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Metternich, according to A.J.P. Taylor, was 'the most boring man in European history' – a judgement from which few historians who have had to plough through his copious and longwinded correspondence, not to mention his eight stout volumes of memoirs, would dissent. In fact, he himself boasted that he could 'bore men to death' and often put visitors to sleep. The young Bismarck, for example, slept through one long monologue and Disraeli is suspected of having done the same. Yet there is no escaping him because, like Hilary's Mount Everest, he was simply there. For almost forty years he shaped the foreign policy of the Habsburg Monarchy and played a very large part in its domestic affairs. Consequently he is an historical figure of the first importance and cannot be avoided. Like all major historical figures, moreover, he is steeped in controversy. The historian's task is to judge and judgements on Metternich have been many and varied. At present, on the whole, they stand against him. Most textbook writers see him as a reactionary figure whose obsession with suppressing revolution – the Revolution and with a capital R from his point of view – frustrated the establishment of moderate, constructive, reforming régimes in Central Europe.

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