Bugra or Europe from 1814 to 1914

Bugra book fair Leipzig 1914. Poster with Genius. German National Library Nurenberg. Photo: Wikipedia.

After a generation of warfare on the continent after the French Revolution of 1789 and the Napoleonic wars, peace had finally come to Europe in the summer of 1815, after the last surprise by Napoleon after his escape from Elba. The Paris Peace Treaty of November 1815 concluded the leftovers of the Congress of Vienna (September 1814-June 1815). The Great powers Russia, England, Austria, Prussia and from 1818 France aimed at restoration and consolidation, revolutionary experiments had ended in a nightmare, a ruthless dictatorship and an impoverished continent. No one could have imagined that another experiment one hundred years later should not only mark the end of the Holy Alliance of Tsar Alexander (1777-1825), but also the coming into being of the new European nightmare of totalitarian dictatorships.

The rise of Communism and the fall of empires were not foreseeable fifty years after the Congress of Vienna however. There were civil and regional commotions (a.o. the revolutions of 1830 and 1848 throughout continental Europe, separation of Belgium from the Kingdom of the Netherlands) and local campaigns (on the Crimea (1853-1856) for example), but no major European blazes. The following fifty years showed a different picture. 1864 (conquest of parts of Denmark and Hanover by a German coalition under leadership of Prussia), 1866 (German victory over Austria) and 1870/1871 (French defeat against Germany and on 18 January, 1871, in the Hall of Mirrors King, William I of Prussia became German Emperor of the German Empire). Italy appeared on the map as kingdom as well, after a struggle of almost 1500 years after the fall of the Roman Empire in 476. Versailles became the theatre of peace negotiations, though this time Germany was still in charge and demanded an enormous indemnity (5 000 millions francs in gold) and Alsace and Eastern Lorraine (the legacy of the treaty of Verdun in 843) sowed bitter seeds.

The Versailles Treaty after WOI dates back to the Versailles Treaty of 1871. The period 1871-1914 showed unprecedented economic, technological and scientific progress. The first political parties appeared and citizens in western-Europe, even the poorest ones, could at least hope for e better life, seeing the bourgeois way of life and the rise of the middle class in the cities and provincial towns.

The fin du siècle promised a rose garden. One of the examples is the international fair for the book and graphic industry, the ‘Bugra‘ , that took place from Mai to October 1914 in Leipzig. About 2 million visitors attended the fair and the pavilions of 23 nations until the outbreak of the war in August 1914. Industries and artists from all over Europe gathered and showed their products, works of art, book illustrations and other visual performances. Until August 1st, 1914 thousands of representatives from the great powers and small nations were present, dined together, exchanged ideas and toasted to each other. And suddenly the show was over. An exhibition in Leipzig commemorates this forgotten event, that united Europe for the last time and for a long time to come, actually until November 1989.