In class this week, we learned about the Congress of Vienna. After Napoleon was defeated and exiled in 1814, the country of Europe had to clean up the mess Napoleon had made. There were many problems that needed to be addressed, and Europe needed to decide what to do about all that Napoleon had controlled. There were three main problems that needed to be addressed: how should the map of Europe be redrawn, who is going to rule France, and how can future revolutions be prevented? The Congress of Vienna was a meeting of all the major countries in Europe- Russia, Prussia, England, France, and Austria- to try to decide what to do about these problems. They spent 10 months discussing these situations, as well as celebrating the defeat of Napoleon, and they signed the final act of the Congress of Vienna on June 8, 1815. In class, we watched a video with two actors acting as Metternich, a prince in Germany, and Napoleon, while they were debated a peace contract. The powerful personality of each of these people were apparent, and their political ideas clashed. Metternich was a conservative, so he wanted Europe to go back to the way it was before Napoleon's conquests while Napoleon wanted to keep conquering. After we watched and took notes on the video, we looked at how the Congress answered the three main questions from above, and we thought about how we would have answered these questions.
One main problem that the Congress of Vienna faced was how to redraw the map of Europe. After Napoleon's conquests, France had conquered a lot of land, and it had a lot of power. However, Europe’s other main powers, Russia, Prussia, England, and Austria, wanted just as much power and land as France, and they didn’t want one country to ever get too powerful over the others like Napoleonic France had. To fix this problem, they decided to focus on the principle of the balance of power. Russia, Prussia, England, France, and Austria were all given equal amounts of land and power so that no one country could ever gain too much land again. The map was redrawn so that they had equal land. Austria, Russia, and Prussia all gained land as "compensation" for the Napoleonic conquests. France was redrawn to almost the same amount of land as it had had before Napoleon’s conquests. The Congress of Vienna decided that it was Napoleon, not all of France, that was the enemy, so France was not punished much for Napoleon's conquests. They were given their original borders from before the conquests, and only had to give small areas of land as compensation to the other countries. However, when France was redrawn, it was drawn so that it was surrounded on all sides by buffer countries to prevent it from trying to make any more conquests. This whole system was created to try to balance or equalize the power. This reduced the threats to the countries’ power, because it prevented any one main power from becoming too powerful over the others, like Napoleon had. The map below shows the map of Europe before the Congress of Vienna in 1810, and after it in 1817. The French Empire is shown in purple, and it is very apparent how huge and powerful the French Empire was before the Congress of Vienna, and how it returned to its original size and gave back other countries' land after the Congress. This map also shows you what a big impact the Congress of Vienna had on Europe; they could redraw the map of the entire continent. They made hugely important decisions for the whole continent, and had the power to make these decisions for all the people in Europe.
The territorial changes in Europe from 1810- 1817
One suggestion I would make about how the Congress should have reacted is they should have included all the people’s opinions. The Congress of Vienna was a conservative group; they were all conservatives who wanted Europe to go back to the way it was before Napoleon. These conservatives made many very important decisions for the whole of Europe based on only their opinions from their ideology. They never considered the liberals’ and nationalists’ opinions. I think that they should have had equal representatives from all the ideologies; liberals, nationalists, and conservatives. This way, everyone in Europe would have been satisfied with the Congress, and there wouldn't have been so many revolutions after it. Another main problem that the Congress faced was that people were revolting against them and they tried to figure out how to prevent these revolutions. The liberals and nationalists were the people of Europe who were revolting because their opinions weren't being heard; all the decisions were being made by conservatives. If their opinions were considered and they were represented in the Congress, there would be no need for revolt. I think this would have been a better way to react that would have served more people, and it would have stopped the revolutions that worried the Congress.