Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Congress of Vienna

The Congress of Vienna was a series of meetings involving most of the European heads of state held in Vienna, the capital of the Austrian empire, between September 1814 and 9 June 1815. The purpose of the Congress was to redraw the map of Europe after years of chaos resulting from the Napoleonic and French revolutionary wars (1792–1814). Its proceedings were initially dominated by the four powers of the victorious allied coalition that had defeated Napoleon. Britain was represented by foreign secretary Viscount Castlereagh (Robert Stewart). Prussia was represented by foreign secretary and chancellor Prince Carl von Hardenberg, Russia by Czar Alexander I (1777–1825), and Austria by Prince Klemens von Metternich (1773–1859), who emerged as the architect of the Congress. The defeated French were represented by Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand (1754–1838).

Although Metternich acted as host, there was no formal opening of the Congress, and meetings began in September as delegations arrived. While the major states debated the key issues, delegates from lesser European states dealt with issues such as navigation rights and attended lavish receptions held by the Austrian government. The Congress dissolved after the signing of the Final Act, 9 June 1815.


With his armies defeated Napoleon Bonaparte resigned as emperor of France on 11 April 1814 and went into exile on the Mediterranean island of Elba. Allied armies occupied Paris and the prerevolutionary Bourbon dynasty was restored to the throne of France. Louis XVIII (brother of the beheaded Louis XVI) became king, with Talleyrand as foreign secretary. The four allies signed a peace treaty with the new French government on 30 May 1814 known as the First Peace of Paris. Under the terms of the treaty France’s borders were rolled back to what they had been in 1792.The final clause in the treaty also specified that all states engaged in the current war should meet in Vienna to resolve outstanding territorial issues.

Territorial Arrangements

Metternich’s major objective at the Congress was to ensure that France was surrounded by states strong enough to contain any future French attempts at expansion. Metternich wanted to create a balance of power in Europe that would maintain stability. The Congress of Vienna went on to formalize many territorial arrangements previously agreed upon by the four major allied states. The Kingdom of the Netherlands, which included Belgium and Holland, was created as a strong state on France’s northeastern frontier. The Italian state of Piedmont-Sardinia played a similar role on France’s southeastern frontier. In central Europe Napoleon’s Confederation of the Rhine was abolished and replaced by thirty-nine German states grouped loosely together as the German Confederation, with its capital in Frankfurt. The Confederation included German-speaking areas of Prussia and Austria. It also superseded the three hundred-plus German states that had existed under the auspices of the Holy Roman Empire prior to the French revolution. Prussia was given land on the west and east banks of the Rhine River in order to garrison an army that could march quickly on France in case of an emergency. Austria was meant to have the dominant role in the German Confederation and the Austrians were given presidency of the Confederation. Austria was also to be the dominant power on the Italian peninsula. Austria retained possession of the wealthy northern Italian province of Lombardy and was granted control over the neighboring and equally wealthy province of Venetia. Members of the Austrian royal family, the Habsburgs, were placed on most of the thrones of the remaining Italian states to ensure Austrian dominance and keep the French out.

The Congress recognized British possession of several important overseas territories conquered during the Napoleonic wars. Britain gained the island of Helgoland in the North Sea, Malta in the Mediterranean, the Cape Colony of southern Africa, the island of Ceylon off India’s southern tip, the islands of Mauritius, Seychelles, and Rodriguez in the Indian Ocean, and the islands of Saint Lucia, Trinidad, and Tobago in the Caribbean. Many of these possessions were economically lucrative and gave Britain control over key shipping routes.

The Congress acknowledged the status of Switzerland as an independent and neutral state. Finally, territorial changes were undertaken in Scandinavia. The king of Denmark, too long an ally of Napoleon, lost his possession of Norway to Sweden. Sweden, in turn, was forced to give Finland to Russia.

The Poland– Saxony Dispute

A disagreement over eastern Europe very nearly disrupted the Congress. Alexander I made clear that he wanted to gain control over all of Poland, including Polish provinces previously ruled by Prussia. By way of compensation, the Prussians were to be given the wealthy German kingdom of Saxony. The Austrians and British protested, fearing the growth of Prussian and Russian power in central and eastern Europe. The dispute soon escalated to serious proportions. Talleyrand saw an opportunity to split the victorious alliance and regain French influence in Europe. He sided with the British and Austrians, and on 3 January 1815, the three powers signed a secret alliance. Each signatory pledged 150,000 troops in the event of war. However, Europe had suffered enough war and a compromise was found. Russia gained most, but not all, of Poland. Prussia gained about 40 percent of Saxony, with the rest remaining independent.

The Final Act and Long-Term Impact

In late February Napoleon escaped from exile and landed in France on 1 March 1815. Napoleon forced Louis XVIII to flee Paris, raised an army, and went to war again with the allies. However this had little impact on the Congress of Vienna. The Final Act was signed on 9 June, and Napoleon was defeated for the last time at the Battle of Waterloo on 18 June 1815.

Most historians agree that the Congress of Vienna created a durable peace in Europe. Although wars broke out among individual European states in the nineteenth century, there was no general war until 1914, a reflection of the fact that no one power left Vienna with unresolved grievances. Britain was arguably the big winner, having won dominance over shipping routes all around the globe, setting the stage for Britain’s remarkable imperial expansion in the nineteenth century.

Further Reading
Albrecht-CarriƩ, R. (1973). A diplomatic history of Europe since the Congress
of Vienna. New York: Harper and Row.
Alsop, S. (1984). The Congress dances. New York: Harper and Row.
Bertier de Sauvigny, G. (1962). Metternich and his times. London: Darton,
Longman and Todd.
Bridge, F.,& Bullen, R. (1980). The great powers and the European states
system, 1815–1914. New York: Longman.
Chapman, T. (1998). The Congress of Vienna: Origins, processes and
results. New York: Routledge.
Ferrero, G. (1941). The reconstruction of Europe: Talleyrand and the Congress
of Vienna, 1814–1815. New York: Putnam.
Grimsted, P. (1969). The foreign ministers of Alexander I: Political attitudes
and the conduct of Russian diplomacy, 1801–1825. Berkeley:
University of California Press.
Gulick, E. (1955). Europe’s classical balance of power: A case history of
the theory and practise of one of the great concepts of European statecraft.
Westport, CT: Greenwood.
Kissinger, H. (1957). A world restored: Metternich, Castlereagh and the
problems of peace, 1812–1822. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Kraehe, E. (1963). Metternich’s German policy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press.
Nicolson, H. The Congress of Vienna: A study in allied unity: 1812–1822.
London: Constable.
Rich, N. (1992). Great power diplomacy, 1814–1914. New York:
McGraw Hill.
Webster, C. (1931). The foreign policy of Castlereagh, 1812–1815. London:
G. Bell.

Third Reich and World War II in the Middle-East

An RAF Fordson Armoured Car waits outside Baghdad while negotiations for an armistice take place.

While the German markings were over-painted with Iraqi symbols, many Messerschmitt 110s in Iraq still featured "shark teeth" markings of 4/ZG 76 on the nose.

Germany’s official policy toward the Middle East remained inconsistent through the Third Reich because it was predicated upon ideological, diplomatic, and economic factors that contradicted one another. The Nazi doctrine of racial purity and the search for markets in the Middle East lent themselves to support of the Zionist movement through the ha-Avarah (transfer) agreements as useful tools to rid Germany of Jews. When, after 1937, it was understood that Jewish sovereignty was possible, and that a large population of Jews (a circumstance noted after the war in eastern Europe began) might be a base for activity against Germany, Hitler opposed Jewish immigration to Palestine.

Also opposed to Jewish Palestinian immigration were German nationals, including archaeologists, scholars, members of the Palestine Templars, and diplomatic personnel who worked in the area. Both German nationalists looking back to imperial glory and Nazis became disseminators of German propaganda, finding allies in some pan-Arab groups and the military in Egypt, Syria, and Iraq. Max von Oppenheim and German Ambassador to Iraq Fritz Grobba advocated financial and military support for local anti-British pan-Arab movements as early as 1937. Meetings between pan-Arab nationalists such as Shakib Arslan, Muhammad Amin al-Husayni, and Aziz Ali al-Misri and German diplomatic officials took place, resulting in a declaration of support in December 1940 but no real aid.

Officially, Germany remained uninvolved in the Middle East, initially leaving the area to Britain. After 1939 and the outbreak of World War II, Germany left the area to Italy, which sought hegemony in North Africa and in the eastern Mediterranean. Italy’s losses to the Allies in Greece and in Libya in 1941 sparked a belated interest by Germany, which had planned to turn to the Middle East only after anticipated successes in Russia (Operation Barbarossa).

Last-minute German arms deliveries to the pro-Axis Rashid Ali al-Kaylani government did not prevent Britain’s victories in Iraq in June 1941 and in Vichy-ruled Syria in July. Fear that Iran was a potential fifth column because of its economic dependence on Germany—because of the large numbers of German nationals working there, and because it offered a haven for those fleeing the British in Iraq—resulted in Pahlavi’s abdication and control of Iran by Russia and Britain. A planned pro-Axis Free Officers’ revolt involving Aziz Ali al- Misri and Anwar al-Sadat, among others, together with Abwehr (German military intelligence) agents infiltrated into Cairo, failed to coordinate with Erwin Rommel’s advance toward Egypt in the summer of 1942. Berlin provided sanctuary for some pro- Axis Arabs, among them the Jerusalem mufti, who left the Middle East during the war and worked for the German propaganda machine in return for Germany’s promise to support Arab independence. After the war, a number of Nazis immigrated to the Arab world.

Name given to the four ex-sharifian, pan-Arab Iraqi army officers whose anti-British, pro-Axis politics led to the Rashid Ali coup of 1941 and the war with Britain that followed.

The original “Four” included the leader, Salah al- Din al-Sabbagh, and Kamil Shabib, Fahmi Said, and Mahmud Salman. They organized after the 1936 Bakr Sidqi coup and then joined with three other officers, Aziz Yamulki, Husayn Fawzi, and Amin al-Umari, to form a military opposition bloc to the government. Jamil al-Midfai’s government in 1938 tried to transfer the officers out of Baghdad, but succeeded only in making them more politically active.

The officers supported the goals of the Jerusalem mufti (chief Muslim jurist), Hajj Amin al- Husayni, who arrived in Baghdad and solicited Germany’s help to achieve total Iraqi independence from Britain and the pan-Arab goal of Arab unity of the Fertile Crescent. They opposed Prime Minister Nuri al-Said’s severance of relations with Germany in 1939. In 1940 and 1941, the officers and the mufti were in contact with the Japanese and the Italians through their missions in Baghdad and supported Rashid Ali al-Kaylani’s government (31 March 1940 to 31 January 1941) as the British pressured Iraq to declare war on Germany. When Rashid Ali resigned, the pro-British regent, Abd al-Ilah, asked General Taha al-Hashimi, who had worked with the Four, to form a government, thinking that he could control the generals. But Taha’s weakness and the attempt by the regent to transfer Kamil Shabib out of the capital led them, in collusion with the mufti, to take control of the government in April 1941, with Rashid Ali again as the prime minister.

At the end of the abortive war against Britain in May 1941, the Four fled but were later caught and executed.