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Did the successes of the Vienna settlement ou tweigh its failures?

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Did the successes of the Vienna settlement outweigh its failures? The congress of Vienna and its subsequent agreement marked a stabilisation of the balance of powers in Europe after the Napoleonic and Revolutionary Wars. It heralded the start of a century of Europe free from major conflict. Despite this, Historians disagree as to whether it was a success. For much of the nineteenth century, the settlement attracted more criticism than praise. Von Gentz, Metternich's principal advisor commented: " The congress resulted in nothing but the restorations which had already been effected by arms... quite arbitrary alterations in the possessions of the smaller states, but... no great measure for... the general good." Vienna led to the strengthening the position of the four greatest powers, Austria, Prussia, Russia and Britain. By reinforcing and merging many of the smaller stares, it created a stable situation in Europe whereby no one power could expand excessively. The 'Cordon Sanitaire' around France assayed public fears and ensured France could not rise again, while the strengthening of Central Europe prevented Russia from securing too strong a position. ...read more.


Prussia took control of the Rhineland and Saxony, going against desires in both states to become independent. Cavour, the Prime Minister of Piedmont in 1852, commented: "Resting on no Principle, neither that of legitimacy, nor of national interests, nor of popular will, taking account of neither of geographical conditions, nor of general interests, this august assembly, acting only by right of the strongest, erected a political edifice without any moral foundation." This was a view held by leading figures in most of the smaller states of Europe, accentuated by the refusal of the great powers to allow the lesser powers to take part in the congress. It has been argued that this disregard to self-deterministic feelings led to many of the revolutions that took place between 1815 and 1848 ("The Age of Revolution"), however, it should be noted that in 1815, nationalistic feelings were limited to a tiny section of the population, the middle classes. As well as this, those feelings of nationalism that did exist were bases on Xenophobia rather than the desire for self-determination. ...read more.


Specifically, the desire for peace through strengthening existing countries and the desire for no great power to be too displeased with the settlement. The pursuit of these two aims are what led to the long period of relative peace that followed. The Settlement may have failed in terms of internal order within the countries, (the many small rebellions), but in terms of collective European peace, it was incredible successful, marking the beginning of a long period of international harmony. While the settlement gave little ground to reform, it did represent a cautious step in the right direction. From the perspective of the present, away from the prejudices of the times, the Settlement was generally successful, especially when compared to more modern attempts at peace treaties between European powers. On the other hand, whether it would have been possible to satisfy a little more the urge for liberal and nationalism without severely hampering chances of International peace, is difficult to say. What is concludable however is that a greatly different peace treaty would have most likely led to one of the Great Powers feeling dissatisfied, and therefore threatening the delicate peace to readdress the balance. Alex Bartho L6JS ...read more.

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