19th Century European History
In European history, the 19th century was marked by a number of key trends. Early in the century, Great Britain, led by George III, and France once again found themselves at war. This conflict, part of the Napoleonic Wars, so named for the emperor of France, would come to involve countries throughout the continent and around the world. At the same time, the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire would also take place; Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor, in response to seeing his power and ability to rule called into question with Napoleon’s creation of the Confederation of the Rhine, chose to instead reign as Francis I, the first emperor of Austria. By 1812, Napoleon has found his limit: his march into Russia is met with disaster and his armies are forced to retreat with a scant number of the soldiers they began with. By 1814, he is exiled to Elba.
Another trend from the period was that of uprisings against existing governments and the harsh reactions that soon followed. In 1823, Austria, Russia, and Prussia provide support for French troops entering Spain to put down a rebellion and return Ferdinand VII to power; in 1825, the Decembrist Rising fails in Russia. The groundwork is also laid in this century for uprisings in the next: Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels write The Communist Manifesto in 1848, a text that would provide great inspiration for the Russian Revolution less than 100 years later.
A final trend from this period is the rise of some of the most prominent actors of the 20th century. As mentioned, the foundation for the rise of the Soviet Union was created in the 1800s; France also demonstrates its strength on the world’s stage in this era. Most notably, though, was the rise to power of Otto Bismarck in Prussia in 1862. Believing that war will create a sense of German nationalism and provoke unity among the various Germanic states, Bismarck engaged in the Seven Weeks’ War with Austria in 1866, unifying the northern territories of what is now Germany into his state of Prussia after achieving a victory. He then provoked war with France in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, ultimately unifying Bavaria and Prussia and creating the modern nation of Germany. The 1800s, then, brought significant change to the continent of Europe, both in terms of its culture, its politics, and its geography.