A World Restored

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A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of Peace 1812-1822 is a book by Henry Kissinger that was published in 1954.

The book began life as the doctoral dissertation of Henry Kissinger, later US Secretary of State in the 1970s, at Harvard University in 1954.

Summary[edit]

A World Restored explains the complex chain of Congresses, which started before the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1814 with the Congress of Vienna and extended into the 1820s, as a system expected to give Europe peace and a new order after the violent struggles of the previous quarter century.

At the same time, the book introduces the reader to the political biographies of two important characters of the time. The first and main character is Klemens von Metternich, the Austrian Chancellor at that time. As the statesman of an old and fragile multilingual empire, Metternich had to deal with the task of organizing the alliance against Napoleon, while at the same time being a forced ally of France. After Napoleon was defeated, Metternich became the organizer of the Congress system, through which he would seek the survival and advancement of Austria.

An 18th century styled rococo figure, old-fashioned even in his own era, but described as having superlative diplomatic skills, Prince Metternich pursued a peace for Europe, based on restored monarchical principles, and on solidarity among the monarchs of Europe. The French Revolution of 1789 and the subsequent Napoleonic invasion and rule of much of Europe had implanted new liberal revolutionary ideas that were never to be eliminated.

At the same time, nationalism was rising over much of the world. The Habsburg Empire was a complex political entity, with many ethnic groups and languages coexisting within it, and these forces threatened the survival of the Empire. Metternich expected to lead an alliance against France, pressing only enough to depose Napoleon, who had shown complete unwillingness to accept a moderate peace, but preserving a strong France under a restored Bourbon monarchy as a counterweight to the power of Russia.

From 1812, moderation would be Metternich's guiding principle in the path to European order, as he carried Austria from the forced French alliance during Napoleon's invasion of Russia (in which an Austrian corps under Karl Philipp, Prince of Schwarzenberg, took part), into neutrality during the spring 1813 campaign, and finally as a leading member of the anti-French alliance which defeated France in 1813-14. In the process, Metternich avoided breaking any of his treaties with his counterparts, knowing that only established order among states would permit fragile Austria to survive. Metternich was very skillful in this and gained the confidence of all rulers at the many European congresses that followed. In his view, solidarity among monarchs would restrain the danger of liberal revolutions and diverse national upheavals around Europe.

The other great character is British Foreign Secretary at the time, Viscount Castlereagh. As the only British politician to understand Meternich's ambitions and reasoning as well as the need for an organized European order, he was strongly criticized in Britain for getting too involved in continental politics in the name of British interests. After the Congress of Vienna, he was forbidden to attend any more European congresses. Castlereagh would later commit suicide for unrelated reasons in 1822.

From that moment on, Britain would start its long period of splendid isolation, based on its supposed insular invulnerability and on its belief that the peace was a simple consequence of Napoleon's defeat. For Austria, a continental power, the reality was different. Another Napoleon could emerge at any time, and a strong European concert of conservative monarchs, based on principle, was necessary to prevent dangers before they arose.

Although the Congress system worked for only a few years, the concept and principles on which it was based allowed the longest period of peace among states in history, with only few and minor interruptions. Ironically, it was such a long peace that the faith in it and the forgotten consequences of war ended in an arms race followed by a new and much larger catastrophe in 1914.

Source[edit]

  • "A World Restored, Metternich, Castlereagh and the conservative politics in a revolutionary world". Henry Kissinger, 1973, Spanish Edition.