Vienna — from September 1814 to June 1815, the glittering backdrop for a grand gathering to negotiate the plans for peace and for a new Europe that marked the end of the Napoleonic wars. Crowned heads and lesser nobility came from across Europe, as did diplomatic delegations and representatives of principalities, kingdoms, states, and interests great and small, to jostle over control of the political agenda, and among them some of the most influential women of Europe — princesses seeking their own lands, intellectuals and salonnières, great beauties, mistresses, and companions. Around them others had also gathered to observe, to lobby and influence, curry favour, inveigle and conspire their way into the heart of events. Through nine months of balls and banquets, picnics in the Prater and sleigh-rides through the snow, and even the resurgence of war when Napoleon escaped from Elba, and above all through interminable negotiations, a new version of Europe was slowly put together.

The Congress of Vienna has a seemingly immutable place in the history of international relations and political modernity, as the prototype of Versailles and the United Nations, and as the actual moment when Europe sloughed off its cosmopolitan past and entered its national future. It is these ideas and events that this website explores and illustrates by means of a combination of texts, images, and contemporary archival sources. This website will also feature a new collection of primary sources bringing to historical light the views of women who were involved in, and reported on these epoch-changing gatherings.

The material on this website derives from work on the Congress undertaken by Professor Glenda Sluga at the University of Sydney, carried out with the support of the Australian Research Council, and the assistance of Roderic Campbell. It forms part of Professor Sluga’s project entitled ‘The International History of Cosmopolitanism’, whose aim more broadly is to deepen our historical understanding of cosmopolitanism and nationalism in the early nineteenth century.