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The term "Age of Reaction" is often used to describe a historical period characterized by a conservative backlash against the liberal and revolutionary ideals of the 18th and early 19th centuries. This era, which followed the more progressive and tumultuous periods of the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, and the Napoleonic Era, saw a resurgence of conservative and reactionary forces in Europe and other parts of the world. The Age of Reaction is typically associated with the first half of the 19th century and is marked by several key features.

Restoration of Monarchies: In the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars and the Congress of Vienna (1814-1815), many European monarchies that had been overthrown or disrupted during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic periods were restored to power. This included the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy in France and the Habsburg monarchy in Austria.

Conservatism and Reaction: The dominant political philosophy of this era was conservatism, which sought to preserve traditional social hierarchies, monarchies, and established institutions. Reactionary forces aimed to roll back the political and social changes that had occurred during the revolutionary period.

Suppression of Liberalism: Liberal and progressive ideas, which had gained prominence during the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, faced repression and suppression during the Age of Reaction. Governments cracked down on political dissent, and censorship of the press and free expression became common.

Holy Alliance
: The Holy Alliance, formed by Russia, Prussia, and Austria in 1815, was a conservative alliance that aimed to suppress revolutionary movements and uphold Christian principles in governance. It was seen as a counterbalance to liberal and nationalist forces.

Carlsbad Decrees: In 1819, the German Confederation issued the Carlsbad Decrees, which aimed to stifle nationalist and liberal movements in the German states. These decrees imposed censorship, surveillance, and restrictions on universities.

Repression of Nationalism
: Nationalist movements that sought to unify or assert the independence of various ethnic and cultural groups faced opposition from conservative governments. This was particularly evident in regions like Italy and Poland.

Continuation of Slavery: The Age of Reaction saw the continuation of slavery in many parts of the world, including the United States and its expansion into new territories.

Role of Metternich
: Klemens von Metternich, the Austrian statesman, was a central figure in the Age of Reaction. He championed conservatism and worked to suppress revolutionary movements and liberal ideas in Europe.

Literary and Artistic Movements
: Despite the prevailing conservatism, there were notable literary and artistic movements during this period, such as Romanticism. Romanticism often expressed a sense of disillusionment with the political order and celebrated individualism, emotion, and nature.

Challenges to Reaction: While the Age of Reaction was marked by conservative dominance, it also sowed the seeds for future challenges. The repression of liberal and nationalist movements often fueled discontent and resistance, setting the stage for further revolutionary movements in the mid-19th century.

The Age of Reaction was a response to the radical changes and upheavals of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It was characterized by a desire to restore traditional institutions, maintain social order, and suppress the forces of revolution and liberalism. However, it was a transitional period that ultimately gave way to new political and social developments in the later 19th century. > World History > Age of Reaction