After Napoleon, a period of Reactionary governments swept Europe. Having swung so far one way during the French Revolution and Napoleon's rule, the historical pendulum now swung back the other way, as rulers tried to prevent the "excesses" of the French Revolution from happening again. Fear among the traditional rulers was not without basis, either. Revolution was brewing throughout Europe.

Among the reactionary rulers and leaders of Europe in the post-Napoleonic era, only the liberal, progressive, and fervently Christian Alexander I, Czar of Russia, seemed a wild card when it came to change. He certainly wanted to rule, but he also wanted to change the world for the better. Highly educated, he saw himself as an "enlightened despot" or a "philosopher-king" able to foresee reforms that were in the best interest of all. In 1815, the rulers of Europe were all worried about what Czar Alexander might do. However, once Alexander found out that granting constitutions and self-government to people led to them doing things that he sometimes disagreed with, his interest in liberal reforms began to sour, and he fell further into the reactionary fold over time.

Why was Metternich so upset about possible German unification? He was afraid that a powerful and unified Germany might upset the balance of power, not to mention pose a threat to neighboring Austria. Although Austria did not have a tremendous amount of formal influence in the German Bund, it could put informal pressure on the German states, and Metternich did this heavily in the period to get the Carlsbad decrees passed.

British Parliament designed the Corn Law (1815) to protect the profits of landed aristocrats in Britain. But the action demonstrates the degree to which Parliament was out of touch with the social and political situation. The tariffs raised food prices, naturally affecting the poor. The raise in prices also affected the industrialist manufacturers, who had to pay their workers more to insure that they had people physically able to man the industrial factories. Whereas the poor had no political power, and little tendency to political action, the wealthy manufacturers had both. The teaming up of the manufacturers and poor demonstrated a changing reality in British social and political life. Parliament's eventual recognition of this change can be seen in the Tory government's subsequent passage of a high tax on newspapers as an attempt to limit the spread of ideas among workers. The Tory government even went so far as to restrict the right of public assembly.

Popular pages: Europe (1815-1848)