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Europe After Napoleon Index

Europe After Napoleon : The Congress of Vienna
The Congress of Vienna : Outcome and Alliances
Nationalist Revolutions after 1820
Italy (1859-1970)
Germany (1848-1871)

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Europe After 1848

In contrast to the period before 1848, which was a period of revolutions but of international peace, the period 1848 to 1914 was one of internal calm within the nations of Europe but of increasing international tension and war.

The international peace which had been established by the Congress of Vienna in 1815, was seriously threatened by the emergence of two new united states in Europe - Italy and Germany. However, even before these two new states were created a war broke out which involved Ottoman Turkey, Russia, France and Britain. This was the Crimean War (1854-1856).

 

The Unification of Italy and Germany
(The Breakdown of the Balance of Power)

The map of Europe took on a different look after 1848. The period of revolutions was over and, from now on, most of the liberals and the nationalists in Europe began to cooperate with their governments rather than trying to overthrow them. In turn, many governments found that by agreeing to certain liberal reforms, and adapting the demands of the nationalists to their needs, they could actually make their states stronger, not weaker, as they previously feared.

The second half of the 19th century saw a Europe dominated by a small number of powerful nation-states. As they were not the same as those which had reshaped Europe at the Congress of Vienna, the balance of power which had prevented war between 1815 and 1854 was upset. The creation of two new states, the growth of international tension, wars and the formation of two of hostile alliances were to set the scene for the greatest and bloodiest conflict the world had ever known - World War 1.

 

 

TWO CENTURIES OF REVOLUTIONARY CHANGE

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Europe After Napoleon

Europe After 1848 and the Crimean War

 

The Crimean War

Ever since the defeat of Napoleonic France in 1815, it was Russia which was seen to be the greatest threat to peace in Europe, especially by Britain and France. They both knew full well that, since the days of Peter the Great, Russia had ambitions of expanding its influence southwards from the Black Sea into the Mediterranean region.

The block to this ambition was Ottoman Turkey which controlled the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles. As has previously been mentioned, the Ottoman Empire was weak and the so-called "Eastern Question" was basically what would happen when it collapsed.

 

Battle of Alma in the Crimean War

Battle of Alma in the Crimean War by Richard Caton Woodville, Jr. 1896

 

In 1854, Britain and France became alarmed when Turkey and Russia began to quarrel over who should have authority over the holy places, especially Jerusalem. This argument was a deliberate ploy by Tsar Nicholas I to provoke a war with Turkey which would end, inevitably, in a Russian victory. Russia would then control all of south eastern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean.

 

The Relief of the Light Brigade

The Relief of the Light Brigade by Richard Caton Woodville, Jr. 1897

 

Despite frantic diplomatic efforts, Russia and Turkey went to war. No sooner had the war begun than Britain and France joined in, not on the side of Christian Russia, but on the side of Moslem Turkey. For them the Russian threat to British and French control of the Mediterranean could not be tolerated. They intervened primarily to prevent the collapse of Turkey.

The Crimean War graphically demonstrated the technical inferiority of Russia. The Russians fought bravely but, confronted by the superior weapons of the British and French, they stood little chance and, by 1856, were totally defeated. The new tsar Alexander II, humiliated by this defeat, was determined to transform Russia into a modern industrialised country. (Russian industrialisation began during the reign of Alexander II, although rather slowly).

 

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