More about the Congress of Vienna

The Congress of Vienna, that brought an end to the protracted Napoleontic Wars, was a milestone in European history. Following from the effervescent Congress of Vienna, the European powers  not only established elementary conditions for the protection of the 'status quo' and the regulation of inter-state conflict through 'political equilibrium' – as literature on this era has it – but also created a 'Pax Europeana,' in which common European interests had to be defended together.

Indeed, new ranks and files of professional diplomats, informal practices, multilateral cooperations and an entirely new culture of mediation and conflict management arose from the meetings that set off in September 1814 and lasted until June 1815. This Pax Europeana differed from the peace treaties concluded in the decades or ages before in the sense that it ignited a series of concrete multilateral and even truly international peace projects that took distinct institutional forms.

Congres de Vienne Jean Baptiste IsabeyLe congrès de Vienne - Jean-Baptiste Isabey

Although there is a strong focus on the Congress of Vienna as a vehicle for restoration regimes and antirevolutionary repression in modern historiography, the larger and the smaller countries did in fact embark on several unprecedented cooperative projects to tackle transnational threats (such as pirates, anarchists, colonial rebels, and smugglers) and defend collective interests as early as 1815.

These joint ventures did not end after the Crimean War in 1856, but persisted in the decades thereafter. Social learning processes amongst diplomats transplanted the classical ancient regime practices where princes and kings dominated negotiations that were mostly performed through traditional rituals and highly symbolic festivities. New generations of bureaucrats emerged, and in dialogue or contestation with members of the old generations that survived the Napoleontic transformations, introduced new forms of negotiations, meetings and celebrations.

The Congress of Vienna heralded an age in which administrative reforms and technological innovations enabled the growing corpus of professional agents to exchange information and communicate on a much more intensive and informal level than before, thus promoting processes of social learning and instilling shared norms and attitudes.

Vienna was thus midwife to a nascent but veritable European security culture. This culture was performed through politics, public and through all kinds of new media outlets after 1815, in theatre plays, music, opera’s and works of visual art. The Congress’ outcomes were moreover fervently debated and proliferated through newspapers and public celebrations and commemorations of the battlefield heroes.