Between the old and the new : Friedrich Gentz, 1764-1832
This dissertation reviews the life and political impact of Friedrich Gentz, who was born in Breslau, Prussia, in 1764, and died in Vienna, Austria, in 1832. Though remembered today as only a second- (or even third-) tier statesman alongside such luminaries of his day as Napoleon, Metternich, Wellington, and others, Gentz was nonetheless of importance in the shifting tides of late 18th and early 19th-century politics in Europe. The German translator of Edmund Burke, he was instrumental in bringing the conservative thinker's ideas into the conversations of Central Europe, while his writings against first the French Revolution, then Napoleon, marked him as one of the leading opponents of revolutionary ideology, and led the French emperor to dub him "that miserable scribe." But Gentz was important even beyond his anti-revolutionary polemics. As a product of the Enlightenment, he had some sympathy with the forces of modernity, and his career reflected the struggle to combine an openness to reform with hostility to revolution. In his later collaboration with Metternich to forge what became known as the Restoration, we can see just how much the post-Napoleonic conservative order in Europe was built upon a specific vision, one that rejected the quasi-feudal patterns of the ancien regime just as firmly as it did the democratic radicalism of its own day. Though it ultimately did not last, Gentz's work is clearly visible in the political contours of the 19th century. From the Enlightenment salons of Berlin to the dazzling Congress of Vienna and beyond, Between the Old and the New traces the eventful career of one of the most interesting men of letters in Revolutionary-era Europe.