World History






























Conservative versus Liberal

Congress of Vienna, 1815

Following the Napoleonic Wars, Europe was ready for a period of calm. Leaders representing the “Great Powers” of Europe met in Vienna to hammer out an agreement meant to undo changes brought about by the French Revolution and Napoleon and to maintain a lasting peace by restoring a balance of poweramong European nations. They sought to prevent any nation from becoming stronger than the others as France had done under Napoleon. Delegates to the Congress of Vienna were members of the aristocracy (upper class), who wanted a return to the old order in which monarchs and the upper class controlled a stable society. People who resist change and try to preserve traditional ways are called conservatives. Society’s “haves” tend to be conservative because they wish to preserve the system that worked well for them.

balance of power = a situation in which nations of the world have roughly equal power.

aristocracy = a class of persons distinguished by high birth or rank, also called the nobility.

conservatives = people who resist change and try to preserve traditional ways; old-fashioned, traditional, strict.

Although conservatives were in control in 1815, many common people still believed in Enlightenment ideas. People who support new methods for improving society are called liberals. Because society’s “have-nots” desire change, they tend to be liberal. Liberals are said to be on the political “left,” while conservatives are on the political “right.” (In the United States the Republican Party is considered more conservative than, and to the right of, the more liberal Democratic Party.) Although the Congress of Vienna succeeded in preventing an outbreak of general warfare in Europe for a century, liberal revolts erupted repeatedly as people continued to seek the Enlightenment goals of freedom and equality.

liberal = people who support new methods of improving society; modern, open-minded, lenient.