Independence and revolution, both in the English colonies and in Europe, had spawned a series of wars; wars that crossed oceans and challenged the sovereignty of nations. The years of 1814 and 1815 saw the end of much of this conflict as the wars tied to the American and French Revolutions finally came to an end. In France, Napoleon Bonaparte was finally, once and for all, removed from power. In the Americas, the United States defended its sovereignty against a mightier foe, proving that independence had not been a fluke or folly. In August 1814, the US capital, Washington, DC fell to the British, but in September the valiant defenders of Baltimore held firm at Fort McHenry with a legend and a national anthem emerging from the smoke of cannon bombardment.
European powers had grown weary of war by 1814 and sought peace. More importantly, they sought for the means to prevent future chaos due to revolution, and they forged a balance of power system that they hoped might maintain European stability and thereby reduce war. One hundred years later, the balance of power so diligently carved out after the Congress of Vienna and the peace negotiations of 1814 and 1815 was shattered as war engulfed not simply a region but the world in its entirety.
As 2014 comes closer to an end, thoughts should rightfully turn to these long ago conflicts. There are lessons to be learned from the causes and mistakes of these wars. Over the next few weeks, I will seek to identify these lessons. I will look at issues of sovereignty, economic strife, population growth and migration, political competition, and the role of empires in forging peace and provoking war. This is my journey, a journey in which I hope to record my thoughts and observations in a format easily shared with others. It is not my goal to create long lectures but rather create a series of short essays that intrigue and inspire the further explorations of history.