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CHY4U The West & the World Unit 2 Lesson #2 18th Century European Conflicts Background The Wars

ars of Religion, the Thirty Years War and the wars of Louis XIV dominated European geo-politics in the 16th and 17th Centuries. All of these wars were essentially contests pitting the strengths of rival monarchies against each other in a direct challenge for the control of European territory. These wars were increasingly financed by the exploitation of New World resources and this fact would not escape the attention of European leaders in the 18th Century. The Economic Situation of the 18th Century The 16th and 17th Century saw the creation of a Global economy, the 18th Century would see the expansion of this system and the significant increase in European wealth as a result. While the domestic economy represented the greatest value, overseas trade represented the most highly capitalized aspect of Europes economic system. The World Economy The 18th Century was dominated by the Dutch, English & French. Amsterdam was still the financial centre of Europe and Dutch merchants still carried the highest volume of trade in all commodities. All major states boasted an East India Company to promote overseas trade. Decline of the Dutch As the Dutch became less politically important, the overseas rivalry increasingly focussed on England and France. This rivalry developed in a much different manner than previous European rivalries as the two leading states of Western Europe directed much of their aggressive energies overseas. The Great War of the 18th Century England, after 25 years of peace, became entangled in a war with Spain over the treatment of British merchants in Spanish ports and colonies. Referred to as the War of Jenkins Ear in England, the conflict soon grew and absorbed most of the major European states. Fighting lasted from 1740 to 1763 with a brief interlude from 1748 to 1756. The two phases of the war, although receiving a variety of names in different countries, have become known in history as the War of Austrian Succession and the Seven Years War. 18th Century Warfare Often referred to as the classical age of warfare. War tended to be slow, formal, elaborate and rather indecisive. Most soldiers and sailors were of a class of men deemed economically useless the unemployed, vagabonds and criminals. Soldiers were therefore enlisted for long terms, paid wages, highly trained, housed in barracks or forts, and uniformed in bright dress.

Weapons & Supplies Most weapons were not destructive. Infantry was the main fighting force and their smooth bore muskets, to which a bayonet was often attached, were inaccurate and delivered very little penetrating power. Wounds tended to be non-lethal so long as infection or disease did not set in. Strategy & Tactics As armies were expensive to raise, train and supply; Generals and their political masters were hesitant to use them in direct battle. The need for large stores of supplies meant that many armies rarely operated outside of a few miles from their supply bases. Strategy was generally a chess match where opposing armies would manoeuvre for territorial or geographic advantage, or try to overwhelm smaller enemy units rather than risking a direct engagement with the enemys main force. Absence of Nationalism Nationalism within the European armies did not yet exist. Most soldiers, especially in the British & Prussian armies, were recruited foreigners where various German speaking peoples were the majority. Often times deserters from one army were enlisted into the service of another. Civilized War War thus became a contest between political elites for power, prestige or practical interests. The impact of war on European civilians was negligible compared to the horrors of the Thirty Years War. European governments hoping to conquer neighbouring territory took great care not to damage it, or its people, in the process. Additionally, the focus of war shifted to naval engagements especially between the English & the French. War, in the 18th Century, essentially became harmless political sport where negotiated peace settlements were as easily reached as declarations of war were made. War of the Austrian Succession 1740 - 1748 Was started by Fredrick II of Prussia. Began with his decision to conquer Silesia, a province of the Kingdom of Bohemia, an Austrian Hapsburg possession. Earlier Prussia had signed the Pragmatic Sanction, a general European agreement that ensured that the entire Austrian Hapsburg empire would be inherited by Maria Theresa. Pragmatic Sanction Like all international agreements of the age, it was not worth the paper it was written on. Fredrick was soon followed by the rulers of Bavaria and Saxony who claimed Hapsburg territories for themselves. Spain also joined the war hoping to reclaim lost Italian territories. France entered the war with the hope of conquering Belgian territory. Maria Theresa was supported only by England and Holland.

The Situation in Europe Was easily dominated by the Franco-German-Spanish alliance. By 1742 Fredrick had overrun Silesia. The French & Bavarians took Bohemia and the King of Bavaria was even elected Holy Roman Emperor. By 1745 the French even controlled most of Belgium which the Anglo-Dutch forces were unable to defend. The Situation at Sea Was a complete reversal of the situation in Europe and the outcome of the war in America tipped the balance. The French fortress of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island was captured by a force of New Englanders & the British Navy. British warships dominated the Atlantic trade routes denying French & Spanish ships access to new world trade in sugar & slaves. The French, facing the loss of revenue from their overseas possessions, decided to negotiate an end to the fighting. Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle - 1748 Was based on an Anglo-French settlement which Maria Theresa was forced to accept. The basis for the treaty was a return to status quo ante bellum the way it was before the fighting. The British returned Louisbourg and reopened access to the Caribbean trade routes. The French returned Madras and evacuated Belgian territory. England and France recognized Fredricks annexation of Silesia and forced Maria Theresa to surrender some Italian territories to the Spanish Bourbons. Maria Theresa would have rather lost Belgium and kept Silesia, but the British were unwilling to allow France to occupy this commercially & strategically vital area. Additionally, France did not gain any territory, only its allies did. Impact of the War It exposed Frances weak position as both a European and colonial power, it could not be both. If France concentrated its resources on the army, it easily dominated affairs in Europe but had to sacrifice its naval forces to do so. This allowed England, whos concentration on sea power made it easily dominant in the Americas, to balance any French success by threatening Frances valuable overseas empire. For Prussia, the acquisition of Silesia doubled its population and added an advanced industrial area to its economy more than doubling its resources. German Dualism The transfer of Silesia to Prussia created a situation where two powers existed within Germany. Austria, however, was now more Slavic and Hungarian than it was German. This new rivalry in Central Europe, with Maria Theresa eager to recapture Silesia, ensured that a return to hostilities was imminent.

Diplomatic Manoeuvres Austrias Foreign Minister, eager to deal with his new Prussian rival, abandoned centuries old rivalries and proposed a Franco-Hapsburg alliance against Prussia. Count Kaunitz proposed that Austria would exchange Belgium in return for French support in the destruction of Prussia. This forced Britain to consider an alliance with Prussia to check the French move. A symbol of the new Bourbon-Hapsburg alliance was a marriage agreement between the daughter of Maria Theresa Marie Antoinette, to the future Louis XVI of France. With these moves made, a return to war in 1756 was essentially a combination of the previous war with a reversal of alliances, but the main combatants stayed the same: o Austria fought Prussia. o England fought France. The Seven Years War in Europe France, Austria and Russias main goal was the destruction and partition of Prussia. Prussia, although the smallest of the European powers had, under Fredrick II, the most efficient army on the continent. Fredrick brilliantly commanded his armies and refused to yield even when faced with the near collapse of Prussia. Englands ability to subsidize Fredricks war effort was enough to prop up the Prussian state long enough to hold out against the French alliance. In France, however, support for the Austrian alliance was never strong and with the war against England to be concerned with, soon lost interest in German affairs. The Situation Overseas Was the real theatre of conflict of the war. At stake was supremacy in the world economy, control of the colonies and command of the sea. France & England both held territories in India, the West Indies and North America. Both held important way-stations en-route to Asia. The British held St. Helena and Ascension Island in the South Atlantic. The French held Mauritius and Reunm in the Indian Ocean. In the West Indies the British controlled Jamaica & Barbados while the French controlled San Domingo, Guadalupe and Martinique. Both were equally reliant on the African slave trade. In America, the French held more territory while the British had a greater population with nearly 2 million white settlers. The only sizeable French settlements were New Orleans and Quebec but France did have better relations with local Amerindians. The War in America Concentrated on the possession of strong points. In 1758 British & colonial forces captured Fort Duquesne (Pittsburgh) and Louisbourg. 1759 saw the British under General Wolfe capture Quebec after winning the battle of the Plains of Abraham. English naval forces also captured Guadalupe, Martinique and French slave stations in West Africa. Nearly all of Frances North American and Caribbean colonial possessions fell to the English.

The War in India The situation in India was complicated by the religious war between the ruling Muslim elite and their mass of Hindu subjects. India soon became a politically divided region were local rulers fought each other for control, not unlike the Holy Roman Empire during the Reformation. The European presence on the Southern coasts were merely trade ventures rather than imperial conquests. England dispatched a naval squadron to India to ensure that its East India Company would not be dislodged by France and its local allies. By the end of the war, English naval power had cut off or captured all French outposts in India. The Peace of Paris 1763 Ended the Seven Years War. Britain gained all French territory in North America east of the Mississippi, with all French territory west of the Mississippi going to Spain; all of New France was lost. In return, France was allowed to keep Guadalupe & Martinique along with a return of its African slave stations. This move was largely pushed by English sugar merchants who feared competition from the more efficient French islands within the British mercantilist system. France maintained its Indian commercial stations but was forbidden from constructing military bases or fortifications. Impact of the Seven Years War Confirmed both British maritime superiority and the Austro-Prussian dualism in Germany. Despite being absolutely destroyed overseas, France was able to hold onto most if its more valuable possessions. The most important aspect for England was the maintenance of the European balance of power. French domination of Belgium and other European territories were balanced by losses overseas. For America & India however, the peace was decisive in its almost total removal of French influence in favour of a near complete English predominance. And in Eastern Europe The rivalry between Prussia, Austria and Russia continued, but this time the three powers acted together to carve up Poland. Poland was still, territorially, the largest state in Europe. It was, like the Holy Roman Empire, an empty political state without revenue, an army or central bureaucracy. Internal divisions within Poland, like the Holy Roman Empire, continually looked to outside powers to assist in the pursuit of their own internal goals. These invitations, however, would prove disastrous as by the end of the 18th Century, Poland ceased to exist. The Partitions of Poland Were precipitated by the growing influence of Russia in Poland. Tsarina Catherine II of Russia was able to maintain control of Poland through the election of her former lover, Stanisles Poniatowski, as king. The Prussians, however, desired to add Polish territory that separated the traditional state of Prussia with its newly acquired German territories Brandenburg and Silesia.

What set the Partitions of Poland into motion, however, was the overwhelming defeat of the Ottoman Empire by Russia in 1772.

Balance of Power Prussian & Austrian leaders feared that significant Russian gains at the expense of Turkey would upset the balance of power in the east by strengthening Russia and weakening the Ottoman Empire. Russia agreed to withdraw from Ottoman territory in exchange for Austria pledging not to go to war in support of Turkey and a share of Polish territory. 1772 saw the first Partition of Poland with Russia, Prussia and Austria each taking a slice of Polish territory. A Polish Revival? By 1791, a new constitution was written making Poniatowskis monarchy stronger and hereditary. Catherine, however, feared the influence of French revolutionary ideas in Poland, invaded and crushed the forces of her former lover and agreed to a second partition with her Prussian and Austrian rivals. Another revolution was attempted in 1794, again drawing support from the French revolutionaries, but was crushed by Russia and a third partition finally destroyed Poland completely. War for American Independence While Austria & Prussia were occupied with Poland in the 1770s, Britain & France became involved with another overseas conflict in the Americas. In 1775 a long standing disagreement over colonial administration and taxation in America turned violent and in early 1776, the American colonies declared their independence from Britain. Initially outside of the conflict, French merchants supplied American rebels with nearly 90% of the weapons and munitions used against the British. France hoped to dislodge Englands largest overseas market through indirect assistance, but the English determination to hold onto its rebellious colonies forced France into the War. England & France at War Again In 1778, France officially recognized the United States, allied with the new republic and declared war on Great Britain. To this, Spain entered the war with hopes of retaking Gibraltar and the Dutch also joined in on the American side. French assistance was most significant as a naval squadron and an army of 6000 were dispatched to the United States. By 1783 the Americans were able to defeat the British and gained their independence. This victory however was due more so to the British need to defend its overseas Empire and inability to concentrate its forces in North America rather than a defeat of British forces by the Franco-American coalition. England, essentially, suffered from the same weakness that France previously did.

Conclusions The 18th Century saw a significant development in European warfare and Balance of Power initiatives. Throughout the 16th and 17th Centuries, wars were fought entirely within Europe and were extremely destructive to local populations. The new professional armies of Europe reduced the destructiveness and allowed Europe to expand their theatres of operation. By the end of the 18th Century, wars were often decided more so by the outcome of the overseas operations rather than direct conflict in Europe. Negotiated peace treaties were usually initiated when a state either ran out of money to continue fighting or had too many of its economic interests threatened. In an attempt to maintain a Balance of Power between states, conquests were often returned to their previous owner to ensure acceptance of the peace terms. Although generally indecisive, the wars of the 18th Century did cement a few things: Rivalries within Europe always saw England vs France and Austria vs Prussia. Balance of Power was always the primary motivation of alliance partnerships, declaring war and negotiating peace. Englands overseas dominance was able to effectively balance Frances continental superiority. The cost of war was increasing due to the export of hostilities overseas. It is perhaps the increasing cost of war that is the greatest legacy of these conflicts. The cost of war increased so much so that the financial burden of war would soon threaten even the most powerful of European States: France!