking British opposition, intervened i Spain to restore the monarchy there.


The Industrial Revolution that introduced extensive political and social changes~ encouraged Europeans to embrace new ideologies that explained the changes that were taking place. Liberalism, nationalism, romanticism, conservatism, and socialism revolutionized the traditional intellectual order in this period.

A. Liberalism

Belief in the freedom of the individual and in the tendency of authority to become corrupt underlay the liberal principles that swept across Europe from the later eighteenth century. Liberals maintained that the advance of individual civil and political freedom was the only acceptable goal of government. Jeremy Benthams liberal utilitarianism, arguing the principle of the -greatest happiness of the greatest number of people,- accepted the need for governmental intervention. John Stuart Mill, the leading spokesman for classical liberalism, advanced both womens rights and individual rights while questioning the value of economic inequality. David Ricardo, who opposed government intervention in foreign trade, argued that the -iron law of wages- kept workers wages at the basic subsistence level.

B. Nationalism

Before 1850 nationalism envisioned a united people fighting against absolutism and tyranny. Beyond ideology and political practices, nationalism began to capture the imagination of groups who resented foreign domination. The German Johann Herder saw nationalism in the culture of folk tales and folk dances. Liberalism and nationalism were closely related in this period as is demonstrated by tile politics of the Italian nationalist Giuseppe Mazzini. Meanwhile Friedrich List encouraged economic nationalism, which meant the replacement of free trade with protective tariffs. Nationalistic desires for independence flourished in this period, especially in lands ruled by the Habsburg family.

C. Romanticism

Romanticism emphasized the force of spontaneous human emotions rebelling against the highly structured artistic norms of the traditional conventions of neoclassicism. Romanticism is found in a variety of literary and artistic movements. Building on the work of Immanuel Kant, romanticism embraced subjective knowledge. Inspiration and intuition took the place of reason and science for the romantics. Creativity, spontaneity, romance, love, and adventure were romantic traits found in the literary works of Germaine de Staël, Johann Goethe, the brothers Grimm, and Victor Hugo; and in the music of Berlioz, Chopin, and Liszt; and the art of Turner and Delacroix. Focusing on the primacy of the individual made romanticism truly revolutionary.

D. Conservatism

Conservatives countered the development of liberalism by underlining the importance of tradition, corporate values, and organic growth in civilization. Led by the English politician Edmund Burke in the 1790s, conservatives maintained a firm belief in the benefits of gradual change and the importance of stable social order. The Austrian prince Metternich epitomized the more reactionary manifestation of conservatism by enforcing the Carlsbad decrees of 1819, which imposed censorship and espionage at universities in order to regulate nationalistic ideology and activity.

F. Socialism

Socialists differed substantially in their goals, but were united in condemning the social and economic changes resulting from industrial development. Henri de Saint-Simon encouraged the establishment of a new society which would make productive labor the basis of social Status. Pierre Proudhon, hostile to industrial development, urged the restriction of large-scale private ownership. He favored a cooperative society with credit unions, free credit, and equitable exchange. Charles Fourier, a French socialist, envisioned a utopian society where people would work and live together in harmony in communities he called phalanxes. Some socialists argued for greater freedom for women, though this was not a position that all socialists accepted. Most agreed, however, that society needed to be reshaped.


Drawing on the radical tradition of the French revolutionary era and the organization of mutual aid societies and artisan organizations, workers and their allies initiated waves of popular protest that swept across Europe from the 1820s to 1848. Seemingly, society was becoming unglued as people protested the repressive actions of government. For its part government increasingly relied upon military force to keep the people under control.

A. The Revolutions of 1830

Poor harvests as well as social and political unrest converged in 1830, sparking revolutions throughout much of Europe. In France, Charles X’s efforts to restore absolutism by realigning the monarchy with the Catholic Church antagonized the liberal bourgeoisie at a time when workers were plagued by economic hardship. Workers took their grievances to the streets in July 1830, forcing Charles X to abdicate. Liberal politicians made Louis-Philippe the new constitutional monarch. Greece, aided by Britain, France, and Russia, gained its independence from the Ottoman Empire. Belgian patriots, inspired by the French revolution of 1830, succeeded in overthrowing their Dutch rulers, although Polish nationalists were unsuccessful in their bid for independence later that year. Italian nationalists in Modena, Parma, and the Papal States made an unsuccessful bid to cast off the Austrian yoke, bringing the European revolutions to a close. The revolutions of 1830 strained relations between the Great Powers by testing their commitment to a European balance of power in an age of extensive domestic instability. These revolutions also demonstrate the growing political awareness of all classes in European society.

B. Reform in Great Britain

The Great Reform Bill of 1832 enfranchised half of the British middle class and increased the political representation of the new industrial towns. Workers and their radical leaders, disillusioned by the limited scope of the bill, initiated the Chartist movement in an effort to cure Britains social ills with universal manhood suffrage, the secret ballot, elimination of property qualifications for public office, equal electoral districts, and annual elections of Parliament. Although workers warmly embraced Chartism, the government responded with force.

C. Worker Protest

Many industrial workers resisted mechanization, which brought de-skilling and low wages. Skilled workers were determined to protect their economic privileges by adopting new forms of labor organization or, like the Luddites, destroying the new machinery. French artisans adopted socialism and agitated for the creation of a democratic republic in a series of uprisings and strikes that lasted from 1831 to 1834. Government repression drove the workers secret societies underground, but failed to end the artisan republican socialism. Trade unions contested both the authority of the state and the rights of women to engage in industrial work.

D. The Revolutions of 1848

The year 1848 saw revolutionary activity in virtually every European nation. Subsistence crises and political unrest combined to set the stage for this year of revolutions, inaugurated by events in France. Bourgeois reformers in Paris initiated banquets to circumvent government dictates against political speeches. Parisian workers took to the Street to protest the prohibition of banquets and ended by toppling Louis Philippe and proclaiming the Second Republic. Bourgeois reformers led the new Provisional Government, but workers committed to the right to labor ruled the social revolution of 1848. Unsuccessful in fending off workers’ demands with its national workshops, the government suppressed an insurrection of armed workers in June, creating a military dictatorship that restored order in the capital. In the German states, the French revolution of 1848 inspired efforts to create a constitutional government in a united German nation. These efforts collapsed, however, when Prussias Friedrick William IV refused to serve as the German king. Elsewhere in central Europe, Magyars briefly gained Hungarian independence while Czechs struggled unsuccessfully for self-rule in Prague. Italian nationalists also contested Austrian dominion, and Rome emerged briefly as an independent republic in February 1849. Conservative forces rallied, however, restoring Habsburg control and quashing Prussian efforts to establish a united German nation.

F. Europe in 1850

The revolutions of 1848 marked the end of the Concert of Europe and an irreparable split between liberals and democrats. Conservative forces regained control over their political institutions, as the middle class favored strong governments that could protect private property from anarchy.


While the revolutions of 1848 failed to achieve their democratic, nationalist, and republican ends, they left a lasting mark on European politics. Realism and intervention emerged as central aspects of statecraft in the decades that followed the failed revolutions.