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European History


The Napoleonic Era

General Napoleon Bonaparte takes control of French government in 1799, declares himself emperor in 1804

Napoleon brings domestic order to France

  • 1801: Makes peace with pope in the Concordat

  • 1804:Napoleonic Code reforms, codifies French law; promotes traditional ideas about family and women

  • Napoleon uses plebiscite (yes or no vote) to gain popular approval of himself and his policies

  • Strengthens centralized administration, social hierarchy based on service to the state rather than noble birth

  • Censorship, arrest for those who disagree

Europe in almost constant war during Napoleon’s reign

  • Napoleon a genius at military organization, strategy

  • 1805: British confirm naval superiority at Battle of Trafalgar

  • 1805: France defeats Austria and Russia at Austerlitz

  • 1806: Napoleon blockades British trade with rest of Europe

  • 1806: Holy Roman Empire dissolves

  • 1808: Spanish resist French invasion

  • 1812: French invade Russia

  • 1815: Coalition of Austrian, British, Prussian, and Russian forces defeat Napoleon at Waterloo

French army spreads ideas about democracy, stirs nationalism throughout Europe

1814–1815:Congress of Vienna establishes a conservative order in Europe

  • Austrian chancellor Klemens von Metternich dominates meeting of major European powers

  • Pre-Napoleon national boundaries restored

  • Legitimate Bourbon monarchy restored to France

  • England, Austria, Prussia, Russia, France form the Concert of Europe

  • Agreement to maintain a balance of power under which no one nation can become too strong

  • Agreement to squash revolutions, maintain order


Neoclassicism & Romanticism

Cultural trends of neoclassicism and romanticism emerge during French Revolution and Napoleonic era

Neoclassicism: Admiration for ancient Greek and Roman culture, architecture

  • Painting: Geometric lines, large spaces, often portraying a moral theme

    • 1789:Jacques-Louis David’sLictors Bringing to Brutus the Bodies of His Sons illustrates republican virtue

  • Music (c. 1750–1820): Court patronage, first public concerts; precise melodies, symmetrical, orderly but complex

    • 1786:Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Austrian, 1756–1791) composes The Marriage of Figaro

Romanticism: Belief that the artist creates art from within; not necessarily concerned with pursuing truth; characterized by admiration of Gothic architecture, questioning of value of reason, belief that world is mysterious

  • Painting: Depicts power of nature, storms, internal turmoil

    • 1818–1819:Théodore Géricault (French, 1791–1824) portrays human tragedy in The Raft of the Medusa

    • John Constable (English, 1776–1837) paints clouds, landscapes, rural scenes, as in The Haywain

  • Literature: Emphasis on imagination, interior character development, rebellion against Enlightenment thought

    • 1798:Samuel Taylor Coleridge (English, 1772–1834) and William Wordsworth (English, 1770–1850) explore the development of the poet in Lyrical Ballads

    • German Sturm und Drang (“storm and stress”) movement includes Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (Sorrows of Young Werther, 1774; Faust Part I, 1808)

    • Lord Byron (English, 1788–1824) writes rebellious and revolutionary poetry

    • 1831:Stendhal (French, 1783–1842) depicts antihero’s journey through love, ambition in The Red and the Black

  • Music: Belief that music should evoke an emotional response

    • Ludwig van Beethoven (German, 1770–1827) bridges classicism and romanticism

  • 1738: English clergyman John Wesley founds Methodism, religious faith to come from within oneself, not from books, priests or tradition

  • 1802:François-René de Chateaubriand (French, 1768–1848) encourages post-revolutionary return to Catholicism in Genius of Christianity


19th-Century Political Ideas

Conservatism: Belief that stability should be maintained through alliance of hereditary monarchy, landed aristocracy, established church

  • 1790:Edmund Burke (English, 1729–1797) cautions against overthrowing national traditions in Reflections on the Revolution in France

  • Joseph de Maistre (French, 1753–1821) believes social order stems from church; blames Voltaire for French Revolution

Nationalism: Belief that the political boundaries of countries should coincide with the ethnicity of their inhabitants (for instance, a single Italian state for all Italian people) so each nation has its own ethnic identity

  • Nationalist ideal encourages some ethnic groups to try to create their own nations through revolution, unification

  • Johann Herder (German, 1744–1803) encourages study of folk culture; believes each nation has its own spirit

  • G. W. F. Hegel (German, 1770–1831) promotes idea of strong state leading its people; believes ideas evolve through conflict with each other

  • Nationalism often becomes aggressive, militaristic

Liberalism: Belief in free press, expansion of electoral franchise, legal equality, religious toleration, unregulated economy

  • Not necessarily democratic; liberals fear revolution by masses

  • Associated with the middle class

  • 1859:John Stuart Mill (English, 1806–1873) promotes freedom of conscience in On Liberty

Classical economics: Promotion of free enterprise and capitalism regulated by the market, not the government (laissez-faire); inspired by Enlightenment economist Adam Smith

  • Jeremy Bentham (English, 1748–1832) promotes utilitarianism, belief that law and society should be organized to bring the most happiness to the greatest number of people

  • 1798:Thomas Malthus (English, 1766–1834) predicts that population growth will outstrip agricultural production

  • 1817:David Ricardo (English, 1772–1823) believes “iron law of wages” means wages will always stay low

Socialism: Desire for equal distribution of money, property

  • Utopian socialists Henri de Saint-Simon (French, 1760–1825), Robert Owen (English, 1771–1858), Charles Fourier (French, 1772–1837) and Etienne Cabet (French, 1788–1856) advocate ideal communities based on equality, freedom

Marxism: Revolutionary branch of socialism; claims overthrow of capitalism inevitable; urges workers in all countries to unite

  • 1848: German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels publish The Communist Manifesto

Anarchism: Belief that society works best without government

  • 1840:Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (French, 1809–1865) declares that all property is theft

  • Russian activists Mikhail Bakunin (1814–1876) and Peter Kropotkin (1842–1921) promote anarchism

  • 1880s–1890s Some anarchists use violent terrorism to assassinate government leaders


The 19th-Century Middle Class

Increasing prominence of merchants, bankers, lawyers, doctors, clerks, shopkeepers, etc. known collectively as the middle class, or bourgeoisie

  • Social mobility (moving up and down from one class to another) both an ambition and a source of anxiety

  • Size and influence of bourgeoisie varies by country: larger and more powerful in Western Europe than in Eastern Europe and the Balkans; only 2% of population in Russia

  • Earn money through work but not manual labor

  • Not noble, but would like to have privileges and political power; often support liberalism

  • Desire for comfort, consumer goods to be enjoyed in privacy

  • Emphasis on family: education, religion, advantageous marriages for children

  • Belief in appropriate roles, or spheres, for men and women

    • Men work, earn money, deal with the outside world, provide food and shelter for family; women raise children, maintain the home, and provide moral guidance for family

    • Poorer women, however, must work and earn wages to survive; often work as domestics for the middle class

  • Long-reigning Queen Victoria (r. 1837–1901) embodies British middle-class values