The Austrian Empire 1815-48


Map Code: Ax02499

The Austrian Empire was created in 1804 by the Habsburg ruler Francis I, who correctly foresaw that Napoleon’s hoovering up of the German princedoms and principalities would fatally undermine the Holy Roman Empire. The new Empire teetered on the edge of oblivion in its first decade under the Napoleonic onslaught, but, with his fall, hosted the diplomatic jamboree which determined the post-Napoleonic order in the Congress of Vienna (1815). Ringmaster of the Congress was the Austrian Chancellor, Metternich: the next three decades are seen as the “Age of Metternich” – no wars, steady economic growth but ruthless suppression of any free speech or dissent. Part of Austria’s spoils from the Congress had been effective control over much of the Italian peninsula. Lombardy-Venetia was incorporated into the Empire and contributed the majority of its industrial base and a third of its total tax yield. Tuscany, Modena, Lucca, Parma and the Kingdom of the two Sicilies were all ruled by cadet branches of the Habsburg dynasty. An ageing Metternich would be forced from power in 1848, for failure to adequately respond to the wave of revolutions sweeping Europe. Thereafter, Austrian control in Italy was never fully reasserted, and the second and third Italian Wars of Independence in 1859 and 1866 would result in the loss of Austria’s Italian possessions, first to Sardinia and ultimately to a new independent Kingdom of Italy.

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