Y4 a new balance of power in Europe. The Congress of Vienna 1814-15

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Y4 A new balance of power in Europe. The Congress of Vienna 1814-15

The Congress of Vienna was a conference between ambassadors, from the major powers in Europe

Its purpose was to settle issues and redraw the continent's political map after the defeat of Napoleonic France.

Most of the work at the Congress was performed by the five main powers: United Kingdom, Russia, Prussia, Austria, France. On some issues, these powers cooperated with: Spain, Portugal Sweden, The Netherlands and some German states: Hanover, Babaria and Württemberg

How did the map of Europe change?

Napoleon´s empire in 1812 http://www.sci.gu.edu.au/~wiseman/Roman/3CompMaps.html

The Congress of Vienna (1814-15) http://www.saburchill.com/history/chapters/empires/0033f.html


What countries increased their power after Napoleon´s defeat? Why?


Outcome of the Congress of Vienna


Germanic confederation formed from 39 states which was placed under Austrian rule. Austria also gained territory it had lost. It gained territory in Germany and Italy (Lombardy, Parma, Modena, Tuscany and Venice), Polish province of Galacia, Tirol, Salzburg


Gained two fifths of Saxony, parts of Westphalia and the Rhine Province, Thorn, Pomerania, Polish province of Posen


Gained Finland and most of Poland


Gained Malta, Cape Colony, South Africa and other colonies. Gained control of the seas


Lost all of the territory conquered by Napoleon


House of Orange was given Austrian Netherlands and Dutch Republic to make the Netherlands


Gained Norway


Gained Parma

The Papacy

The papal states were restored


Was enlarged and became part of the German Confederation under Austria


Guaranteed its neutrality for its independence

Kingdom of Sardinia 

Was restored and given Piedmont, Nice, Savoy and Genoa


Gained Lauenburg


N.B. This table does not give a complete picture of the changes made to Europe at the Congress of Vienna. There were many other minor changes made which have not been noted

What alliances were formed? What were their main objectives?

1. Reduce the size of France to its frontiers before the Revolutionary War of 1792

2. Ensure that France could never again pose a threat to the rest of Europe.

3. Reward those countries that had been “anti-Napoleon”

The Quadruple Alliance, 1815

This was an idea put forward by the British foreign minister, Viscount Castlereagh. He proposed that it was the responsibility of the great powers to prevent war in Europe, (there had been war in Europe since 1792), by having regular meetings to discuss the international situation and intervene, using force if necessary, to stop an international conflict developing. (This was very much the same idea which lay behind the League of Nations after World War I and the United Nations after World War II).

The Holy Alliance, 1815

Tsar Alexander I proposed an alliance of all the Christian rulers of Europe in order to deal with each other like brothers, and to rule their subjects like fathers, in the name of God. Every country in Europe joined it, with three notable exceptions:

  • Ottoman Turkey, which because it was a Moslem state, was not invited to join.

  • The Papal States because the Pope, as head of the Catholic Church, was suspicious of an alliance created by an Orthodox Christian ruler.

  • Britain, which thought the idea was a complete waste of time or, as the British foreign minister described it, "a piece of sublime mysticism and nonsense".

In practice, the Holy Alliance would be used to protect the "legitimate" rulers (those representing God, or absolute monarchs) from any form of attack, including internal revolution.

The Quintuple Alliance 1818

This was nothing more than the Quadruple Alliance plus France. By 1818 it was evident that the French people had accepted Louis XVII as their king and that there was no further danger of another return of Napoleon from exile. It was a diplomatic triumph of Talleyrand, France representative at Vienna. It was also a sensible acceptance, by the Big Four, that the affairs of Europe could not be settled without the inclusion of France.

Later criticism

-In the Congress of Vienna, the five main powers in Europe were conservative (most of them absolute monarchs) and wanted to prevent the spread of Liberalism and Nationalism. Peace and stability were more important than the liberties and civil rights associated with the American and French revolutions.

.- Italy became a mere "geographical expression" as divided into eight parts (Parma, Modena, Tuscany, Lombardy, Venetia, Piedmont-Sardinia, the Papal States, Naples-Sicily) under the control of different powers

-Poland was under the influence of Russia after the Congress

-The arrangements that made the Five Great Powers finally led to future disputes. The Congress of Vienna preserved the balance of power in Europe, but it could not check the spread of revolutionary movements on the continent.

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