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Congress of Vienna

Vienna, the political and cultural center of Europe, was host to a conference of the major European powers at the end of the Napoleonic Wars. The negotiations at the Congress of Vienna, which lasted almost nine months during 1814 and 1815, had the formidable objective of partitioning the nations of Europe in the wake of Napoleon Bonaparte's turbulent military campaign. This task was accomplished on June 8, 1815, by the Treaty of Vienna. The dominant members in the conference were the major victors of the war: Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Britain. However, delegates from a host of other powers were present, including Sweden, Denmark, Spain, Portugal, Bavaria, Saxony, and the Papacy, among others. Although a defeated power, France was still a powerful one that remained capable of quickly raising a large army and consequently, it was represented at the Congress.

The most important factors in the proceedings were military might, diplomatic cunning, and force-of-will. The Triple Alliance, which was formed by France, Austria, and Britain in order to maintain the balance of power in Europe, was instrumental in taking the diplomatic advantage away from mighty Russia, who withdrew many of its claims. Although Russia gained Finland from Sweden, the monopolistic Russian claim to Poland was defeated, and Tsar Alexander I had to content himself with merely a significant part of that nation. Austria lost Belgium to Holland, but gained territory in Italy. Prussia gained significantly in the area surrounding the Rhine. Sweden gained Norway from Denmark, while Britain gained several colonies including its Mediterranean outpost, Malta. The German Confederation was established and the participant nations in the Congress Of Vienna unilaterally condemned the slave trade.

Upon Napoleon's escape from his exile on the island of Elba in March of 1815, the Congress branded him an outlaw and allied their forces against him once again. Despite the fact that the Congress had achieved its goals, it remained technically in session throughout the " Hundred Days" until Napoleon's final defeat at the Battle of Waterloo on June 19, 1815. France was later deprived of its imperial conquests at the Second Treaty of Paris on November 20, 1815, and was forced to pay war reparations. The partitioning of Europe achieved at the Congress of Vienna laid the foundations for the political alliance system that lasted throughout the 19th century.


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