What did the Congress of Vienna mean to Britain?


As a result of the Congree of Vienna, Great Britain retained:

Malta, Heligoland ( a small archipelago in the North Sea, two hours’ sailing time from Cuxhaven at the mouth of the River Elbe),the protectorate of the Ionian Isles (the latter by a treaty signed 5 November 1815), Mauritius, Tobago and Santa Lucia from France , Ceylon and the Cape of Good Hope from Holland and Trinidad from Spain.

Most of these places were strategically important as naval bases. Britain appeared to acquire minimal advantages in the settlement, given that she had spent £600 million on the wars. She got no land in Europe, but Britain did gain colonial strength which helped her trade and commerce. Britain became THE European colonial power. Other European countries developed their European status but Britain developed its world status.

Cautious containment of France
Britain wanted to contain France through co-operation with the other Powers. This was a priority in 1815 and was a policy that was shared by all other European nations. Later it became a British prejudice under Palmerston, who failed to see the rise of Prussia. Britain was almost paranoid about possible French expansionism, whether it was diplomatic, territorial or through influence. Britain tried to keep France pinned down within her borders because France was seen as the most dangerous nation in Europe. This policy towards France was rather limited and was maintained for far too long: by about 1850 the Foreign Office was virtually blind to the rise of Prussia, which was a greater threat to the peace and stability of Europe than France. Bismarck and Prussia were able diplomatically to hoodwink Britain

A policy of cautious colonial expansion
This was an example of the Foreign Office being ‘in tune’ with the Department of Trade. There was no suggestion of ‘British imperialism’ as yet – imperialism has strong overtones of ideology and politics as motives for the acquisition of territory, such as the ‘Scramble for Africa’. The early Nineteenth Century saw the growth of British overseas possessions for bases and markets, or as an extension of influence, for example in South Africa or the Far East, through the extension of trade. Britain needed to expand the markets for British goods and also to develop more sources of raw materials.

This was carried out by the physical acquisition of territory – usually islands as bases – as at the Congress of Vienna when Britain acquired or kept Heligoland, Malta, the Ionian Islands, Ceylon extension of diplomatic influence with the motive of expanding markets. For example, Canning’s recognition of the South American republics may be seen as part of this policy. There was little physical presence by Britain. This method became more important as free trade developed.
A market-conscious foreign policy developed as the Industrial Revolution speeded up because of the increased need for cheap raw materials and overseas markets, but not as imperialism, because imperialism costs money and therefore becomes a liability.

A consciously naval policy
The navy was Britain’s trump card, and foreign policy was dominated by the Royal Navy. British power and prestige was strongest in areas that the navy could reach. Often, British success in diplomacy can be gauged by the use of the navy. Sea power was very important and the Royal Navy was the right hand of the Foreign Office, although secondary to diplomacy: the use of the navy was not necessarily aggressive.

This entry was posted in A Level History, British Empire, British India, History, Imperial Expansion 1815-1870 and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s