Throughout most of this 99-year period, Europe was dominated by five great powers: Britain, Austria (after 1867, Austria-Hungary), Prussia (after 1871, Germany), Russia, and France. The first four were the victorious powers of 1815. At the Congress of Vienna they rearranged the map of Europe, reducing France to its 1792 boundaries, putting Prussia in the Rhineland as a buffer and Austria in northern Italy for the same purpose. France was present at the Congress, still viewed as a major power, but at that point and throughout most of the following century, that nation was viewed with suspicion, as one harboring dangerous revolutionary tendencies.
Two lesser contenders were present on the European scene. The Ottoman Empire, once a formidable power, located in the southeastern “corner” of the Continent (and in the Near East, the Middle East, and across North Africa), was manifestly in decline, a condition that was key to much of subsequent history. A new state was created in 1861, a unified Italy, which toward the turn of the century also sought “great power” status.
The guiding concern for the victorious powers was the maintenance of peace on the European continent. Having the disasters of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era clearly in mind, the leaders of the victorious powers sought to prevent war through collegial discussion and agreement about any major actions to be taken. This arrangement was called the Concert of Europe.