History Lesson 11

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Lesson Objectives:

  • Identify the causes and impact of revolutions throughout Europe during the post-Napoleonic period.
  • Explain the concept of balance of power as the main goal of the Congress of Vienna and their effect in Europe
  • Summarize the poitical and social ideals of Metternich

1815 was a very different world from 1814. The majority of European colonies in Latin America were independent. The ideas of the French Revolution had inspired many countries to be free. From 1812 to 1814, the United States proved it could defend itself from European powers. The War of 1812 between England and the United States showed the world that the United States was serious about its future. Europeans learned that the Western Hemisphere was no longer ripe for colonization and also had to solve some of the problems caused by continuous war fought during Napoleonâs reign.

The people of France were tired of revolution and their armies were defeated. The majority of European powers were tired of wars. Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo brought Louis XVIII to the throne in France. The deposed monarchs of Europe returned to their former roles and power

In 1815, the European countries would meet in Vienna, Austria, calling together the Congress of Vienna. The purpose of the Congress of Vienna was to unite the European powers with common goals and create peace between them. This was started by restoring the values and rules of pre-revolutionary France, the years before 1789. The various kings, clergymen, and nobles of Europe wanted to regain their lost power and prestige. The middle class was too worn out from the multiple wars to react to the political changes, and the peasants did not care as they just wanted to farm and survive. The countries present at the Congress of Vienna were England, France, the German Confederation, Austria, Prussia, and Russia.

Russia, Prussia, Austria, and England were the most powerful countries during this period. They were determined to make sure France would never regain its strength under Napoleon or become strong enough to invade neighboring countries, but did not want to weaken France too much to provide for itself. Their goal was a balance of power, with no country more powerful than its neighbors. The nations at the Congress of Vienna were represented by intelligent and respected men. Two of these men were recognized as brilliant and dominated much of the meetings, named Talleyrand and Metternich.

Talleyrand represented France and its interests. Talleyrand was a noble who survived the French Revolution due to his intelligence and because he was respected by the French people. Talleyrand loved his country, and had accepted the restoration of King Louis XVIII. Talleyrandâs goal was to make certain France remained a great power and a great country.

Austria was represented by the noble Metternich. Metternich believed in absolute monarchy and believed the ideas of enlightenment were foolish. Metternich was a dominant figure in European politics for over thirty years, and believed that great powers must work together to maintain the balance of power in Europe. By doing this, Metternich believed that the European powers could prevent more revolution. Metternich also believed that to maintain the balance of power that France must remain a major power as the French would keep Prussia and Russia from dominating other countries. England agreed with Metternich, as Prussia and Russia were always looking to expand their power. Poland was located between Prussia and Russia. Poland was used to keep everyone happy. Prussia gained control of the western section and Russia gained control of the eastern section of Poland.

Poland was not the only issue at the Congress of Vienna. The Napoleon Wars had created a new map of Europe. To fix this, land was given to countries that opposed Napoleon, and taken from those who supported Napoleon. The redistribution of land forced the peoples who lived there to now live under the rule of another country. Many of the Italian kingdoms were placed under Austrian rule, while many of the Polish were now under Russian rule. The members of the Congress of Vienna did this to prevent future problems, but these changes would cause many future conflicts.

The final decision made in Vienna was to meet on a regular basis to solve problems between nations, which would be known as the Concert of Europe. The Concert of Europe could have been a successful organization to ongoing peace efforts, but it was never really successful because the European nations did not trust one another. Nationalism continued to rule the attitudes and lives of the Europeans.France

Talleyrandâs diplomatic skills during the Congress of Vienna allowed France to remain an important power. The newly reinstated King Louis XVIII understood that the French people should have some power in the government. The French society was controlled by two different groups.

The first group was called the Royalists, and they desired a return to Franceâs pre-revolutionary days and greatly favored monarchy. The Liberals were the second group, made up mostly of the middle class, and they were determined to keep the revolution alive, a constitution and an elected government. King Louis XVIII understood the importance of both groups and he found compromises in their desires. King Louis XVIII kept some of Napoleon’s reforms, such as the banking system and codified laws. However King Louis XVIII was unable to keep both groups satisfied, and by 1820 the Royalists controlled France. Under the Royalists, freedom was limited, only the rich could vote, and the clergy again controlled education. The Liberals were angered by this and France was facing another uprising by the people.

Louis XVIII died in 1824. Charles, his brother, became king. Charles X was not a smart ruler and greatly favored the Royalists. The people of France got fed up and a Paris mob forced him from the throne in July of 1830. Louis Philippe became the new king. He was a liberal, believed in middle class values, and his goal was to control the mobs and encourage business to boost the economy.

As time progressed, the French also grew tired of King Louis Philippe. The economy was poor, and the government did little to help the working people. The workers rebelled in February, 1848. King Louis Philippe refused to have the French fight amongst themselves, so he left France. The abdication of King Louis Philippe failed to stop the mob violence. Some of the most violent mob fights in French history took place in the Paris streets between June 23 and June 26, 1848.

France would again become a republic in December, 1848. This new France was called the second French Republic. Napoleon Bonaparteâs nephew, Louis Napoleon, was elected president.


After fighting wars in both Europe and North America, English soldiers came home to find England filled with factories. Men, women, and children worked hard, living in terrible conditions and earned little money. The rich people did little, lived well and ignored the problems of the workers. The price of food was high, as were the prices of products from English factories. The government worked to ensure the rich stayed rich, and the English Church helped the government. By 1830, England was on the verge of an uprising and revolution.

Revolt and revolution was avoided due the English governmentâs ability to create change and reform through the House of Commons. Many of the reforms passed helped England avoid revolution. Some of the more important reforms were:

  • 1824 – English workers were allowed to form unions.
  • 1832 – The Reform Act gave more people the right to vote for members in the House of Commons. Over time, this gave the working people representation.
  • 1833 – Slavery was abolished in the English colonies.
  • 1833 – The Factory Act limited child labor in the textile industry.

The new reforms were only possible due to the support of the new English king William IV, who became king in 1830. The previous King, George IV, favored the rich and powerful, but William IVâs thinking was more liberal. In England, kings and queens had to power to appoint members to the House of Lords, so King William IV appointed men who would support the reform efforts.

William IV died in 1837 and as he had no heirs, the crown was given to Victoria. Queen Victoria would reign for 64 years, and England enjoyed greatness under her reign.

Austria and the German Confederation

The Congress of Vienna gave Austria control over the various German states. These states were formed in a Confederation of 39 states, including Prussia. Metternich was the key person in power in Austria and enforced a harsh government, with strict laws to control people. This style of government worked until 1848 when revolutionary ideas spread across Europe. Metternich remained in power for so long because of the support of the army and the small states of the German Confederation were unable to unite against Austria. In 1848 the system began to weaken, and the people of Austria and the German Confederation began to revolt. Two key problems sped the revolution were the anger of the working class and the various national groups within Austria and German Confederation included the Czechs, Hungarians, and other Slavic people, who grew tired of being ruled by outsiders.

The outcome of the Revolution of 1848 in Austria and the German Confederation played a large role in the future of Europe. Metternich would resign, leaving the Austrian emperor without a person capable of dominating the various peoples of the German Confederation. Prussia would become the most powerful state in Germany, and Prussian values dominated the German Confederation. Multiple nationalistic revolts were defeated harshly, and the people grew angry at the Austrian emperor. The new Austrian emperor was Franz-Josef, who ruled until 1916. A member of one of the nationalistic groups would murder him, sparking off World War I.

RussiaTsar Alexander I played an important role in Europe after the defeat of Napoleon. At the Congress of Vienna, he had two major goals. The first goal was to make Russia one of the major respected powers in Europe, and the second was to obtain a warm water port for Russia.

Russia did well at the Congress of Vienna, achieving both of Tsar Alexander Iâs goals. Tsar Alexander I gained control of Poland and secured a warm water port. Tsar Alexander I proposed the idea of an alliance among the European powers which was accepted as well. This alliance became known as the Quadruple Alliance, including Prussia, Austria, Russian and England. The Quadruple Alliance was assigned to keep France in line after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo. Just like the Confederation of Europe, because these four countries did not trust each other there was no real chance of success. Tsar Alexander I could be difficult to understand while Metternich thought he was foolish and the English didn’t trust him. The Prussians allowed Tsar Alexander I to seize Poland as long as they received their portion.

Alexander I claimed to support reforms at the Congress of Vienna, but he ruled Russia in the same harsh manner as the tsars before him. Similar to Russian leaders before and after him, Alexander I did not trust Western Europe. During the revolutionary period of 1830-1848, Russia assisted in crushing revolutions in Eastern Europe and Poland. Russian leaders brutally squashed any ideas about revolting.

Spain and PortugalFrom 1815 to 1848, Spain and Portugal were ruled by cruel kings and supported by the Quadruple Alliance. The people of Spain and Portugal were unsuccessful in revolting against the regimes. In Spain, the Inquisition was restored, with the land and power was returned to the nobles and clergy.


Italy was controlled by foreign powers. Austria was very active in Italian politics, and the people in the various Italian States were growing angry. The growing unrest caused the government to become crueler. The Pope, who openly hated Napoleon, favored the old system of government and society.

GreeceWith the assistance from other European countries, the Greeks began to revolt against the Turks in 1815. The revolt was very violent and ended in 1829. One important detail to note is that the Quadruple Alliance assisted Greeks against the Turks. This support was the complete opposite of what was being done in their own countries. The ideas of the Congress of Vienna were ignored, and England, Austria, Prussia, and Russia actually helped the revolution.

Lesson 23 Review

Directions: For each question, present the answer in complete sentences with supporting information from the Lesson. Do not copy and paste from the Lessons or Internet resources, but answer in your own words to demonstrate understanding of the material.

1. Who were the members of the Quadruple Alliance?

2. Which European countries were filled with many national groups?

3. Identify Metternich and Talleyrand and tell why each was important.

4. Describe the conditions of the working people in England during this period.

5. Explain the purpose of the Congress of Vienna.

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