After 1856, forty years of peace between the great powerswere followed by ﬁfteen years of intermittent warfare. Between 1854 and 1870 all the great powers fought at least one war; Austria, France and Prussia each fought three. The object of all these wars, with the exception of the Crimean War, was the piecemeal destruction of the Vienna settlement. Each of the wars was followed by important territorial changes; the single most extensive revision of the map of Europe between the Congress of Vienna and the Versailles settlement of 1919 took place in 1866. In the 1830s and 1840s liberals and nationalists had condemned the Vienna settlement as reactionary, designed by the forces of dynastic conservatism to serve their own interests, yet in the 1850s and 1860s it was the conservative monarchies that actually destroyed it. They did so quite deliberately. Aggressive wars of national reconstruction and the identiﬁcation of victory on the battleﬁeld with national pride and regeneration were the means by which monarchical conservatism gave itself a new lease of life. Before the revolutions of 1848 the governments of the continental monarchies avoided war in order to strengthen themselves against their internal enemies; after the Congress of Paris some of them sought war for exactly the same purpose. In domestic politics the ruling élites abandoned the policy of total resistance to change; this had united all their enemies against them and produced the crisis of 1848. They realized that survival and a secure future required a more ﬂexible response to the
problems they faced. In the 1850s and 1860s the conservative ruling groups attempted to divide their opponents: they were prepared to make limited concessions to some in order to concentrate on weakening and isolating their most dangerous enemies. This process took different forms in different countries. In Sardinia the liberal monarchist Cavour worked with the conservatives to isolate the radical nationalists. In Prussia, and later in Germany, Bismarck, a conservative monarchist, succeeded in separating the forces of liberalism and nationalism. He borrowed from the programmes of both, and gave to both movements a new character and new aspirations. In France Napoleon III was, in the 1860s, prepared to concede some power to his liberal opponents in an attempt to save his dynasty and contain the republican challenge to his regime. Even the more traditionally conservative Austrian and Russian empires were forced, under the shock of defeat in war, to attempt to come to terms with fundamental problems: in Russia the social basis of the autocracy was modiﬁed by the abolition of serfdom, and in the Habsburg monarchy the political structure was changed by the compromise of 1867 with the Hungarians.