Vienna, Congress of


Vienna, Congress of
(1815)
   A major international conference held in the Austrian capital from September 1814 to June 1815, the Congress of Vienna convened to consider the multifarious political problems to be tackled at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, particularly the reconstruction of Europe. The principal delegates included Count Metternich representing Austria, Tsar Alexander I and several advisors from Russia, Lord Castlereagh and the Duke of Wellington present for Britain, King Frederick William III and Count Hardenberg representing Prussia, and Prince Talleyrand from France. Most of the important decisions were reached by the four major victorious powers, although Talleyrand managed to have France included in much of the process, not least by playing off one side against the other and sowing the seeds of suspicion between states with rival claims. Each seeking to satisfy a different agenda, practically every European state, large and small, sent a representative to plead its case respecting a range of issues including borders, political claims, financial compensation, and commercial rights.
   In the settlement reached on June 9, 1815, the congress declared the creation of two new countries: the Kingdom of the Netherlands, to include Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg; and the German Confederation, to comprise 39 states with no central governing body and only tenuous links to one another. It also created the kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, over which Austria was to exercise strong influence, with Francis I as king. Poland was restored, albeit in a reduced form of its eighteenthcentury self and under direct Russian administration. The old dynasties of a number of states were restored: Spain, Naples, Piedmont, Tuscany, and Modena. The Swiss Confederation was reestablished and its permanent neutrality guaranteed. Austrian domains increased as a result of the annexation of Dalmatia, Carniola, Salzburg, and Galicia. Prussia annexed Posen, Danzig, much of the former Kingdom of Saxony, large parts of former Westphalia, and Sweden ’s possessions in Pomerania on the Baltic coast of Germany. In return, Sweden received Norway. Britain retained a number of conquests including Malta, Heligoland, Cape Colony in southern Africa, Ceylon, Tobago, St. Lucia, and Mauritius. The Ionian Islands, including Corfu, were granted to Britain as a protectorate, with effect for nearly 50 years. The congress also guaranteed the free navigation of the Rhine and the Meuse, condemned the slave trade, extended the civil rights of Jews, particularly in Germany, and established the precedent of international conferences as a diplomatic device in seeking redress and settling disputes between nations.
   FURTHER READING:
    Chapman, Tim. The Congress of Vienna: Origins, Process and Results . London: Routledge, 1998;
    Dallas, Gregor. The Final Act: The Roads to Waterloo . New York: Henry Holt, 1997;
    Ferrero, Guglielmo. The Reconstruction of Europe: Talleyrand and the Congress of Vienna, 1814-1815 . New York: Norton, 1963;
    Kissinger, Henry A. A World Restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the Problems of Peace, 1812-22 . London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1957;
    Nicolson, Harold. The Congress of Vienna: A Study in Allied Unity: 1812-1822 . Gloucester: Peter Smith, 1973;
    Webster, Charles. The Congress of Vienna, 1814-1815 . New York: Barnes & Noble, 1969.
   GREGORY FREMONT-BARNES

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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