War or Peace?

The Congress of Vienna, which brought an end to the Napoleonic Wars, has been praised by some historians and condemned by others. While I don’t know much about the Congress, I do know many of the events in the first half of the 19th century. Some historians, (such as Charles Esdaile, I believe,) have said that the Congress managed to maintain peace in Europe for nearly 100 years. I have to say, following the Napoleonic Wars, there may not have been a general European conflict until the outbreak of World War I in 1914, but to say there was peace in 19th century Europe is a bit of a stretch. Following the Congress of Vienna, there was a conservative order in Europe, presided over and epitomized by the Austrian chancellor Klemens von Metternich. There was much unrest under this conservative regime. In 1830 revolutions broke out in France, Hungary, and Poland. These should have served as warning shots of worse things to come, but they must not have, for in the notorious year 1848, there were revolutions all across Europe. While I don’t know too much about these revolutions, I do know that they were instrumental in ending peace in Europe. You see, peace didn’t end in 1914. It ended with the outbreak of the Crimean War in 1854.

I’ve been reading a book by Russian historian Alexis Troubetzkoy entitled A Brief History of the Crimean War: the Causes and Consequences of a Medieval Conflict Fought in a Modern Age. In this book, Troubetzkoy tries to trace the real causes of the Crimean War, instead of going with the generally accepted textbook version of events, (as, of course, any good historian would.) In this history, (which aims more to trace the causes of the war than to present another history of the war itself,) he says this:

“In the forty years preceding Crimea none of the great European powers had fought each other, but in less than twenty-five following that struggle Europe suffered five great wars: Franco-Austrian (1859), Danish-Austro/Prussian (1864), Austro-Prussian (1866), Franco-Prussian (1870) and Russo-Turkish (1878). The lineage of each of these conflicts can be traced to the Crimea outcome.”

With that assessment in mind it can be said that the Peace of Vienna ended either with the outbreak of the 1830 revolutions or the Crimean War. This is important to remember: again, while there was no general European conflict between 1815 and 1914, there really wasn’t peace. There was revolution and war.

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