The Napoleonic Wars and the Congress of Vienna in 1814

With the “French and Indian War” of 1754-1763 the British defeated the French, and most of the French colonies of North America became British colonies. See “French and Indian War” (1754-1763).

Map American Colonies

American Colonies.JPG

The British believed that a part of the cost of the Anglo-French War, and the increased military cost of protecting the colonies, should be partially covered by their American citizens with increased taxation. However the Americans were not at all happy with the prospect of increased taxation, and with the help of the French they started the American Revolutionary War, and they indeed gained their independence. See Wikipedia “American Revolutionary War” (1775-1783)

The wars with the British, and the large military support to the American Independence War, the French economy collapsed and the French revolution broke out in 1789. See Wikipedia “French Revolution” (1789).

Napoleon, a military officer and a hero of the French Revolution, became the new dictator of France. Napoleon was the Hitler of 19th Century, and with his great army he managed to conquer most of Europe.

At the time Germany was a sum of small states, and the great powers that Napoleon had to face were Great Britain, Russia and Austria. Napoleon tried to assert himself on all of them.

Map Europe 1815


In 1805, at the Battle of Trafalgar, the British destroyed Napoleon’s Navy, and Great Britain became the undisputed greatest naval power of Europe and the world. After Trafalgar Napoleon had no hope of defeating the English with his superior army, because after the destruction of his navy he did not have the means to invade Great Britain. See Wikipedia Battle of Trafalgar”.

The same year, in 1805, with the Battle of Austerlitz, Napoleon defeated the Russian and Austrian armies, and France became the undisputed greatest military power of Europe. See Wikipedia “Battle of Austerlitz”.

Therefore in 1805, with the Battles of Trafalgar and Austerlitz, Great Britain and France became the greatest naval and military powers of Europe respectively. France could no longer defeat Great Britain in the seas and Great Britain could no longer defeat France in Europe.

In 1806 Napoleon used his superior army to forbid the other European countries from importing British goods, in an attempt to develop the French industry and to weaken the Brits. The Russians, and other Europeans, who were importing goods from Great Britain, were not pleased with Napoleon’s Continental System. See Wikipedia “Continental System”.

To retaliate, the British used their superior navy to forbid the Americans from importing French goods and from exporting raw materials to France. The Americans were not pleased at all with the restrictions imposed on them by the British, because these restrictions hurt their economy.

At some point the Russians had enough with Napoleon, and they abandon Napoleon’s embargo on British goods, and they resumed trading with the British. To retaliate, Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812, but like Hitler in 1941, he lost his army.

The British also had to fight a war in 1812 with the Americans as a result of the trade restrictions they had imposed on them. See Wikipedia  “War of 1812” (Anglo-American War 1812-1814).

Once Napoleon was defeated, the European powers wanted to establish a new world order which would prevent a single European power from conquering Europe, like Napoleon had just done. Their main worry was to strengthen France’s neighbors i.e. the Netherlands and Belgium at the North, Italy at the South, and Prussia at the West.

At the Congress of Vienna the Prussians (Germans) and the Russians agreed that Prussia would take Saxony and Russia would take Poland, something that alarmed the British and the Austrians, because they thought that Russia would become very strong if she was to annex Poland. Great Britain and Austria were ready to ally with the defeated France in order to stop Russia from taking Poland, and the negotiations came close to collapse.

In the end diplomacy won and the great powers agreed on a new European order which gave Europe peace and prosperity for one hundred years, until World War 1 broke out in 1914.


Χάρτης Ευρώπης 1815.JPG



“French and Indian War” (1754-1763)

“American Revolutionary War” (1775-1783)

“French Revolution” (1789)

“Battle of Trafalgar” (1805) (Anglo-French Naval Battle)

Battle of Austerlitz (1805) (France VS Rus+Austr)

“Continental System” (1806)

“The Continental System (1806-1807)”

“War of 1812” (Anglo-American War 1812-1815)


10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Congress of Vienna that Influence Us Today

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First and foremost, the Congress statesmen desired a territorial settlement that would preserve the peace. Since they saw the greatest threat to Europe as coming from France, they surrounded her with a series of buffer states: Belgium was united with the Netherlands to the northeast; the Italian state of Piedmont was given control of Genoa to the south; and Prussia was awarded the Rhineland to the west. All the states of Europe were invited to sign the Vienna “Final Act,” making it the cornerstone of public law in Europe. No war between any of the great powers occurred for the next 40 years, until the Crimean War, and no major war on the scale of the Napoleonic Wars took place until the outbreak of World War I a century later.

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The allied powers established the principle of freedom of navigation on major European waterways, and established the Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine, arguably the oldest working international commission still in existence

“The Causes of the French Revolution”

“The war of 1812 (1809-1815)”

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Thomas Jefferson served his second term as US President from 1804 to 1808. During his term, in 1805, the world balance of power shook as Admiral Nelson’s ships beat Napoleon’s navy at the Battle of Trafalgar, and as Napoleon bested the allied Russo- Austrian forces at Austerlitz that same year. France now had unquestionable control of the European continent, and Britain, held unquestionable mastery of the seas. For the next decade, neither power would seek to challenge the other in their element. The two European powers took to fighting each other indirectly, through economic warfare. Napoleon, hoping to strangle Britain’s economy by preventing British goods from being exported to Europe, closed off all European ports in his Continental System.

As a countermeasure, in 1806 Britain passed the Orders in Council. According to these regulations, US ships could not land at a European port without first stopping at a British port. Napoleon retaliated with a harsh measure, demanding the seizure of any ship that landed in Europe after stopping in Britain. The warring French and English economic measures wreaked havoc with the American economy.

“Napoleonic Wars and the Economy”

“The Continental System (1806-1807)”

“The Congress of Vienna” (1814-1815)



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