Congress of Vienna Austria, Vienna

Congress of Vienna

The Congress of Vienna was a meeting of ambassadors of European states chaired by Austrian statesman Klemens von Metternich, and held in Vienna from November 1814 to June 1815, though the delegates had arrived and were already negotiating by late September 1814. The objective of the Congress was to provide a long-term peace plan for Europe by settling critical issues arising from the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. The goal was not simply to restore old boundaries but to resize the main powers so they could balance each other and remain at peace. The leaders were conservatives with little use for republicanism or revolution, both of which threatened to upset the status quo in Europe. France lost all its recent conquests while Prussia, Austria and Russia made major territorial gains. Prussia added smaller German states in the west, Swedish Pomerania and 60% of the Kingdom of Saxony; Austria gained Venice and much of northern Italy. Russia gained parts of Poland. The new Kingdom of the Netherlands had been created just months before, and included formerly Austrian territory that in 1830 became Belgium.

The immediate background was Napoleonic France's defeat and surrender in May 1814, which brought an end to 25 years of nearly continuous war. Negotiations continued despite the outbreak of fighting triggered by Napoleon's dramatic return from exile and resumption of power in France during the Hundred Days of March–July 1815. The Congress' "final act" was signed nine days before his final defeat at Waterloo on 18 June 1815.

The Congress has often been criticized for causing the subsequent suppression of the emerging national and liberal movements, and it has been seen as a reactionary movement for the benefit of traditional monarchs. However, others praise it for having created relatively long-term stability and peaceful conditions in most of Europe.

In a technical sense, the "Congress of Vienna" was not properly a congress: it never met in plenary session, and most of the discussions occurred in informal, face-to-face sessions among the Great Powers of Austria, Britain, France, Russia, and sometimes Prussia, with limited or no participation by other delegates. On the other hand, the congress was the first occasion in history where, on a continental scale, national representatives came together to formulate treaties instead of relying mostly on messages among the several capitals. The Congress of Vienna settlement, despite later changes, formed the framework for European international politics until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.

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