The Year Without a Summer (1816 to 1824)

Historia Civilis
16 Mar 202442:44

Summary

TLDRIn 1816, known as 'The Year Without a Summer' due to volcanic eruptions altering global weather patterns, Europe faced catastrophic conditions leading to widespread famine and discontent. This environmental crisis exacerbated political tensions, particularly in France, where the restored monarchy struggled to maintain power amidst a failing economy and public anger. The decade marked the coldest in 500 years, and the harsh conditions significantly impacted agricultural production and societal stability. The crisis also influenced international relations, with Britain asserting its power and influence under the diplomatic leadership of George Canning, who navigated the complex dynamics of the Great Powers, ultimately shaping the course of European politics and the global colonial landscape.

Takeaways

  • 🌌 The Year Without a Summer (1816) was caused by volcanic eruptions that altered global weather patterns, leading to catastrophic effects in Europe.
  • 🌾 The abnormally cold and rainy weather in 1816 led to widespread crop failure and famine across Europe, exacerbating existing political tensions.
  • 🇫🇷 The French government's inability to effectively address the crisis and the public's anger towards the monarchy and the political system contributed to social unrest.
  • 🇪🇺 The political landscape in France was complex, with a balance between royalist Ultra-Conservatives, Liberal centrists, and Radical Republicans.
  • 🤝 The French Prime Minister Richelieu's diplomatic efforts helped France regain its status as a Great Power, but his success was not rewarded due to political shifts.
  • 🇩🇪 The rise of German Nationalism and the proposed unification of Germany caused concern among the Great Powers, particularly Austria and Prussia.
  • 🇦🇹 Austria's occupation of Northern Italy led to significant challenges and a shift in national priorities, causing Metternich to become distracted from other European issues.
  • 🇪🇸 The Spanish crisis and the intervention by the Great Powers, particularly France's decision to restore the Spanish King to power, tested the post-war international order.
  • 🇬🇧 The British Foreign Secretary George Canning's noninterventionist stance and support for the Spanish Liberals signaled a shift in British foreign policy.
  • 🛣️ The Monroe Doctrine, developed in collaboration with the US, effectively prevented further European colonization in the Americas and served British interests.
  • 🌍 The events of the early 19th century, including the Spanish crisis and the rise of British influence, set the stage for the geopolitical dynamics of the century.

Q & A

  • What factors led to the 'Year Without a Summer' in 1816?

    -The 'Year Without a Summer' in 1816 was caused by a combination of volcanic eruptions that altered global weather patterns for 2 to 3 years. This resulted in unusually cold temperatures, even during the summer months, affecting agriculture and leading to widespread famine in parts of Europe.

  • How did the unusually cold temperatures in 1816 affect agriculture in Europe?

    -The cold temperatures in 1816 meant that there were significant non-growing periods throughout the spring and summer. Most plants require temperatures above 10°C to grow, and in London, it was below this temperature for 146 days that year, compared to the average of 66 days, leading to crop failures and famine.

  • What was the impact of the weather changes on the French people in 1816?

    -The weather changes led to an unusually rainy and overcast summer in France, resulting in 20 days of rain per month compared to the usual 8. This caused crops to fail, leading to widespread famine, and people were forced to eat unripened or rotten plants from abandoned fields.

  • How did the French political landscape change after the restoration of King Louis XVIII?

    -After the restoration of King Louis XVIII, France operated under a new Liberal constitution with regular elections. However, the King had the power to dismiss the results and his ministers answered to him, not the public. This system was weak and fragile, leading to public discontent and political instability.

  • What was the role of Richelieu as Prime Minister of France?

    -Richelieu, a centrist Liberal, served as the first Prime Minister under the restored King Louis XVIII. He successfully negotiated with the Great Powers for the removal of occupying armies from France and the end of France's reparation payments, returning France to its position as an equal Great Power without the need for war.

  • How did the German Nationalism movement affect the relations between Prussia and Austria?

    -The rise of German Nationalism led Prussia to propose reforms to the German Confederation and revive talks of a united German Empire. This alarmed Austria, leading to tensions between the two powers as Austria, part of the Austrian Empire, sought to suppress nationalism, while Prussia leaned into it.

  • What was Metternich's reaction to the proposal of a German Empire?

    -Metternich, the Chancellor of Austria, was horrified by the proposal of a German Empire. He saw it as a threat to the carefully negotiated post-war order established at the Congress of Vienna and feared it could lead to conflict with Russia over Polish territories.

  • How did Austria's occupation of Northern Italy impact its foreign policy?

    -Austria's occupation of Northern Italy led to a shift in its national priorities, as it became an occupier and colonizer. This occupation was costly and difficult to manage, leading to increased taxation and further alienation of the Italian population, which in turn fueled nationalist movements.

  • What was the outcome of the Spanish political crisis in the early 1820s?

    -The Spanish political crisis led to the removal of the King by the Republican-backed military. However, instead of negotiating with the Liberals, the King, with the support of France, refused to compromise, leading to a prolonged period of political instability in Spain.

  • How did the British Foreign Secretary George Canning influence the international response to the Spanish crisis?

    -George Canning, the British Foreign Secretary, declared British neutrality in the Spanish crisis but expressed hope for the success of the Spanish Liberals. This stance signaled to other powers that Britain would not support attempts to suppress liberal movements in Europe, potentially altering the balance of power.

  • What was the significance of the Monroe Doctrine in relation to British interests?

    -The Monroe Doctrine, developed in collaboration with Canning, declared that the Americas were no longer open for European colonization. This effectively locked in Britain's existing colonies and prevented other European powers from expanding in the region, with the United States committing to resist any such attempts, thereby defending British interests.

Outlines

00:00

🌧️ The Year Without a Summer

This paragraph discusses the unusual weather conditions of 1816, known as 'The Year Without a Summer,' caused by volcanic eruptions that altered global weather patterns. The cold temperatures and increased rainfall led to crop failures and famine across Europe, with significant impacts on agriculture and societal stability. The paragraph also highlights the political implications of the crisis, particularly in France, where the restored monarchy faced public outrage and the beginning of a series of political upheavals.

05:04

👑 The Struggle for Power in Post-Napoleonic France

The paragraph delves into the political landscape of France after Napoleon, focusing on the challenges faced by King Louis XVIII and his Prime Minister, Richelieu. It describes the delicate balance between the Ultra-Conservatives, who sought to increase royal and aristocratic power, and the Republicans, who wanted to continue the revolution's work. The paragraph also discusses the limitations of the French constitution and the political instability it created, setting the stage for future conflicts.

10:06

🌍 The Rise of German Nationalism and Metternich's Response

This section explores the rise of German Nationalism and the differing reactions of Austria and Prussia. It details the Prussian proposal for a united German Empire and the conservative Metternich's resistance to the idea, fearing the potential for war with Russia over Polish territories. Metternich's efforts to maintain the status quo in the German Confederation and his focus on preventing revolution are highlighted, as well as the impact of Austria's occupation of Northern Italy on its foreign policy and domestic priorities.

15:07

🇪🇸 The Spanish Crisis and the Test of the Post-War Order

The paragraph discusses the Spanish Crisis, which threatened the post-Napoleonic peace. It describes the struggle between the absolutist Spanish King and the Liberal Spanish Legislature, leading to a potential civil war. The King's call for international intervention to restore his powers risked escalating the conflict into a larger European war, with Britain's Foreign Secretary Castlereagh opposing any intervention and advocating for non-interference in Spain's internal affairs.

20:12

🔄 The Shift in British Foreign Policy and the Monroe Doctrine

This section focuses on the changes in British foreign policy under the new Foreign Secretary, George Canning, following Castlereagh's death. Canning's non-interventionist stance and support for the Spanish Liberals against French intervention are detailed. The paragraph also discusses Canning's collaboration with the United States to establish the Monroe Doctrine, which aimed to prevent future European colonization in the Americas and solidify British influence in the region.

25:15

🌐 The Aftermath of the Spanish Crisis and the Emergence of Britain

The paragraph reflects on the outcomes of the Spanish Crisis, noting the increased instability in Spain and the lessons learned by the Great Powers. It highlights Metternich's waning influence and the new prominence of Britain as a global power under Canning's leadership. The ideological shift in France towards conservatism and its consequences for the 19th century are also discussed, setting up the context for future events.

Mindmap

Keywords

💡The Year Without a Summer

The term 'The Year Without a Summer' refers to the year 1816, which was marked by abnormally cold weather conditions due to volcanic eruptions. This led to widespread crop failures and famine in Europe, as described in the script. It illustrates the profound impact of natural disasters on human societies and economies.

💡Volcanic Eruptions

Volcanic eruptions are the release of molten rock, ash, and gases from a volcano. In the context of the video, the eruptions altered global weather patterns, leading to the 'Year Without a Summer' and had significant effects on agriculture and society, particularly in Europe.

💡Crops Failure

Crops failure refers to the inability of crops to grow or yield a harvest due to various factors, such as unfavorable weather conditions. In the video, the cold temperatures and overcast weather during 'The Year Without a Summer' led to widespread crops failure, causing famine and economic hardship.

💡Famine

Famine is a widespread scarcity of food, usually accompanied by malnutrition, starvation, and death. In the video, the failure of crops due to the cold weather in 1816 led to widespread famine in Europe, as people struggled to find enough to eat.

💡Liberalism

Liberalism is a political and moral philosophy based on individual rights, democracy, and equality. In the video, Liberalism is taking hold in France after the restoration of the monarchy, with the establishment of a Liberal constitution and the protection of reforms from the French Revolution.

💡German Nationalism

German Nationalism is the ideology that promotes the unity, culture, and interests of the German people. In the video, the rise of German Nationalism within the newly formed German Confederation is causing concern among the Great Powers, particularly in the context of Prussia's desire to form a united German Empire.

💡Metternich

Metternich, or Klemens von Metternich, was an Austrian statesman who played a major role in reshaping the European political landscape after the Napoleonic Wars. Known for his conservative approach, he sought to maintain the balance of power and suppress revolutionary movements. In the video, his policies and actions, particularly regarding the occupation of Italy and the German Confederation, are discussed as key factors in the political dynamics of the time.

💡Richelieu

Richelieu, or Armand-Emmanuel de Vignerot du Plessis, was a French statesman who served as Prime Minister under King Louis XVIII. He is known for his centrist Liberal policies and his role in the diplomatic reintegration of France into the international community after the Napoleonic Wars. In the video, his steady leadership and successful negotiations with the Great Powers are highlighted.

💡Monroe Doctrine

The Monroe Doctrine is a policy of the United States that opposes European colonialism in the Americas. It was articulated in 1823 by U.S. Secretary of State John Quincy Adams and supported by British Foreign Secretary George Canning. The doctrine declared that further European colonization in the Americas was not to be tolerated and that any European intervention in the affairs of the Americas would be considered a hostile act.

💡Pax Britannica

Pax Britannica refers to the period of relative peace and stability that was enforced by the British Empire during the 19th and early 20th centuries. This term, derived from the Pax Romana, signifies the influence of the British naval power in maintaining a balance of power and preventing large-scale conflicts, particularly among European powers.

💡Spanish Crisis

The Spanish Crisis refers to a series of political events in the early 19th century, particularly the struggle between the absolutist Spanish King and the liberal Spanish Legislature. The crisis escalated when the King appealed to the Great Powers for intervention, leading to France's occupation of Spain and the rise of revolutionary movements. This crisis tested the post-Napoleonic international order and influenced the political dynamics among European powers.

Highlights

The Year Without a Summer occurred in 1816 due to volcanic eruptions that altered global weather patterns.

The 1810s were the coldest decade in 500 years, with 1816 being particularly disastrous for agriculture and leading to famine.

The French were furious at their government for the environmental catastrophe and the resulting hardships.

King Louis XVIII of France had to break his promise to lift taxes on the poor due to the crisis.

The French political system was fragile, with the King having the power to dismiss the Prime Minister and the ministers not being accountable to the public.

Richelieu, as Prime Minister of France, successfully negotiated the removal of occupying armies and end of reparation payments, restoring France as a Great Power.

The rise of German Nationalism within the German Confederation caused concern among the Great Powers.

The Austrian Empire and Prussia had different approaches to nationalism, with Austria seeking to suppress it and Prussia embracing it.

Metternich's focus on preventing a French-style revolution in Germany distracted him from other important issues in Europe.

Austria's occupation of Northern Italy led to financial and administrative difficulties, as well as a rise in Italian nationalism.

The Spanish King's absolutist rule after the defeat of Napoleon led to a political crisis and the threat of civil war.

The Spanish crisis highlighted the ideological shift in France towards conservatism, which had significant implications for the 19th century.

British Foreign Secretary George Canning's policy of nonintervention and support for liberal movements made him popular and strengthened Britain's position as a Great Power.

Canning's diplomatic maneuvering led to the recognition of South American independence and the establishment of the Monroe Doctrine.

The Monroe Doctrine, although unenforceable by the United States alone, effectively prevented European powers from colonizing the Americas, thus protecting British interests.

The Spanish crisis demonstrated the fragility of the post-Napoleonic peace and the shifting balance of power among the Great Powers.

Transcripts

00:00

It was 1816, and after almost 25 years of unrelenting warfare, Europe had been at peace

00:08

for one year.

00:09

The reprieve had been a blessing.

00:13

In England, one could see a familiar sight.

00:16

The wind was still bitterly cold and the sky was still grey, but the snow was finally starting

00:22

to retreat from the hills and the trees had just begun to bloom.

00:26

Farmers shuffled about in their fields, fretting over whether they planted too early.

00:31

They took inventory of their winter stores, and wondered if they might go hungry before

00:37

the first harvest came in.

00:39

These were all normal sights for the early spring, but this year, something had gone

00:44

terribly wrong.

00:46

This was all happening in June.

00:52

They called 1816 “The Year Without a Summer.”

01:01

It happened for complicated reasons, but basically there was an unlucky combination of volcanic

01:06

eruptions that altered global weather patterns for 2 or 3 years.

01:11

In some parts of the world the changes were relatively minor and went by unnoticed, but

01:16

in others, the changes were catastrophic.

01:19

In Europe, they happened to be catastrophic.

01:23

That July turned out to be the coldest July on record.

01:27

That summer turned out to be the coldest summer on record.

01:31

That decade of the 1810s would be the coldest decade in 500 years, all the way back to the

01:37

1300s.

01:38

You might be thinking to yourself “okay, so it was unusually cold,” but the problem

01:44

waosn’t that it was cold.

01:46

The problem was that nothing grew.

01:49

Most plants don’t really grow unless the temperature is above 10°C. In London, England,

01:55

it’s below 10° for about 66 days on the average year.

02:00

In 1816, it was below 10° for 146 days, which meant that there were significant non-growing

02:08

periods scattered throughout the spring and even the summer.

02:12

That fact alone would have been bad enough, but there was another issue.

02:16

The changes to the weather caused most of Europe to be unusually overcast and rainy.

02:23

Farmers in France usually had to deal with 8 days of rain per month in the summer.

02:29

In 1816, they had 20 days of rain per month.

02:33

In England, crops had just begun to sprout when they got 8 straight weeks of rain.

02:40

The rain led to flooding, and wherever there was flooding, crops failed.

02:44

Northern France and the Netherlands basically turned into one giant swamp.

02:51

On average, the cold temperatures and the rain pushed the harvest one month later than

02:56

it should have been.

02:57

In France, it was more like 2 months.

03:00

Farmers relied on early harvests to replenish their stores and get them through the summer,

03:06

but this year, with the harvest pushed back a month or more, you instead saw widespread

03:12

famine in the early summer.

03:13

It became common to see people picking through abandoned fields that had been lost to flood,

03:19

eating unripened or rotten plants straight out of the mud.

03:25

This was how Europe’s century of peace began.

03:29

After 25 years of war, after sending an entire generation of young men into the meat grinder,

03:36

people were reduced to picking through the fields for rotten food.

03:41

What was it all for?

03:43

The environmental catastrophe was nobody’s fault, but people were furious at their own

03:49

governments for allowing this to happen.

03:51

And nowhere were they more furious than in France.

04:03

France was broke, the people were starving, and the country was in the middle of an environmental

04:09

catastrophe.

04:10

The restored King Louis XVIII had come to power promising to lift a bunch of unpopular

04:15

taxes on the poor, but he was immediately forced to break that promise.

04:20

The grumbling began immediately.

04:23

Conditions in France had never been this bad under Napoleon.

04:28

As part of the compromise that restored the King to power, France operated under a new

04:33

Liberal constitution.

04:35

But the constitution was weak.

04:38

France now held regular elections, but the King had the power to throw out the results

04:43

whenever he wished.

04:44

His ministers did not answer to the public, they answered to him.

04:49

This actually made the new system weak and fragile.

04:53

Say what you will about the British system, but at least the British Prime Minister took

04:57

most of the heat.

04:58

If things were going really badly, replacing the Prime Minister was an uncomplicated and

05:03

yet meaningful act.

05:06

Now the French had a Prime Minister too, but their Prime Minister was just an extension

05:10

of the King’s will.

05:12

If things were going really badly, replacing the Prime Minister would not be enough.

05:17

They may need to replace the King.

05:21

The restored King Louis XVIII wisely selected a centrist Liberal named Richelieu as his

05:28

first Prime Minister.

05:30

The centrists in France at this time were extremely supportive of the new French Constitution,

05:35

were comfortable with many of the reforms of the French Revolution, and also favoured

05:41

the restoration of the monarchy.

05:43

They were trying to split the difference between the Ultra-Conservatives, who favoured increasing

05:48

the power of the King and the aristocracy, and the Republicans, who wanted to disseminate

05:54

more power to the people and continue the work of the French Revolution.

06:00

The King favoured the Ultra-Conservatives, but he correctly assessed that there would

06:04

be a popular uprising if he came out of the gates pushing their agenda.

06:09

The centrists would have to do for now.

06:14

The selection of Richelieu was perhaps the wisest decision the King ever made.

06:20

Richelieu was a steady hand, and inspired trust abroad.

06:25

In 1818, he successfully negotiated with the Great Powers for the removal of the armies

06:31

that were occupying France, and for the end of France’s reparation payments.

06:37

In only 3 years, Richelieu had returned France to its rightful place as an equal Great Power,

06:45

and it had all been done diplomatically.

06:48

France didn’t even have to fight a war to re-establish itself on the international stage.

06:54

A small miracle.

06:57

But Richelieu was not rewarded for his hard work.

07:01

For 3 years in a row, the French Republican Left made substantial gains in their annual

07:09

elections.

07:10

The King was forced to dismiss Richelieu in favour of a Prime Minister that could draw

07:14

support from the Republicans.

07:17

Obviously this went against everything that the King stood for, and without the King’s

07:22

support this new Prime Minister was not able to achieve anything meaningful.

07:26

Let’s pause here for now.

07:30

France had successfully re-integrated itself back into the international system by forging

07:36

a moderate path led by centrist Liberals like Richelieu.

07:41

France’s politics had settled around a grand compromise between the royalist Ultra-Conservatives,

07:48

the Liberal centrists, and the Radical Republicans.

07:52

France would have a monarchy, and a Liberal Constitution, and it would keep the reforms

07:59

of the French Revolution.

08:01

France would have an aristocracy, but it would also have elections.

08:05

It wasn’t quite a democracy yet, but it was on that path.

08:10

Hold all of this in your head because it will become important in a future video.

08:23

While Liberalism was taking hold in France, that wasn’t necessarily true in the rest

08:28

of continental Europe.

08:31

Over in the newly formed German Confederation, German Nationalism was on the rise, and the

08:36

other Great Powers were getting nervous.

08:39

The two German Great Powers had different reactions to the Nationalist movements within

08:45

their borders.

08:46

In the multi-ethnic Austrian Empire, the instinct was to tamp it down.

08:51

In the mostly German-speaking Prussia, they decided to lean into it.

08:57

The King of Prussia sent Hardenberg, his Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, to meet with

09:03

Metternich, the Chancellor and Foreign Minister of Austria.

09:07

The Prussians wanted to reform the German Confederation, to which both Prussia and Austria

09:13

were members.

09:14

Riding the wave of German Nationalism, the Prussians wanted to revive talks of a united

09:20

German Empire, uniting the German-speaking peoples of central Europe under one state.

09:27

This new state would instantly become a new Great Power, with enough strength on their

09:32

own to rival France.

09:35

Hardenberg proposed that Prussia and Austria roll their territory into this new Empire,

09:41

but if that proved to be impossible, he alternately proposed that they could create a smaller

09:47

German Empire from the various small German states.

09:52

In this scenario, Prussia and Austria could remain independent and control this new smaller

09:58

German Empire as allies from the outside.

10:02

Metternich was horrified by this idea.

10:05

After such careful and difficult negotiation at the Congress of Vienna to create the German

10:11

Confederation, Prussia wanted to blow it all up after only 3 years?

10:16

Why?

10:17

What was wrong with how the Confederation was working?

10:20

The German states had agreed to band together for military defense and to resist outside

10:26

meddling.

10:27

It was working.

10:28

Central Europe was at peace.

10:30

Prussia and Austria had the strength and the leverage to force their tiny German allies

10:35

to do whatever they wished.

10:37

Wasn’t that enough?

10:40

Why on Earth would Prussia want to start negotiations all over again?

10:45

Metternich’s analytical mind went to work.

10:49

Both Prussia and Austria controlled substantial Polish-speaking provinces in the east.

10:55

If their new German Empire was home to a large Polish population, it’s obvious what would

11:01

happen next, isn’t it?

11:03

Poland would ask to join the German Empire.

11:07

Don’t you think the Tsar of Russia would have something to say about that?

11:11

The Tsar of Russia was the King of Poland, he had threatened a war in order to pull Poland

11:16

into Russia’s sphere of influence only 3 years earlier.

11:20

The new German Empire would instantly be on the brink of war.

11:25

To what purpose?

11:27

Because a bunch of young Germans in Berlin got caught up in the nationalist mood of the

11:32

moment and thought that a German Empire sounded cool?

11:36

What a mess.

11:38

In order to appease Hardenberg and the German Nationalists back in Prussia, Metternich proposed

11:45

some minor reforms to the existing German Confederation so that it might feel a little

11:50

more like a unified Empire.

11:53

The Confederation would operate a federal secret police to monitor any revolutionary

11:59

activity.

12:00

To the same end, freedom of the press would be standardized across the different German

12:04

states and heavily restricted.

12:07

Similarly, student associations at Universities, traditionally a friendly home to revolutionary

12:13

thought, would be outlawed across the Confederation.

12:17

To allow for all of this, the Confederation as a whole would now be able to force individual

12:22

states to modify their domestic laws in the name of preserving order.

12:27

Of course in practice these modifications would not be coming out of the small German

12:32

states.

12:33

The modifications would be coming out of Prussia or Austria.

12:38

All of these reforms have a certain flavour to them, don’t they?

12:42

Metternich was the conservative architect of the post-war order, and it’s clear where

12:48

his priorities lay.

12:50

His singular focus was on preventing a French-style Revolution from breaking out in Germany.

12:56

An understandable fear having just lived through 25 years of war, but I would argue that it

13:02

was a preoccupation that drove him to distraction.

13:06

We have the advantage of knowing what would happen in the future, and we know that debate

13:12

over a potential German Empire would be one of the key questions of the 19th century.

13:18

Metternich had no way of knowing this, but there would be 3 wars fought over this issue,

13:23

to say nothing of what happened in the 20th century, my God.

13:27

I have no idea if Metternich’s intervention at this point could have prevented any of

13:32

those wars, but I do know that Metternich was a lot smarter than me, and when presented

13:37

with this problem, he totally shrugged it off.

13:40

He was so distracted thinking about 18th century France that he wasn’t really thinking about

13:46

19th century Germany.

13:55

As part of the 1815 post-war settlement, Austria got control of Northern Italy.

14:02

As the Austrians moved into Northern Italy, it fundamentally altered their national priorities.

14:09

Before the war, Austria had been a pretty conservative and inward-looking power.

14:15

Northern Italy turned Austria into an occupier and a colonizer.

14:20

A role that Austria was ill-equipped to handle.

14:23

Historian Paul W. Schroeder argued that Austria’s expansion into Northern Italy “forced Austria

14:31

to lead and organize Italy, yet did not really empower her to do so.”

14:37

Austria had to pump Italy for taxes just to offset the massive costs of occupying it in

14:43

the first place.

14:44

It was like a snake eating its own tail.

14:46

The more difficult the occupation became, the more they taxed.

14:50

The more they taxed, the more difficult the occupation became.

14:54

Metternich was the mastermind of the occupation of Italy, and as the occupation began to deteriorate,

15:02

he began to micromanage Italy’s domestic policies.

15:06

Another distraction.

15:07

He brought in a wave of Germans from Austria to help administer the Italian occupation,

15:14

which only further alienated the Italians and made the situation deteriorate even further.

15:19

On the one hand, he was telling the German administrators to defer to the Italians whenever

15:25

possible, while on the other hand he was having the Austrian bureaucracy micromanage everything

15:30

from Vienna.

15:32

Colonization makes hypocrites of us all.

15:40

Dissent was growing, and soon Austria found itself sitting atop a genuine nationalist

15:46

movement calling for Italian unification.

15:50

This was way more than the Austrians had bargained for.

15:54

Metternich set up a robust spy network targeting Italian Nationalists, but this did not make

15:59

the Austrians any more popular.

16:02

Even the more moderate Italians who were willing to tolerate the Austrian occupation began

16:07

calling for a Liberal Italian Constitution.

16:11

This was not a thing that the conservative icon Metternich could contemplate.

16:17

Even geopolitically, the occupation of Italy made a mess of things for Austria.

16:23

The Italian Kingdom of Piedmont had been set up as kind of a neutral buffer state so that

16:29

Austria and France didn’t have to share a border, but Austrian paranoia over Italian

16:35

Nationalism and their goonish spy network had soured relations with their Italian neighbour.

16:42

For their own protection, Piedmont sought to establish deeper relations with France.

16:48

This sent the Austrians into a paranoid tailspin.

16:52

The French were establishing a beachhead in Italy, in Austria’s backyard.

16:56

Were the French behind the rising tide of Italian Nationalism?

17:00

The occupation of Italy had made Austria totally neurotic.

17:05

This was a lesson that every Great Power would have to learn in the 19th century.

17:12

The Austrian expansion into Italy may have looked good on a map, but the occupation did

17:18

not generate any income, did not increase Austrian military prowess, and did not benefit

17:24

Austria geopolitically.

17:25

In the end, it was a total distraction from the important issues in Europe that were threatening

17:32

the fragile peace.

17:34

With Metternich up to his eyeballs with problems of his own making, it would fall to others

17:40

to prevent the next Great Power Conflict.

17:43

The post-war international order faced its first

17:53

major test in the early 1820s.

17:56

The King of Spain, restored to power after the defeat of Napoleon, turned out to be an

18:01

absolutist ruler in the old 18th century style.

18:06

This turned out to be a problem.

18:08

Eighteenth century Spain was dead and gone.

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When Napoleon was in power he imposed a Liberal constitution upon Spain, one that granted

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real political rights to its citizens.

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Virtually all adult men were given the right to vote, and with this change, political life

18:26

within Spain flourished for the first time.

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Elections, newspapers, political debate, all of these things popped up within a few years,

18:35

and the people loved it.

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So when the absolutist Spanish King was restored to the throne, his first move was to tear

18:43

up the Spanish Constitution and return things to how they had been in the 18th century.

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The Spanish Legislature, which was full of proud Spanish Liberals who loved their new

18:56

Constitution, were extremely vocal in their opposition.

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Radical Republicans and Revolutionaries quickly joined forces with the more moderate Liberals,

19:06

which created a genuine political movement.

19:09

Pretty soon, even generals in the Royal Army were coming out in support of the Liberal

19:14

Legislature and the Constitution.

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The King was losing control of the country.

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Virtually overnight, Spain was on the brink of civil war.

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At the urging of his advisors, the King reluctantly - very reluctantly - stepped back from his

19:38

position.

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He would sign onto the Liberal Constitution.

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The King of Spain would become significantly less powerful, and most of the business of

19:46

the country would be run through the Spanish Legislature, which would be freely elected

19:51

by the people.

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Spain would become one of the most Liberal countries in Europe, with stronger political

19:58

institutions than even Britain.

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The King said all of that, but he lied.

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Instead, he began exerting his power by vetoing every little thing that came out of the Liberal

20:12

Spanish legislature.

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He fired all of his elected Liberal ministers and replaced them with unelected men who were

20:20

loyal only to him.

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He then appealed to the 5 Great Powers and called for an international coalition to march

20:28

into Spain and restore him to his full powers.

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A civil war now seemed inevitable, and by making an international appeal, the Spanish

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King was taking an awful risk.

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Once the Great Powers got involved, Spain could turn into the arena for the next Great

20:46

Power Conflict.

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The country could be destroyed.

20:55

Inspired by the courage and the success of the Spanish Liberals, there were uprisings

21:00

in Naples and Piedmont, calling for Liberal Constitutions of their own.

21:06

This movement had jumped international borders, which freaked out the Great Powers.

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It was their worst fears realized.

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It reminded them of the French Revolution.

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Everybody needed to be careful here.

21:20

Metternich was particularly freaked out by the uprisings, not only because of his conservative

21:26

ideology, but also because the countries in revolt happened to be Austria’s neighbours.

21:32

In correspondence with the other Great Powers, he expressed his fears that this may spark

21:38

a wave of Revolution across Europe.

21:41

Since Italy was in Austria’s sphere of influence, the other Great Powers agreed to give Austria

21:47

a free hand to deal with the uprisings however they wished.

21:51

In 1821, Austria marched into the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies to the south and the Kingdom

21:57

of Piedmont-Sardinia to the west.

21:59

In both cases they came to the rescue of the existing Conservative regimes.

22:04

In short order, they put down the uprisings that were calling for new, Spanish-style Liberal

22:10

Constitutions.

22:11

The copycat uprisings were resolved, but the central

22:20

problem of Spain remained.

22:23

Of all of the Great Powers, Britain greeted the calls for a Spanish intervention with

22:28

the most skepticism.

22:29

The Liberals in the British Parliament wholeheartedly supported the Spanish Liberals, but even the

22:35

British Conservatives were sympathetic to their cause.

22:39

They had gone through their own crisis with the monarchy in the 17th century, and even

22:44

the most hardcore Conservatives believed that Britain was better off for it.

22:49

They viewed what was happening in Spain as a part of a natural political evolution that

22:54

every country must go through at some point.

22:57

The Conservatives were in government in Britain, and the Conservative Foreign Secretary, Castlereagh,

23:03

was dead set against any Spanish intervention.

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He publicly declared that he had never intended the Quadruple Alliance, by which he meant

23:12

the 4 Great Powers that had brought down Napoleonic France, to be a “union for the government

23:19

of the world or for the superintendence of the internal affairs of other states.”

23:25

He argued that the Spanish situation was not a threat to the peace in Europe.

23:31

Prime Minister Liverpool agreed.

23:36

The Emperor of Russia, Tsar Alexander, was on the opposite end of the spectrum.

23:41

He believed that the uprising in Spain was the result of a coordinated international

23:47

conspiracy, and that this conspiracy was an active threat to European stability.

23:54

He was fully prepared to mobilize the Russian army and march it all the way across Europe

23:59

in support of the Spanish King.

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This freaked everybody out even more than the uprisings in Italy did.

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Nobody - and I mean nobody - wanted this.

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Metternich was particularly disturbed.

24:16

He wanted to restore the Spanish King to his full powers, but not if it meant having the

24:20

Russian army muddy their boots all over Europe.

24:26

For some time, nobody was quite sure what to do about Spain.

24:35

The Great Powers were all afraid to do anything, and hoped that maybe Spain would just come

24:39

to a compromise on their own.

24:44

During this pause, something unexpected happened.

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British Foreign Secretary Castlereagh unexpectedly took his own life.

24:54

He was replaced by a politician named George Canning.

24:59

Internationally, the news came as a thunderbolt.

25:04

Castlereagh and Metternich had a special relationship, and the two were kinda the co-authours of

25:09

the post-war international system.

25:12

Now Metternich was on his own.

25:14

He had no idea how this new fellow Canning might approach the post-war settlement.

25:27

This news was equally distressing to Britain’s political class.

25:32

The current government was a moderate Conservative government, and Castlereagh had been thought

25:37

of as a pragmatic Conservative that had good relations with the British Liberals.

25:43

Canning had a different reputation.

25:44

He was known as a Conservative-Conservative, kind of an attack dog, rabidly ideological

25:51

and not that well disposed toward the moderates currently leading the government.

25:56

Castlereagh and Canning never really saw eye-to-eye.

26:00

In fact, Castlereagh…

26:02

um, how do you say this, shot him.

26:06

Things got so heated at one point during the war that the two exchanged pistol shots.

26:11

Canning lost.

26:13

So you can understand everybody’s surprise when Canning replaced his longtime enemy as

26:19

Foreign Secretary.

26:21

Many legitimately wondered whether Canning would tear up all of Castlereagh’s peace

26:26

agreements and throw British foreign policy into chaos.

26:31

But everybody was wrong about Canning.

26:35

Everybody.

26:36

In the immortal words of Robert Caro, power doesn’t corrupt, it reveals.

26:42

What did Canning’s newfound power reveal about him?

26:47

Well, before Castlereagh’s death, Castlereagh had been consumed with the project of disentangling

26:52

Britain from continental European affairs.

26:56

Castlereagh didn’t want to be sending the British army all over Europe to put down minor

27:00

uprisings from people that were only asking for quite sensible reforms.

27:04

To the surprise of all of his contemporaries, the supposed ideological attack dog Canning

27:11

shared that vision.

27:12

No armies in Europe.

27:14

In fact, Canning went even further.

27:17

He shared Castlereagh’s belief that British prosperity depended upon how well they did

27:22

out in the colonies, but unlike Castlereagh, he thought that trade, rather than colonialism,

27:29

was really the thing that set Britain apart.

27:32

Colonies were only useful in so far as they facilitated trade, they were not an end unto

27:37

themselves.

27:38

To that end, British interests lay in the pursuit of peace.

27:44

Peace facilitated trade, and trade made Britain prosperous.

27:49

Unlike his predecessor, Canning was agnostic when it came to the colonies, and outright

27:54

noninterventionist when it came to war.

27:58

This makes Canning pretty unique in an era that was dominated by colonial obsession.

28:04

Colonialism can make a country prosperous, but it can also be a trap.

28:09

Canning was one of the few people who could see this clearly.

28:14

There is one other thing that set Canning apart.

28:16

He was a deeply committed slavery abolitionist.

28:20

This didn’t make his life any easier, it was a controversial stance for a British Conservative

28:25

to take, and in fact most abolitionists lived in the Liberal Whig party.

28:30

Canning just felt it deep in his bones, which makes him cool, or at least as cool as a 19th

28:36

century British politician can be.

28:38

British politicians of this era liked to talk a big game when it came to political rights,

28:44

but unlike many of his contemporaries, including his predecessor Castlereagh, Canning wasn’t

28:51

a goddamned hypocrite.

28:58

Canning had just become Foreign Secretary when the Spanish Crisis finally boiled over.

29:04

In 1823 the Spanish Legislature, backed by the military, removed the King from power.

29:10

The victorious Spanish Republicans got very excited by this move, and began calling for

29:17

a Revolutionary Spanish Republic.

29:20

This was bad.

29:21

A Spanish Revolution so soon after the French Revolution threatened to plunge all of Europe

29:27

into war again.

29:28

The Great Powers would have preferred to sit back and wait for Spain to resolve its own

29:32

crisis, but they couldn’t ignore this development.

29:36

France acted first.

29:38

After briefly consulting with the other Great Powers, the Conservative King of France sent

29:44

the French Army into Spain.

29:46

Every other Great Power signed off on this intervention.

29:50

Everyone except Britain.

29:53

Metternich signed off on the intervention, but he wasn’t happy about it.

29:56

The international system was on the brink of collapse.

30:00

One false move now and all of Europe would be at war.

30:10

France restored the Spanish King to the throne, and then urged him to hammer out a compromise

30:15

with the Spanish Liberals.

30:17

This was their big plan to resolve the crisis.

30:20

Give the King everything he wanted, and then say “pretty please will you do the thing

30:25

that you have been refusing to do all along?”

30:28

Why would he do that?

30:30

It was an incoherent plan, and it turned out to be a catastrophic failure.

30:36

Having received from the French everything he wanted, the Spanish King refused to even

30:41

meet with his political opponents.

30:44

Not only that, but now the Spanish Liberals, Republicans, and Revolutionaries knew that