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HISTORY
Subject
:
History
Paper No.
:
Paper-VI
History of Modern Europe
Unit No. & Title
:
Unit-1
Europe between 1780 & 1871
Lecture No. & Title
:
Lecture-10
Europe after Napoleon:
Forces of continuity and
Forces of change
(For under graduate student)
Script
Europe after Napoleon: forces of continuity and
forces of change
The final defeat and banishment of Napoleon to St.Helena
apparently ended a quarter century of turmoil in France
and
Europe.
The
statesmen
assembled
at
Vienna
resumed their work of reconstruction of Europe and
generally sought to restore status quo ante 1789. But too
much change had been concentrated in too short a time
for peace and order to be restored quickly. More
significantly, Europe was poised between, as David
Thomson had put it, the forces of change and forces of
continuity.
The forces of continuity included the institution of
monarchy, the church, the landowning aristocracy and a
generalised desire for peace.
Monarchy:
The conservatives and all those who wanted order
focused their traditional loyalty on monarchy. Even the
French Revolution did not at the beginning do away with
the monarchy. The basic idea was that the hereditary
right was the most stable form of political power. This
produced the idea of legitimacy, which was turned upside
down by Napoleon, the usurper. Yet, even Napoleon
ultimately overthrew the republic to return to the
institution of monarchy. A quarter century of change
transformed the institution of monarchy as well. Kingship
lost much of its earlier magic. Legitimism alone seemed
to be an insufficient mortar to bind society together.
However, restoration of dynastic monarchy appeared to
be the safest bet for those who wanted continuity of
European politics and society.
Church:
Revival of religious faith and restoration of the power of
the Roman church also helped restored monarchies. A
close
alliance
between
the
throne
and
altar
was
traditional. The church had suffered during the Revolution
and the compromise of Napoleon, the Concordat, virtually
reduced the church into a department of the state. The
church also lost its earlier grip on education.
However, a reaction set in against the rationalism and
free-thinking bred by the Enlightenment because of the
persecution of the church. This led to a revival of faith
and the restored monarchies strengthened the alliance
between the throne and the altar. The privileges of the
church
were
restored
including
the
control
over
education. If most of the leading intellectuals were on the
side of rationalism in 1800, more than a decade later
many leading minds were advocates of traditionalism,
conservatism and the church. They included men like
Burke in England, Chateaubriand, Joseph de Maistre and
Bonald in France.
Landowning aristocracy:
The third element, as it were, in this combination for old
order was those whose wealth lay mostly in land. The old
feudal order had decayed in England and in France the
feudal relations were given a burial by the Revolution,
but land-owners (including those who had acquired it
during the Revolution in France) remained influential in
both society and politics. The electoral arrangements
gave weightage to the property-owners. In fact, power in
France and England was shared by this class with the
bourgeoisie, who had a greater share in Britain as trade
and industry played a larger part in the life of Britain. In
other parts, like Germany, Italy, Spain and the Austrian
empire the landed aristocracy still clung to its landed
estates
and
retained
their
social
and
political
predominance. In Poland and Russia the traditional power
of the landed aristocracy remained intact in 1815.
To these may be added a generalised desire for peace
which would have opted for order. This was, however,
something intangible.
Forces of change:
Even though the forces of continuity appeared to be on
the ascendant after 1815, there was little doubt that
Europe
had
indeed
entered
an
age
of
rapid
and
fundamental change. Of course, the French Revolution
was a major force on the side of transformation, but
there were other socio-economic forces which made
change almost inevitable even if there had been no
revolution.
Demographic growth:
The population of Europe grew at very fast rate after
1750. It was 140 millions in 1750, but grew to 266 by
1850 and reached a peak of 401 by 1900. This high rate
of growth was a new phenomenon and was sure to affect
both society and politics profoundly. This growth to a
large extent explains the restlessness that European
society experienced in the nineteenth century.
Industrial revolution:
England was the first country to witness the industrial
revolution, having experienced the take-off between
1780 and 1800.The basis of the industrial revolution was
a transformation in the mode of production. Application
of steam power to new machines invented lately replaced
the old system and introduced what came to be known as
the factory system. There were thus changes both in the
methods and organisation of industrial production. This
transformation was sweeping enough to have the term
revolution given to it.
It led to the growth of urban centres as the new sites of
industrial production. Along side emerged two new social
classes- the owners of capital (the entrepreneurs, the
financiers, capitalists) and a new industrial proletariat
who provided the input of labour. Such fundamental
transformation of European economies, slow but sure,
could hardly leave society and politics intact. Here then
was a powerful impetus to change.
Nationalism:
European nationalism in the modern sense is a product of
nineteenth century. The enlightenment and the French
Revolution provided a powerful impetus to the growth of
this idea. It gradually became a strong feeling in Italy
and Germany where unification was achieved only in the
second half of the century. It became strong in Poland,
Spain, Belgium and Russia as well. The new nationalism
was romantic, particularist and exclusive in character.
New political ideas emerged from the late 18th century.
These came to be known as liberalism, democracy and
socialism. Liberalism was content with a constitution and
individual rights, an elected assembly (on the basis of
restricted, property-based franchise); but democracy
asked for universal suffrage and a wider participation of
the people in the government. Socialism engaged with
the fate of the new working class.
All these forces worked for change, while the rulers
sought to preserve the old order in Europe. Obviously,
the calm was more apparent than real with subterranean
tension characterising European politics and society.
The Congress of Vienna:
After the defeat of Napoleon and his exile to Elba,
European statesmen met at Vienna under Metternich, the
Austrian chancellor, to redraw the map of Europe. But
the return of Napoleon for a hundred days, as it were,
snuffed the lights out of Vienna. It was only after his final
defeat Waterloo that the serious business of peacemaking could be attended to. The two treaties of Paris,
signed with France in 1814 and 1815 and the treaty of
Vienna constituted the territorial settlement of Vienna.
The congress was a glittering affair to which the presence
of all the major rulers and statesmen added a special
aura. The central figure of the congress was, no doubt,
Prince Metternich, the Austrian chancellor, who presided
over the meeting. He took the lead in restoring the old
order
in
Europe.
He
has
been
described
as
the
conservative conscience of Europe. He was very ably
assisted by Gentz, his secretary. Britain was represented
by
Lord
Cstlereagh,
who
was
interested
only
in
preserving the balance of power. This almost became an
abstraction,
but
here
he
was
in
agreement
with
Metternich. The Russian Tsar Alexander was present
himself, but had a large retinue of important diplomats.
The Prussian king, Frederick William III was present, but
the Prussian team was really led by Hardenburg, who
was assisted by Von Humboldt. But perhaps the cleverest
representative at Vienna was the French representative,
Talleyrand. As the representative of the defeated power,
Talleyrand had a special role to play and he succeeded in
minimising France’s losses. Harold Nicholson had noted
that in Talleyrand, ‘the sense of proportion and the sense
of the occasion transcended opportunism; they amounted
to genius’.
The Congress is believed to have followed three principles
in effecting the settlement: legitimacy, compensation and
balance of power.
Territorial arrangements:
Belgium and Luxembourg were added to Holland to
create a strong state to the north of France. Germany
was made a confederation of 38 states and Austria was
made the President of the confederation. There would be
a central Diet at Frankfurt. Rhineland was given to
Prussia. Bavaria received Bayreuth and Anspach.
Austria was given Venetia in Italy for the loss of Belgium.
This apart, Austria had Lombardy as well. The Bourbons
were restored in Naples. The Austrian princes were
restored in Parma (Marie Louise, the wife of Napoleon),
Modena and Tuscany. The Pope was restored in the Papal
States. Genoa was given to the House of Savoy. Norway
was given to Sweden; Finland was transferred from
Sweden to Russia. The Swiss cantons were guaranteed
neutrality
and
security.
Russia
also
received
some
territorial gains in the Eastern Europe at the cost of the
Ottoman Empire.
Britain secured compensation in the colonies. Heligoland,
Malta, Ionian Islands, Cape of Good Hope, Ceylon, Ile de
France, Santa Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago were important
colonial acquisitions for England.
France’s border of 1791 was recognised, but she had to
pay huge reparation. An army of occupation was to
remain in France till the reparation was paid. France
escaped without heavy losses and Talleyrand could get
the credit for this.
The Congress also proposed to put a ban on slave trade.
It also proposed internationalisation of the river ways in
Europe for commercial purposes.
Assessment:
The works of the Congress of Vienna have received both
criticism and praise. Understandably, historians are not
unanimous in passing their judgement. Harold Nicholson
felt that the Congress had saved Europe from war for a
long time. He also did not agree with the view that the
assembled diplomats were ‘mere hucksters bartering the
happiness of millions with a scented smile’. Another
opinion was that the ‘the reactionary statesmen were
neither antiquarians, nor prophets; they were harassed
diplomats
who
were
bedevilled
by
the
imperious
problems of the present.’ A major critique of the
Congress was that it completely ignored the principles of
nationalism and liberalism. This is why its work proved to
be ephemeral. A balanced view is that of David Thomson
who argued that despite limitations, the Congress was on
the whole ‘reasonable and statesmanlike’.
A fair estimate would be that the works of the Congress
can look both ways. While it did achieve a lot, there were
limitations as well. There was no doubt that under the
leadership of Metternich the Congress sought, above all,
to restore peace in Europe and to restore the political
status
quo
revolution
which
broke
had
out.
existed
It
before
followed
the
the
French
principle
of
legitimacy to restore the old rulers to their thrones. If
this was a conservative approach, it was only to be
expected.
The Congress has been accused of ignoring the principles
of nationalism and liberalism completely. The union of
Belgium with Holland and denying greater unity to either
Germany or Italy are cited as instances. The extent to
which Germany or Italy was prepared for unity at the
time remains a matter of speculation. Belgium did make
itself free though after a decade and a half. It was
unlikely that Metternich, who presided over a multi-ethnic
empire, would encourage nationalism. The Congress
permitted the rulers to introduce constitutions if they so
desired. It was Austria under Metternich who suppressed
liberal movements in Germany, Italy and elsewhere after
1815.
The Congress arrangements remained intact for some
time. It preserved peace in Europe. There was no major
war before the Crimean war in 1853-4. A sort of balance
was restored. But quite plainly the Congress could not
resolve the tension between the forces of continuity and
the forces of change. Thus changes in politics, society
and economy made the arrangement Vienna increasingly
obsolete as the century progressed.