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A CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF THE EUROPEAN HISTORY BASED ON VIENNA CONGRESS AND THE UNIFICATION OF GERMANY

Updated: May 21

Author: Hemandh Viswanath, Pursuing MA from Pondicherry Central University.


ABSTRACT

The French Revolution was a period that started with the convention of Estates General in 1789. The revolution ended in November 1799 with the formation of the French Consulate. The french Revolution is one of the most influential revolutions in the entire world. The ideas of the French Revolution were considered fundamental principles of Western liberal democracy and were adopted by many revolutions in the later period of time. The French Revolution led to the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte who proclaimed himself as the Emperor of France in 1804. The French Revolutionary wars and the consequent Napoleonic Wars were one of the deadliest wars that was fought ever.


The Invasion of Russia by Napoleon proved to be too disastrous leading to his defeat and exile to the Island of Elba and a final defeat in the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 marked the end of an era in European history. The congress of Vienna was convened by the victors of the war to punish the nations that supported Napoleon, reward the nations that fought Napoleon, redrew the political map of Europe which was drawn by Napoleon and to find solutions and answers to the challenges and questions created by Napoleon from the time of the French Revolution. This Congress of Vienna led to the establishment of the famous Congress System or otherwise known as the Metternich System. The Congress system which was established by Austrian Chancellor Count Von Metternich to suppress the ideals of the French Revolution, future revolutions in Europe and nationalism was itself overthrown by the later revolutions of 1830 and 1848 as well as by events like Unification of Italy and Unification Of Germany.


Keywords

French Revolution, Congress Of Vienna, Unification Of Germany, Unification Of Italy.



CONGRESS OF VIENNA


INTRODUCTION

The Congress Of Vienna was an International Conference Of Ambassadors Of Major European Powers. The conference was held in the Austrian Capital Of Vienna from 1 November 1814 to 8 June 1815. The chairman and the master brain Of The Conference was Prince Count Metternich Of Austria. The Congress Of Vienna was the aftereffect of the downfall of Napoleon Bonaparte, Napoleonic Wars and The French Revolution.


The Aim Of The Conference

The French Revolution caused a shock for the Royalty and Monarchy that ruled Europe. This led France to wage wars and military campaigns with neighboring countries across Europe.


The French Revolution saw the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte and his accession to the Throne Of France in 1804. Napoleon led France to a string of victories that made Napoleon and France the master of Europe till his decline after his disastrous defeat in Russia in 1812.The downfall of Napoleon forced the allied powers, especially the Big Four superpower countries, to convene together to discuss and find solutions to several uncertainties and questions that arose after the downfall of Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon was forced to abdicate the throne for the sake of France and was exiled to the island of Elba, forcing the Coalition powers to convene in Vienna, the capital of the Austrian Empire.


One of the most important challenges that came in front of them was to redraw the map of Europe to the 1789 borders.

The second most important problem was how to compensate the states who supported the decline and defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte.


What should be the punishments given for the states who have helped Napoleon Bonaparte in his wars against the allied powers?


How to Establish a Balance Of Power in Europe to deter any future power struggle and confrontations between the European Nations for domination and hegemony in continental Europe.


The Diplomacy of Count Metternich helped Austria to dominate the power politics of superpowers in the Congress Of Vienna. This congress established the Hegemony Of Austria and Count Metternich in Europe which came to be known as the Metternich System. This Congress of Vienna is considered to be one of the earliest platforms of international problem solvings.


WHY THERE WAS A CONGRESS OF VIENNA

The French Revolution Of 1789 caused the emergence of French ideals to spread across Europe and threatened the position of states and monarchies alike. The ideals enshrined in the French Revolution include:

  • Nationalism.

  • Equality.

  • Liberty.

  • Fraternity.

  • Republic/Democratic Rule.

  • Nationalism.


The ruling elites of European Monarchies feared the spread of these ideas to their countries. They feared these ideas would make European Monarchies with the fate of France or which would decrease the power of the Monarchy and would pave the way for their final decline. The Congress of Vienna was a conference on how to tackle these issues efficiently which was mainly formulated by Count Metternich.


PRELIMINARIES AND DELEGATES

The Congress Of Vienna consisted of several hundred delegates from all over Europe and was considered to be the first kind of international effort on problems solving in international matters. Even though there were several delegates and countries participating in the conference, the four major powers like Austria, Prussia, Russia, Britain were the chief instruments of the conference acting as Big Brothers at the conference who were also in the forefront in defeating Napoleon Bonaparte. They concluded a special alliance among themselves and decided to make every decision among them only. The four major powers are

  • Prussia

  • Britain

  • Austria

  • Russia

Other countries who have participated in the Congress include

  • Portugal

  • Spain

  • France

  • Sweden


DELEGATES

The Delegates who represented major powers in the Vienna conference were

  • Talleyrand - France

  • Emperor Tsar Alexander I - Russia

  • Prince Count Von Metternich - Austria

  • Prince Von Hardenburg - Prussia

  • Viscount Castlereagh

The meeting of the Congress of Vienna was informal in nature and accommodated the points and deliberations of the super powers only.


RESULTS OF CONGRESS OF VIENNA

The Metternich system or the Congress System gave a balance of power for European politics till 1848. Established the congress system or the Metternich System for the next 3 decades till 1848 was a major characteristic of this Congress. This led to the establishment of Austrian Hegemony and the establishment of the Metternich Era. This time was characterized as an era which suppressed the ideas of Nationalism and Democracy.


The conference helped to create an international system and to establish a Balance of Power in European Politics. The establishment of the Congress of Vienna led to the emergence of a platform for discussions and deliberations that can solve problems in international issues at international levels without going to wars and breaching the delicate balance of power created by Count Metternich in1815. This system proved to be worthy till it collapsed in 1848 due to Revolts and rebellions in which even Metternich had to flee from Austria. Even though the Congress system failed, it was successful in preventing large-scale wars and military campaigns of the scale of Napoleonic wars till the beginning of World War One. The Congress of Vienna rejected the ideas like this.

  • Liberty

  • Equality

  • Fraternity

  • Republic

  • Democracy.


This really means Metternich took utmost care in suppressing the nationalistic feelings and emotions to a great extent even though he failed ultimately Matternichs tactics became the primary source for the European powers to suppress anti-monarchical emotions.


He even stated that DEMOCRACY BRINGS DAYLIGHT TO DARK

France was made to return all territories captured by Napoleon Bonaparte and was distributed among the allied powers to ring fence France and to redraw the map of Europe back to 1789.


Russia established its Might and sovereignty over Poland and Finland and had become a great military power that claimed the destruction of Napoleon Bonaparte. The Russian Emperor also proposed a holy alliance to be established in the line of the Christian faith which was rejected by Britain


Prussia lost claims over Poland, but got territories uptown westphalia. But prussia was suppressed by Austrian diplomacy under Count Metternich in German-speaking States Matters.


Austria was given the territories of Venetia and Lombardy, they also established a diplomatic hegemony over other prominent European powers till 1848.


The united Netherlands was established by the joining of Belgium and Netherlands to counter the future French advances and Revolutions and rebellions originating from France


France was ring fenced by powerful countries on its border with Austria and the United Netherlands. Steps were taken by the super power states to contain any revolution or rebellions in France as well as to prevent it from spreading to other parts of Europe if such happens ever. THIS WAS BASED ON THE METTERNICH'S THEORY OF " IF FRANCE SNEEZES EUROPE CATCHES COLD"


Switzerland was made a neutral country. Germany was divided into 39 small states with a common parliament called 'Diet' in Frankfurt under an Austrian President


Italy was divided into 9 small states with Lombardy and venice annexed by Austria to ring fence FranceMetternich tactfully helped France to escape from harsh terms due to the fear of retaliation in the crisis.


The situation became normal as France joined the coalition powers and established 5 power union to solve future problems in European politics.

This created a relatively peaceful situation that deterred any major wars in Europe till the First World War.


RISE OF NATIONALISM IN EUROPE AND THE UNIFICATION OF GERMANY


INTRODUCTION

The rise of nationalism in Europe started with the Spring of Nations that happened in 1848.The rule of monarchies and external control of some regions was replaced by self-determination of indeginous people that created new national governments in Germany, Italy, Greece, Serbia, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. The French Revolution led to the establishment of the modern nation-state concept which created the emotion of nationalism across Europe where intellectuals were influenced by Napoleon Bonaparte and his Napoleonic Code which acted as an instrument for the political transformation of Europe. The Congress of Vienna tried hard to restore the old style of Kings and Kingdoms ignoring the principle of nationality in favour of legitimacy. Unification of Germany and Italy to nation states led to the establishment of nation states in Europe.


The cause Of German Unification

The Unification of Germany was due to the rise of German Nationalism. It existed centuries before the establishment of the Imperial German Empire and rose to prominence in the 19th century due to the invasion of Napoleon Bonaparte which led to the establishment of the Confederation Of Rhine. After the 1848 Revolts which originated in France and which spread out across Europe also had a significant impact on the Prussian and German politics too. The Chancellor of Prussia, Otto Von Bismarck, was a great tactician and a great leader who foreseen the future and had an ambition to build a unified German Empire in Europe. Bismarck had a clear plan intended for the Unification of German States into an Imperial German Empire.


The first thing he did for the Unification Of Germany was to bolster the Military Might Of Prussian Empire. He created one of the largest and most powerful military forces in the world within a short period of time. He was so tactful that he didn't throw himself into a series of wars or battles with any European Powers at that time and moved very cautiously and in a skilled manner. Otto Von Bismark moved so carefully that one by one he created a chain of events and incidents that led to war and diplomatic master strokes which eliminated Denmark, Austria, Russia and most notably France, so carefully that without any disadvantage or harm or demerits for Prussia. This was the reason for the Unification Of Germany in 1871.


The Three Wars

Prussia under Bismarck followed a blood and iron policy. Bismark moved his tactics to create a German Empire in a very tactful manner that he created some events and diplomatic master strokes to wage wars and one by one eliminated the factors that would oppose the creation of a German Empire. They fought three wars that led to the Unification Of Germany. They were


  • Danish - Prussian war

  • Austro - prussian war

  • Franco - Prussian


Danish - Prussian War

Bismark carefully planned the Unification Of Germany that he fought and eliminated the threats from Denmark by wagging the Danish-Prussian War otherwise known as the Second Schleswig War. The Second Schleswig War was fought in 1864 between Denmark and Austria and Prussia over territorial disputes. Denmark claimed territories like Schleswig, Holstein and Lauenburg.


Bismarck mindful of the Russian threat neutralized the Russian Royalty and befriended Austria to gain access to the German speaking territory, won a decisive victory against the Danish Power attaining a hegemonic status in the north of the Prussian state gaining access to the sea and boosting the morale of the military. It was also a test bed for the latest Military Armaments and technology acquired by the Prussian Military recently.


Austro - Prussian War

The next move from Bismark came so fast that it was against the Austrian who may also claim a share in German Nationalism. So Bismark fought the Austro-Prussian War which was also known as the Seven Weeks War. The War was a reason for the Unification Of Germany as well as for the Unification Of Italy. It was fought in 1866 between Austria and Prussia. Bismarck mindful of Austrian power as a threat for Prussian led Unification Of German Speaking States tactfully deceived Austrians to the Prussian camp for the Second Schleswig War, but due to the dispute between Austria and Prussia over the administration of the ceded territories, both the powers came to war


The master stroke of Bismarck in this war initially was the alliance with the Italian power of the Kingdom of Sardinia. The Prussians were fully prepared for the war and the initial attack by the Kingdom of Sardinia led to the capture of Vienna in just 7 weeks. Prussia and Bismarck had attained a hegemonic status in the German-speaking World. It led to the Prussian Dominance and the creation of the Northern German Confederation. This war led to the Dissolution of the German Confederation. It led to the exclusion of Austria from Germany. The Prussian victory against Austria made France vulnerable and led to Austrian silence later during the Franco-Prussian War. The Prussian Victory against Austria led to the Unification Of Germany under Prussia in 1871.The Austro-Prussian War was one of the major reasons for the Unification of Germany. The post-war Treaty Of Prague led to the Creation Of Northern German Confederation, and Bismarck did all these tactfully in a manner that Austrian Silence helped Prussia to gain victory against France in Franco - Prussian War.


FRANCO - PRUSSIAN WAR


The last move by Bismark was against France. The Franco-Prussian War was the last of the 3 wars fought by Prussia that led to the Unification Of Germany. It was fought in 1870. It was a result of Bismarck's Diplomacy of Deliberate Provocation Against France through the Spanish Succession Issue and Elams Telegraph Incident. Bismarck identified the lack of sound military footing for the French Empire and lured them for the war. This war was fought for over 6 months by the Second French Empire and Third Republic. It led to the ultimate defeat and destruction of the French Forces. France had to surrender the Alsace and Lorraine Provinces to Germany


This war led directly to the Unification And Creation Of German Empire under Prussia.


French morale was destroyed by this war due to the French Surrendering Of Alsace And Lorraine Territories as well as due to the Coronation Of William I As The Emperor Of Germany was done in Paris at the Hall Of Mirrors in the Iconic Palace Of Versailles


This war started a long-standing feud between France and Germany which the French Avenged during the German surrendering during the closing time of the First World War through the Treaty Of Versailles. This war marked the Unification Of Germany that led to one of the major causes for the First World War later.


Aftermath Of The Unification Of Germany

The Unification Of Germany created one of the most lengthy and crucial after effects and a chain of events and incidents that led to World War One and eventual defeat and decline of Imperial Germany following the Treaty Of Versailles in1919. The ambitious leaders of Imperial Germany like Leopold and Bismark engaged in a global hunt for colonies to build an Empire vast and similar in nature to the British Empire.


This created a mutual tension, loss of confidence, trust, which led to the war shadows to emerge in the skies of Europe. The German wish to control the command of the sea led to a naval race with the Royal Navy Of Britain. The aggressive German leadership also forged alliances with their friendly countries that led to similar alliances by Britain, France and Russia, which led to the creation of a web of alliance that led to the First World War. Other German issues like fight with Japan in China, Moroccan Crisis, Hunt for colonies and colonial markets in Asia, Africa and America led to the disastrous First World War in which Germany was defeated and had to face dire consequences which caused humiliation to Germany as a result of the Treaty Of Versailles, The same place where the Unification Of Germany was announced after the French defeat in Franco Prussian War.



The Unification of Italy

The Unification of Italy was one of the greatest political events that happened in Europe. It was a 19th-century political and social movement that resulted in the unification of Italy and created the modern nation-state of the Kingdom of Italy. The Italian Unification process started in the 1840s, which was completed in 1871. The obscurity of the Italian peninsula and Italian nationalism started with the decline of the Roman Empire and continued for centuries of decline until The French Revolution of 1789 and the arrival of Napoleon Bonaparte. Italy was brought under Napoleon Bonaparte towards the end of the French Revolution and was established as a single administrative unit as part of the larger French Empire. The empire established by Napoleon Bonaparte led to the rise of revolutionary ideas like nationalism, liberty, equality, and fraternity. The fall of Napoleon Bonaparte and the resultant congress of Vienna led to the split and division of Italy based on the influence of power houses in Europe. Things began to change in Italy in the 1820s which led to a major outbreak of revolution in 1848 which led to the rise of Guiseppe Garibaldi who led the process of Italian unification later.


Guiseppe Garibaldi, who had taken part in the 1848 insurrection, came to the scene lending his support to King Victor Emmanuel II of Piedmont who with other northern Italian states, had allied with France to permanently end Austrian involvement in the region. The Unification Of Italy began when the rebellion against Austria had started in 1860 and led to the victory of Garibaldi and his army of Redshirts who conquered the island of Sicily and Naples. At this time the northern states had joined up with the Kingdom of Sardinia and accepted Victor Emmanuel II as their King. Garibaldi handed Naples and Sicily to him in November 1860 and by 1861 Italy was declared a kingdom. Only Venice and Rome would remain in external control which became a part of Italy in 1866 and 1871 respectively which resulted in the Unification of Italy.


The aftermath of the Unification Of Italy

The Unification of Italy, however, led to the total domination of the Italian Peninsula under the Kingdom of Piedmont. Even though there was a promise for regional authorities to also participate equally in the government it was not the reality, and the ruling class of Piedmont dominated the government. The Italian people wanted a united Italy, but what they got was a strong central government with little or no power or regional authority and was dominated by the Kingdom of Piedmont Sardinia. The new Kingdom of Italy was structured by renaming the old Kingdom of Sardinia and annexing the new provinces into its structures. The first king of Italy, Victor Emmanuel II also kept his old titles and the new constitution of Italy was the Piedmont’s old constitution.


The document was generally a liberal one and was welcomed by liberal elements but was resented by pro-clergy elements in Venice, Rome, Naples and Sicily. The first decade of the Kingdom of Italy saw civil wars raging in Sicily and Naples which was harshly suppressed. The inevitable long-run results were a severe weakness of national unity and a politicized system based on mutually hostile regional violence. Such dividing factors remain even in the 21st century too.


CONCLUSION


The Congress Of Vienna, Unification Of Germany and Unification Of Italy are so important in the European history that it had a direct impact on the later history and led to several incidents and events that also became part of the history. These 3 events had a direct impact as events that led to the causes of the First World War.


Reference


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