By 1800, the European states system had been developing forjust over three hundred years as a system of sovereign states, linked together by common traditions and interests, but retaining their independence as sovereign decision-making entities. For much of the first decade of the nineteenth century, however, most of the component elements of the system had been absorbed into the hegemonic empire of Napoleon I. It is true that by the end of 1812 that empire was seen to be no longer omnipotent; at one end of the continent, Napoleon had been unable to rid himself of the ‘Spanish ulcer’, as British forces advanced from Portugal into Spain; at the other, his failure to bring the Russians to heel had cost him his Grande Armée. Whether these setbacks were to be anything more than that, the year 1813 would show. The decision by the Russians to pursue the war beyond their borders and into central Europe was, of course, a momentous one; but much remained uncertain. Would it be possible for Napoleon’s opponents in east and west to co-operate to any degree, and to what effect? how would the central powers, still formally Napoleon’s allies, react to the intrusion of – from their perspective – sometimes uncomprehending, even threatening, flanking powers into the heart of Europe? would it be possible to bring Napoleon himself to accept the dismantling of his empire? and even if all this were achieved, would it be possible to re-establish something more akin to the states systems of the past, but more stable and enduring than those?