European Dictators: Part 3


By Shahvaiz Fawad

Writer is a UK based Pakistani student of Essex University UK.

Klemens Von Metternich (1821-1848): Klemens Von Metternich was the Chancellor for the Austrian Empire, where he played a very influential role in 19th Century European politics. Before he became Chancellor he had served as the Foreign minister for the Austrian Empire (1809-1821).During this time he carried out a detente between Austria and France, which resulted in the marriage of Napoleon Bonaparte and Austrian Archduchess Marie Louise. He also played an important role in the War of the Sixth Coalition against France and the subsequent Treaty of Fontainebleau, which sent Napoleon into exile. After Napoleon was finally defeated in 1815 Metternich played a major role in the Congress of Vienna where the fate of post-Napoleonic Europe would be decided. As Chancellor of the Austrian Empire, Metternich presided over the “Age of Metternich” where international diplomacy was used to maintain the balance of power in Europe so that war could be avoided. Metternich did his best to contain Russia by allying Austria with the Ottoman Empire, which would act as a buffer against Russian expansionism in Europe. He also engaged with Prussia (the most powerful German state) for the dominance of the remaining states in the German confederation of the Rhine. Metternich by nature was a conservative and strongly opposed any sort of liberalism. He did his best to ensure that the Austrian Empire did not collapse and suppressed rebellions in Austrian north Italy. He also used other methods such as censorship and a spy network to suppress liberalism in Austria. He was also against German nationalism and was not in favour of German unification. While Metternich was Chancellor of Austria he had served under the monarchs Francis I and Ferdinand I. Metternich had resigned as Chancellor after liberal revolutions broke out in Spain, Portugal, the Italian states and France. Metternich is considered as a controversial figure in history, where his admirers praise him for carrying out the “Age of Metternich”, which prevented war in Europe for about 50 years. His detractors however, state that he was too much of a conservative and could not bring major changes to the continent. His critics also point out that he did not carry out German unification under Austria instead of Prussia and his 1817 administrative reforms were largely rejected.

Louis Napoleon or Napoleon III (1852-1870): Napoleon III was the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte and was the dictator of France for 18 years, when it was known as the second French Empire. Before that he was the president of the Second French Republic (1848-52) but amended the constitution and dissolved the French National Assembly in his third year, as he was not able to run for a second term. In 1852 Napoleon III assumed dictatorial powers and became known as the Emperor. During his rule Napoleon III had carried out many political and economic reforms in order to increase his prestige and also set about to make France militarily powerful again. He promoted public works, the construction of railroads and used other means in furthering industry and agriculture. He took personal interest in improving the infrastructure of Paris in order to make it a modern city. He also ensured that the price of bread was lowered, promoted the construction of sanitary houses for workers and established boards of arbitration. Napoleon III like his uncle wanted France to have a great Empire and in order for this to happen, he involved France in many Military campaigns. France had sided with Britain and the Ottoman Empire against Russia in the Crimean war (1854-56).This conflict resulted in Russia losing influence in the Black Sea, Crimean Peninsula and Balkans. It also resulted in France becoming a close ally of Great Britain. France also played an influential role in the unification of Italy by defeating the Austrian Empire in the Franco Austrian war (1859).This allowed Sardinia to gain Lombardy from Austria and France was able to gain Nice and Savoy. However other French military campaigns turned out to be disastrous as the French were unable to gain a stronghold in Mexico due to the victory of the Republican faction there. This meant that France would not be able to gain valuable markets in Latin America and the silver mines in Mexico could not be used to finance the French Empire. This was a major blow as France was unable to establish a friendly Mexican government, which would allow France to expand its Empire in Latin America. Napoleon III downfall came when his ill-prepared army faced off against the Prussians in the Franco-Prussian/German War (1870-71).Otto Von Bismarck had already unified the Northern German states under Prussia after defeating Austria (1866) and now set about to unify the rest of the southern German states (with the exception of Austria).Napoleon III felt threatened by a newly unified Germany as it would challenge France for dominance on the continent. Hence Napoleon III set out to prevent German unification by defeating Prussia and the other German states. However Napoleon III was unsuccessful in this venture as Bismarck’s troops decisively defeated the French and this war resulted in the formation of the German Empire. The conflict also meant the end of Napoleon III as ruler of France and the Second French Empire was destroyed, after which a new Third French Republic had been formed. Napoleon III spent his final years in Exile in Britain before his death. Napoleon III was also a very controversial figure in history as many historians criticised his military policies which put a strain on the economy of France and some of the disastrous conflicts resulted in his downfall. Hence Napoleon III is considered to be an ineffective military leader who was unable to match the skills of his uncle Napoleon I, when it came to military matters. Yet his political and economic policies are praised as he made genuine attempts to modernise France and make it industrially competitive in Europe. He also tried to alleviate the conditions of the poor people in France as well

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