Concert of Europe

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The national boundaries within Europe as set by the Congress of Vienna, 1815.

The Concert of Europe (also Vienna system of international relations), also known as the Congress System after the Congress of Vienna, was the balance of power that existed in Europe from the end of the Napoleonic Wars (1815) to the outbreak of World War I (1914).

Overview[edit]

The Concert of Europe was founded by the powers of Austria, Prussia, the Russian Empire and the United Kingdom, who were the members of the Quadruple Alliance that defeated Napoleon and his First French Empire. In time, France was established as a fifth member of the concert.

At first, the leading personalities of the system were British foreign secretary Lord Castlereagh, Austrian chancellor Klemens von Metternich and Russian czar Alexander I. Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord of France was largely responsible for quickly returning that country to its place alongside the other major powers in international diplomacy.

Prince Metternich, an influential leader in the Concert of Europe.

The age of the Concert is sometimes known as the Age of Metternich, due to the influence of the Austrian chancellor's conservatism and the dominance of Austria within the German Confederation, or as the European Restoration, because of the reactionary efforts of the Congress of Vienna to restore Europe to its state before the French Revolution. It is known in German as the Pentarchie (pentarchy) and in Russian as the Vienna System (Венская система, Venskaya sistema).

The Concert of Europe had no written rules or permanent institutions, but at times of crisis any of the member countries could propose a conference.[1] Meetings of the Great Powers during this period included: Aix-la-Chappelle (1818), Carlsbad (1819), Troppau (1820), Laibach (1821), Verona (1822), London (1832), Berlin (1878).

The Concert's effectiveness came to an end due to the rise of nationalism, the unification of Germany and the Risorgimento in Italy, and the Eastern Question and other factors.

Origins[edit]

The idea of a European federation had been already raised by figures such as Gottfried Leibniz[2] and the 1st Baron Grenville.[3] The Concert of Europe, as developed by Metternich, drew upon their ideas and the notion of a balance of power in international relations; that the ambitions of each Great Power was curbed by the others:

The Concert of Europe, as it began to be called at the time, had ... a reality in international law, which derived from the final Act of the Vienna Congress, which stipulated that the boundaries established in 1815 could not be altered without the consent of its eight signatories.[4]

French Revolution[edit]

From the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars in 1792 to the exile of Napoleon to Saint Helena in 1815, Europe had been almost constantly at war. During this time, the military conquests of France had resulted in the spread of liberalism throughout much of the continent, resulting in many states adopting the Napoleonic code. Largely as a reaction to the radicalism of the French Revolution,[5] the victorious powers of the Napoleonic Wars resolved to suppress liberalism and nationalism, and revert largely to the status quo of Europe prior to 1789.[6]

The Kingdom of Prussia, Austrian Empire and Russian Empire formed the Holy Alliance with the expressed intent of preserving Christian social values and traditional monarchism.[7] Every member of the coalition promptly joined the Alliance, save for the United Kingdom.

Agreements[edit]

The Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle (1818) resolved the issues of Allied occupation of France and restored that country to equal status with Britain, Prussia, Austria and Russia.

In 1822, the Congress of Verona met to decide the issue if France could intervene on the side of the Spanish royalists in the Trienio Liberal. After receiving permission, Louis XVIII dispatched five army corps to restore Ferdinand VII of Spain.

In 1830, the Belgian Revolution against the Kingdom of the Netherlands began. French ambassador Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord presented a partition plan for the Southern Provinces to the Concert, which was not adopted. Nevertheless, the Great Powers unanimously recognized Belgian independence from the Kingdom of the Netherlands at the Treaty of London (1839). The treaty also established Belgian neutrality, which would last until the German invasion of Belgium in 1914.

Gradual erosion (1818-1914)[edit]

In 1818 the British decided not to become involved in continental issues that did not directly affect it. They rejected the plan of Czar Alexander to suppress future revolutions.

The Concert began to weaken as the common goals of the Great Powers were gradually replaced by growing political and economic rivalries. It was eroded by the European revolutionary upheavals of 1848 with their demands for revision of the Congress of Vienna's frontiers along national lines.

The Concert unraveled in the latter half of the 19th century amid successive wars between its participants - the Crimean War (1854–56), the Italian War of Independence (1859), the Austro-Prussian War (1866) and the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71). While the Congress System had a further significant achievement in the form of the Congress of Berlin (1878) which redrew the political map of the Balkans, the old balance of power had been irrevocably altered, and was replaced by a series of fluctuating alliances.

World War One (1914-1918)[edit]

By the early 20th century, the Great Powers were organized into two opposing coalitions (the Triple Alliance and the Entente Powers). The last conference was the London Conference of 1912-1913 convened to discuss the Balkan Wars.[1] In the 1914 July Crisis, Britain proposed a conference but Austria-Hungary and Germany both refused to attend.[8] World War I would break out in the following month.

See also[edit]

General:

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Stevenson, David (2004). 1914 - 1918: The History of the First World War. Penguin Books. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-14-026817-1. 
  2. ^ Loemker, Leroy, 1969 (1956). Leibniz: Philosophical Papers and Letters. Reidel, 58, fn 9.
  3. ^ John M. Sherwig. "Lord Grenville's Plan for a Concert of Europe, 1797-99." The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 34, No. 3 (Sep., 1962), pp. 284-293.
  4. ^ Georges-Henri Soutou. "Was There a European Order in the Twentieth Century? From the Concert of Europe to the End of the Cold War." Contemporary European History, Vol. 9, No. 3, Theme Issue: Reflections on the Twentieth Century (Nov., 2000), pp. 330.
  5. ^ Georges-Henri Soutou. "Was There a European Order in the Twentieth Century? From the Concert of Europe to the End of the Cold War." Contemporary European History, Vol. 9, No. 3, Theme Issue: Reflections on the Twentieth Century (Nov., 2000), pg. 329.
  6. ^ Georges-Henri Soutou. "Was There a European Order in the Twentieth Century? From the Concert of Europe to the End of the Cold War." Contemporary European History, Vol. 9, No. 3, Theme Issue: Reflections on the Twentieth Century (Nov., 2000), pp. 330.
  7. ^ "Spahn, M. (1910). Holy Alliance. In ''The Catholic Encyclopedia''. New York: Robert Appleton Company.". New Advent. 1910-06-01. Retrieved 2011-05-21. 
  8. ^ Stevenson, David (2004). 1914 - 1918: The History of the First World War. Penguin Books. p. 5. ISBN 978-0-14-026817-1. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Bridge, Roy, "Allied Diplomacy in Peacetime: The Failure of the Congress 'System,' 1815-23" in Alan Sked, ed., Europe's Balance of Power, 1815-1848 (1979), pp 34-53.
  • Ghervas, Stella (2008). Réinventer la tradition. Alexandre Stourdza et l'Europe de la Sainte-Alliance. Paris: Honoré Champion. ISBN 978-2-7453-1669-1. 
  • Jarrett, Mark (2013). The Congress of Vienna and its Legacy: War and Great Power Diplomacy after Napoleon. London: I. B. Tauris & Company, Ltd. ISBN 978-1780761169. 

External links[edit]