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This unit is about the Austrian Empire a small German state called Austrian which was german in population and origin (Austria proper), bohemia and Moravia which were inhabited by czechs Slovaks and Germans, Hungary occupied by Magyars with many minorities namely Serbs and Croats, Galicia. Occupied by Ruthenia’s and poles acquired during the partition of Poland.



By 1814, it included a cross section of nationalities which were by no means united except politically.

They were different in terms of race origin, language and religion.

Prince Von Metternich-Austria

The nucleus of the Austrian empire was a small German state called Austrian which was german in population and origin (Austria proper), bohemia and Moravia which were inhabited by czechs Slovaks and Germans, Hungary occupied by Magyars with many minorities namely Serbs and Croats, Galicia. Occupied by Ruthenia’s and poles acquired during the partition of Poland.

Transylvania occupied by roumeince of Latin origin.

Illyria and Dalmatia also had Serbs and Croats, Lombardy and Venetia had Italians added to it during the Vienna congress.


At Vienna, the powers also agreed that confederation of 38 German states be formed including major one like Prussia, Bavaria and Hanover under the presidency of Austria.

The confederation was to have a parliament with representatives of each state but with very limited authority.

It was therefore against the composition that Metternich referred to it as a ram shackled empire.

The central government of the empire was at Vienna under the king of Austria who was the emperor.

It was therefore crystal clear that the survival of such an empire required a ruthless and efficient administration to keep nationalism and liberalism at their lowest and Metternich provided the necessary skill to do so.

Its suffice to note therefore that the history of Austria and indeed that of Europe between 1815 – 1848 was dominated by personality of Prince Metternich the conservative enemy of revolutions and a strong supporter of the aristocrats.

It was his struggle to defend the aristocracy against liberalism and nationalism that helped to keep the Austrian empire between 1815 – 1848.


He was born in 1773 to a noble family of the Hapsburg ruling house. He grew up will all opportunities of a noble child as if he was a prince.

He was highly educated and a great linguist. He had studied at the university of Mainz and Strasbourg.

He witnessed the French revolution and grew to hate nationalism and liberalism which he said had caused the revolution in France. He therefore worked tirelessly to protect Austria from Napoleon.

This is why he was very instrumental in the defeat of napoleon.

Thus throughout the period 1818 – 1848 Metternich aimed at the following.

Preserve European peace

Maintain the privileged position of the aristocracy

Protect Austria foreign minister and later in 1821 as Austrian foreign minister and later in 1821 he was made chancellor of the Austrian empire.

                 The Map Showing the The Austrian Empire, between 1816 and 1867.



What did he do as Austrian foreign minister?

Austria was able to join the allies.

Brain behind the 4th coalition that defeated napoleon I.

Invited the powers to the congress of Vienna.

Together with castlereagh he advocated for congress system.

Agitated for the principle of the restoration of legitimate rulers.

Metternich used a number of methods to maintain peace in Europe and suppress the forces of liberalism and nationalism as explained below.

The Vienna congress; Metternich took advantage of the Vienna congress to advance his ideas and achieve his aim.


At the congress all influence powers were present or represented.

This provided him the opportunity to advance his ideas e.g. he convinced the other monarchs to agree to the following

Restoration of legitimate rulers who could effectively fight the forces of nationalism and liberalism.

It would also enhance Austrian dominance in Europe e.g. he supplied Hapsburg prince to the duchies of Parma, Modena and Tuscany.

Still at the Vienna congress, he advocated for and spear headed the formation of the confederation of 39 states under the dominate of Austria and including major Germany states like Prussia, Bavaria and Hanover.

Metternich secured support from European monards e.g emperor Francis I of Austria  who is quoted to have said, “I want not scholars but good citizens”.

Whoever serves me must teach according to my orders, but Metternich was a servant for more cultured and brilliant than himself (Francis I) to carry them out.

Metternich also won the support of tzar Alex I when he convinced him to change his mind from liberal ideas after the murder of kotzebeu a Russian spy by German students in 18179.

He also persuaded and convinced the restored rulers that the only way they could keep their thrones was by thrones were by ruthlessly suppressing nationalistic and liberal movements in their territories.

Indeed the restored rulers adopted metternichs ideas and this greatly helped him to control regional affairs.


He advised them to rule and change nothing from what was done by the ancient regimes.

Metternich also employed reconciliatory measures where possible e.g. he used reconciliatory measures to have France included in the congress system at the congress of Aix La Chapelle and this prevented France from having hostile feelings towards the rest of Europe and in turn enabled him to promote peace and stability on the European continent.

Metternich also employed rigid censorship as means of blocking the forces of liberalism and nationalism in Europe which he had blamed as being responsible for the chaos between 1789 – 1814.

He muzzled the press, all newspapers, aphetic and other publications coming in going out of Austria were censored i.e. mails from all European cities (members of the 4th coalition) had to pass through Vienna where they were opened and resealed.

This kept Metternich well informed about what was happening throughout Europe and to an extent control the spread of dangerous ideas.

Divide and rule (support from the noble classes). Metternich advocated for the favored treatment of the aristocracy who were given top posts in government.

They hold all seats in parliament they were allowed to control of land e.g. the gyars in Hungary; they were allowed to establish feudal courts, dominated government and Magyar was the official language in hunagry. In Prussia and had many privileges.

He used instrument of espionage, suppression force, imprisonment and killing of opponents and liberal agitators.

This created fear among the leaders of liberal movements and opposing groups e.g carbonating and this helped to reduce nationalistic agitations.


Many were driven underground and operated as secret societies because even their leaders did not want to be associated with them.

He attached personal spies to every Member of Parliament in the Austrian diet. This was to ensure that there were no subverse activities or growth of opposing political unions.

He used police detectives to watch government officials and get information from children, waiters, mistresses and visitors to various officials in Europe. This also acted as a safe guard against revolutionary activities.

He undermined education as an instrument of preventing liberalism and nationalism in Austria.

He strictly supervised the University of Vienna, watched movements of students, professors, dismissed liberal teachers and forbade the teaching liberal subjects like history and philosophy in order to control the spread of liberal ideas.

A commission was set up at maize to trace out the conspirators and crush them.

The resultant effect was that liberty was crushed and patriots had to work under very difficult circumstances which delayed the unification of subject’s states like Italy and Germany

This was further strengthened by the issuing of the Carlsbad decrees. These were passed at a meeting in 1819 at Carlsbad in Germany.

They appointed some body to be in charge of each university. The agent had to observe the lectures and students and report any sign of disloyalty.

If a teacher or student is was ex-communicated, they were not allowed to join another university. It also denounced freedom of speech and association.

  • Congress system;

Metternich was the archived of the congress system and he stove to build up a power equilibrium intended to sustain European system Vs the weight of Russia, which was seeking dominance in Europe.

The congress system was able to maintain peace in Europe till the outbreak of the Crimean war.

Church; he gave the church a lot of privileges, the church controlled the education system and only good Catholics could be employed, given land etc.


Metternich’s personality, personal charm, social gifts, diplomatic experience and power. The ease with which he handled intricate questions gave him ascendancy at the congress of Vienna (its guiding spirit) and later enabled him to control central Europe.

Metternich’s methods; he employed various methods that left many too scared to identify themselves with liberal and nationalistic movements.

Some of the methods he employed included a notorious spy not work that was loyal to non except him.

No wonder many societies operated society (carbonar society) one Austrian woman also once lamented “my daughter cannot sneeze, or else Metternich will hear. Such methods aided his success and stay in power.

Metternich was so lucky to operate in an area where conservatism was the order of the day. Many states had conservative rulers like Charles X in France, Fred William in Prussia.

These together with conservative nobility e.g. in Prussia and Austria almost saw nothing wrong with Metternich conservative policies.

Their actions directly or indirectly aided Metternich’s success.

Many of Metternich’s opponents were disunited e.g. in the Italian and German states. These were more confederations of nationalities which worked well to favors the policy of divide and rule.

Metternich was able to interface in the internal affairs of these states sought protection from him against their history enemies.

Austria dominated the Italian and German states and his policies were directly and indirectly felt in German and Italy. The internal weaknesses of these stats favored Metternich’s dictatorship.

Strong army work under general rude sky.

Economic backwardness of the would be opposition.

Social backwardness.


Much as he was very important in the affairs of Europe he has been criticized in a number of ways.

His often referred to as a reactionary and a despot who ruled because of the Austrian.

In reality, Metternich was successful in European affairs of the Austrian empire he was mainly a failure s he himself remarked.

“I have sometimes ruled Europe but I have never governed Austria.” Thus internally in austria and even outside Metternich failed in some area as explained below.

He failed to completely erase the force of liberalism and nationalism in Europe (did not maintain the status quo).

His regressive policies strengthened the determination of the nationalist and liberals to frustrate his policies.

The staged nationalistic and liberalistic revolts inn 1821 (Naples, Spain, piedmont). In 1830 in poland and Italian states there were wide spread revolutions in 1848 which spread up through Europe and even led to his down fall and flight to exile.

No wonder prof. Alison Phillip is quoted to have said that for a tried and timid generation he was a necessary man, and it was his misfortune that he survived his usefulness and failed to recognize that while he himself was growing old and feeble, the world was reviewing its youth.

Metternich used the congress system as an exploitative basis e.g. he wanted to satisfy his own interests of preserving the Austrian by denying other people their liberty.

This got him into conflict with democratic states e.g. England especially after the death of castlereagh in 1821 and this finally led to the collapse of the congress system.

Such as his regarded as the father of the congress system, he is blamed for killing his own child.

There was economic and social stagnation in Austria. Education was at a low level and either industry or commerce developed.

His opposition to scientific and intellectual freedom and his association with the church kept Austria behind yet the peace he had established brought economic prosperity in other European states.

He went ahead to give the aristocracy too much land which they could not develop. As a result Austria lagged behind other European states.

He together with Talleyrand of France advocated for the restoration of legitimate rulers. However these were the worst rulers Europe has ever had.

This was coupled with Metternich’s tireless efforts to suppress the forces of liberalism and nationalism.

This plunged Europe into untold instability and cheeus thus defeating his aim of preserving peace by maintaining the status quo thus legitimate rulers and use of regressive policies.

In spite of his strict measures e.g. universities under strict government control and discouraging foreign travel Metternich failed to completely prevent liberal ideas from infiltrating the Austrian empire that the continued to trickle into the university and it’s no surprise that the 1848 revolutions which ousted Metternich were basically led by intellectual .

This in his struggle to suppress nation elastic tendencies, he simply stimulated nationalistic and liberal feelings.

As a key figure in the formation of the Vienna settlement he can be blamed for short sightedness.

He ignored the principle of nationality and subjected many European states to foreign domination.

His struggle to maintain Austrian domination in Italy and Germany promoted divide and rule which delayed the process of their unification.

Therefore in his defense of peace, Metternich did not respect national interests and this led to large scale instability which causes the 1830 and 1848 revolutions.

Metternich is referred to or labeled worst dictator Europe has ever seen before. He did everything in his means to frustrate democratic changes.

Therefore 1815 – 1848 a period of misery for the masses. His dictatorship affected the intellectual development in Austria, Germany and Italy by censoring the education system.

 The video below explains more about the rise and fall of Habsburg empire also known as the Austrian empire under Metternich



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