The Congress of Vienna, 1814‒1815
In preparation for the peace conference that was expected to follow World War I, in the spring of 1917 the British Foreign Office established a special section responsible for preparing background information for use by British delegates to the conference. The Congress of Vienna, 1814‒1815 is Number 153 in a series of more than 160 studies produced by the section, most of which were published after the conclusion of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. The author of the study, Charles Webster (1886–1961), was a young historian serving in an intelligence section of the General Staff at the War Office, who had been seconded to the Foreign Office to advise on the postwar peace negotiations and to prepare a handbook on the Congress of Vienna. In his prewar academic work at Cambridge, Webster had specialized in 19th century diplomatic history. In the introduction, Webster writes that his object is to describe in some detail the negotiations of 1814 and 1815. “During these years, by a series of treaties concluded at Paris and Vienna, the frontiers of almost every country in Europe were to be redrawn, and the overseas possessions of the Continental Powers were to be reallotted on a new basis. The military despotism of Napoleon had completely transformed Europe, while the French, Dutch and Danish colonies had been conquered by Great Britain. The destruction of the Napoleonic Empire, therefore, necessitated both the construction of a new Europe and a new distribution of colonial power; the parallel between the problems of that age and those of the present day is in some respects an exceedingly close one.” The book is in four parts, dealing with the preparation, organization, work, and completion of the congress. The appendices include the texts of a number of important documents reproduced from the archives bearing on the organization and conduct of the congress. A foldout map shows the states of Europe and compares the borders of 1792 with those of 1815. Later published by Oxford University Press, Webster’s book became a classic. Along with his other works, it effectively rehabilitated the reputation of Lord Castlereagh as one of the major figures of British foreign policy and had great influence on such later scholars and diplomatic practitioners as former Harvard University professor and U.S. secretary of state Henry A. Kissinger.
H.M. Stationery Office, London
Type of Item
174 pages ; 8 inches
- From the series: Peace Handbooks
- G.N. Clark, revised by Muriel E. Chamberlain, “Webster, Sir Charles Kingsley (1886‒1961),” in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2004).
Last updated: November 14, 2017