The Congress of Vienna as a Missed Opportunity: Conservative visions of a new European order after Napoleon

Matthijs Lok

Cambridge University Press



The European order created at the Congress of Vienna has often been characterised as an attempt to repress the revolutionary spirit inspired by a conservative ‘philosophy of fear’. This chapter presents an alternative vision of post-revolutionary conservative Europeanism, not as a local or national reaction to the universalism of Enlightenment and Revolution, but as a ‘counter-revolutionary international’ of ‘conservative cosmopolitanism’, embodied by anti-revolutionary émigrés, and those who contributed to an international coalition against Napoleon. More than longing for an imagined Ancien Régime or a distant medieval past, conservative Europeanism was inspired by ideas of spiritual as well as moral regeneration of a Christian European civilisation in decay, similar to notions of renewal proposed by progressive authors in the ‘European moment’ after 1814.

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