Since Niall Ferguson’s magisterial two volume history of the house of Rothschild, it has been extremely difficult to ignore the importance of bankers in the birth of a newly international world, establishing the networks of communication, and the financial structures that supported the rise of states, and relations between them.
Drawing on secret police reports, personal correspondence, and the publications of individuals involved in the Congress of Vienna, this paper asks what does an economic perspective add to how we understand the processes and outcomes of peacemaking at the end of the Napoleonic wars?
While the pointed barbs of Byron's Don Juan were directed at the forms of power and influence exercised by ‘financiers’ and banks on international affairs, there is, I want to argue, a more complex story to be told of the ways in which new transnational, trans-Continental communications networks and financial structures, shaped the everyday lives of individuals that is not reducable to conspiracy theories or hegemonic banalities. At the Congress of Vienna, numerous banking families were intricately involved in setting the agenda for peace. Their influence extended to the wives, and daughters, whose financial positions gave them a place as salonnières weaving networks of public influence.
This paper is part of a larger project that intends to provide a intellectual genealogy and social history of how, in the years after 1814, politics and economics intersected to make the modern global world. By restoring the private to the history of public events it recovers the mixed ambitions of influential actors with divergent perspectives on economic life at a time that Jeremy Bentham described as increasingly understood as 'international'.