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2020 | 118 | 2 | 416-432

Article title

Metternich - der Unverstandene? Schwierigkeiten bei der Erforschung eines Ausnahmepolitikers:


Title variants

Metternich - the misunderstood one? Difficulties in researching an exceptional politician:
Nepochopený Metternich: potíže výzkumu výjimečného politika

Languages of publication



This article explains how the biography of Metternich came about. It is the first biography in ninety years after that of Heinrich Ritter von Srbik (1925). The article formulates eight theses, in which the novelty of the book can be seen. 1) Although the Metternich family originally came from the Rhineland, the Kynžvart (from 1630) and Plasy (from 1825) dominions became the cultural and material foundation of the family. Until 1945, Plasy was also home to the family archive, which is now kept in the National Archive in Prague. 2) Unlike Srbik, this biography makes full use of the Metternich family archive and the personal papers (Acta Clementina). Thus it can come to a completely new interpretation.
3) For the first time, the biography takes into account the many roles of his person (Imperial Prince, Head of the Family, Lord of the Majorat, politician, manufacturer, forester, winegrower) and asks about the development of the Prince from Imperial Count to early industrialist. 4) The new sources show how intensively Metternich experienced the French Revolution from various nearby hot spots: in Alsace, Coblence, Mainz and Brussels; they reveal how the Revolution shaped his thinking and politics. 5) The Revolution did not make Metternich an absolutist or counter-revolutionary, but an adherent of the British constitutional system. His preferred model was based on the political philosophy of Edmund Burke. 6) The new sources show that Metternich was not the political opportunist he had been taken for, but rather a pragmatic political leader who acted in a realpolitical manner but always remained committed to long-term principles. He was a strategist who was always forced to compromise in the face of the temporary supremacy of the Napoleonic Empire and dependent on a fragile Habsburg Empire.
He never lost sight of his long-term strategy (European peace and the internal legal security of the many peoples within the Monarchy). 7) He was also a visionary. This means the imagined anticipation of coming crises, catastrophes or problems or even concepts of a desired peace order up to the ideal of a League of Nations. He saw a permanent source of wars in the will of the various nationalities to each establish a linguistically homogeneous nation state in the middle of Europe. As a counter-model, he envisioned a loose, confederative union of various nationalities based on the model of the Swiss Confederation. 8) Metternich was not the all-powerful „coachman of Europe“. His great adversary Count Franz Anton Kolowrat-Liebsteinsky was in charge of police, censorship and finances within the Habsburg Monarchy. He also had to fight against the Emperor‘s obstinacy and against the selfish interests of Habsburg domestic power politics. His biography is at the same time an examination of European history in the period of upheaval between 1770 and 1850.









Physical description

Document type



  • Český časopis historický, redakce, Historický ústav AV ČR, v.v.i., Prosecká 76, 190 00 Praha 9, Czech Republic


Document Type

Publication order reference


YADDA identifier

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