The Transformation of European Politics, 1763-1848

By Paul W. Schroeder | Go to book overview
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Deceptive Calm and Storms, 1833-1841

AFTER the 1830 revolutions a general calm settled over most of Europe, broken only by stormy weather at its opposite ends, the Near East and the Iberian peninsula. Both kinds of weather were misleading. The tranquillity, apparently a sign of stability and peace, actually was more an indication of stagnation and frustration. Yet one quiet progressive development came about in central Europe which changed European politics in the long term far more than the violent conflicts did. As for these conflicts, they made Europe appear to be ideologically sharply divided into two camps and threatened by war--likewise misleading impressions. The contests in the Iberian peninsula, which involved some ideological rivalry among the powers, were never a threat to the system or the general peace. The Near Eastern crises did seriously endanger the European equilibrium and the general peace, but they had little to do with ideology, and when the threat of European war arose, the Near East was not the prime issue.


In any case, certain European problems were handled during these years with little conflict and almost no danger of war, including the most important international development of the 1830s: the formation and growth of a German Customs Union (Zollverein). After fairly long preparation, it was formed and grew with surprising speed. Its roots went back to 1818, when Prussia, seeing that the German Confederation would not attack the question of customs reform on a German-wide basis, integrated its provinces into a reformed and unified customs system, abolishing all internal customs barriers. The rapid fiscal and commercial success of the Prussian measure, the commercial pressure it put on adjoining regimes, and Prussia's success in annexing small adjacent or enclave German principalities into its system produced


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