Visual History of the World




From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists


The Modern Era

1789 - 1914

In Europe, the revolutionary transformation of the ruling systems and state structures began with a bang: In 1789 the French Revolution broke out in Paris, and its motto "Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite"—Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood—took on an irrepressible force. A fundamental reorganization of society followed the French Revolution. The ideas behind the revolution were manifest in Napoleon's Code Civil, which he imposed on many European nations. The 19th century also experienced a transformation of society from another source: The Industrial Revolution established within society a poorer working class that stood in opposition to the merchant and trading middle class. The nascent United States was shaken by an embittered civil war. The economic growth that set in following that war was accompanied by the development of imperialist endeavors and its rise to the status of a Great Power.



Liberty Leading the People,
allegory of the 1830 July revolution that deposed the French monarchy,
with Marianne as the personification of liberty,
contemporary painting by Eugene Delacroix.



German States: The Reshaping of Austria and Prussia



After the Congress of Vienna, Austria sought to exert its influence throughout Europe: Metternich's policy of restoring the pre-revolutionary order decisively shaped European politics and made it possible for the Habsburgs to avoid giving way to demands for reform. The situation in Prussia was different; the humiliating defeat at the hands of Napoleon led to sweeping reforms of the military and bureaucracy aimed at strengthening the state. Therefore the largest German nations developed very differently and eventually became rivals. This explains why Bismarck was able to unify Germany in the 1860s without Austrian support but with the widespread acceptance of the people.


Austria: Weakness and Internal Stagnation

1 The conservative Metternich system sought stability in Europe but left the Austrian empire itself lagging behind the more modern European states.


1 Berlin Concert Hall, built in 1818 on the Gendarmenmarkt, designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel

With the onset of 4 industrialization, the increasingly self-confident middle classes in Europe demanded participation in the political process, while the social protest movements called for relief from poverty and deprivation.

But Metternich's restoration policy, which sought to build up a conservative consensus throughout Europe after the revolutionary wars of Napoleon Bonaparte, stifled any socio-political liberalization.

However, mere repression was not sufficient to hold back popular demands for reform, but 2 Metternich was not far-sighted enough to see that other approaches had to be sought. In 1835 he was confronted by a rival, Minister of State Franz von Kolowrat-Liebsteinsky, who was able to reduce Metternich's influence without implementing the reform policies he had intended, which were blocked by the intensely conservative bureaucracy.

The 3 multiethnic nature of the Austrian state made it vulnerable to the rise of conflicting nationalisms.

In the 1830s, the Pan-Slavic movement emerged in the Slavic states ruled by the Habsburgs. It asserted the ethnic identity of the Slavs and demanded more influence for them in the empire. In Hungary nationalist sentiment grew after 1815 and independence movements emerged.

4 The Austrian southern railway from
Vienna to Baden, watercolor, 1847

2 Prince Klemens Wenzel von Metternich

3 Clash of the Czech demonstrators and Imperial troops
in Prague on June 12, 1848




Separation of the German Bohemians from the
Czech population in Prague
during the revolution of 1848

The Slavic nationalist movement that developed out of Pan-Slavism in the 19th century, especially in the Austrian Empire, was called "Austro-Slavism." The Czechs in particular wanted to be recognized as equal to the Germans and Hungarians within the multinational state.

Historian Frantisek Palacky led the first Slavic Congress in March 1848 in Prague and was later a member of the Austrian upper chamber and the Bohemian provincial parliament. He promoted Czech national identity through his Journal of the Bohemian Museum and the papers he wrote on Bohemian history. Palacky is considered the father of modern Czech nationalism.

Frantisek Palacky





The Prussian Reforms

The Prussian elite reacted to defeat at the hands of Napoleon at Jena and Auerstedt in 1806 with a program of reforms that transformed the absolutist monarchy into a modern bureaucratic state.


During the Napoleonic Wars, Prussia's weaknesses had been ex posed, and comprehensive reforms were considered necessary  5 Generals von Gneisenau and von Scharnhorst began by restructuring the Prussian army.

Through reducing the length of military service, they quickly created a conscript army with about 150,000 reservists, and those outside the aristocracy were given the chance to become career officers. Corporal punishment was abolished.

In 1813 compulsory military service was introduced and a general military school, later directed by the famous military strategist 6 Karl von Clausewitz, was established in Berlin.

7 Baron vom und zum Stein and his successor Prince von Hardenberg reformed the outdated state administration along similar lines.

They reorganized the governmental departments and gave greater autonomy to the individual municipalities.

The Prussian Reform Edict of 1807 abolished serfdom and strengthened property rights.

5 Generals von Gneisenau and von Scharnhorst;
6 Karl von Clausewitz
Baron vom und zum Stein and Prince von Hardenberg

Restrictions on movement and employment were repealed, the power of the guilds was broken, and laws discriminating against the Jews were abolished. In order to train the personnel needed for the state administration, Minister of Education Wilhelm von Humboldt reorganized the Prussian education system and created a model admired and copied across Europe. The state supervised the entire system, providing each child with a general education that emphasized patriotism and duty to the state. From 1809, grammar schools and other educational institutions were established nationwide, and in 1810 the 8 Friedrich Wilhelm University (present-day Humboldt University) was founded in Berlin. The reorganization of land ownership and the priority attached to the development of the army created the foundation for Prussia's emergence as a major power that would dominate Germany.

8 Friedrich Wilhelm University, opened in 1810, located in the former palace of Prince Henry built by J. Boumann between 1748 and 1755



Baron von Humboldt

After serving as Prussian minister of education, Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767-1835) became ambassador to Austria in 1810 and so participated in the Congress of Vienna. After this he served as ambassador to Great Britain. In 1819 he left the state service and worked independently as a scholar.

Humboldt dedicated himself primarily to philology, studying many languages, both living and dead, from Europe to East Asia. Alongside his translations of the classic works of antiquity, he published papers reflecting on political philosophy and developed his own theory of education.

Baron Wilhelm von Humboldt, lithograph, 1827




Discuss Art

Please note: site admin does not answer any questions. This is our readers discussion only.

| privacy