The purpose of this paper is to identify the major goals behind the foreign policies of France, Prussia, and Great Britain during the period 1660 Ė 1815. Although Britain, France and Prussia were all major economic and military powers during the 1700ís, Britainís development of a solid manufacturing and financial base at home and its ability to project its influence overseas put it in position to be the world leader during the 1800ís.
Prussiaís location in the north and east of Europe left it open to attack by land. It had few natural defenses so it had to develop as a strong land power. The major factor in favor of Prussia was its capable military leadership and strong army. The Prussian state was highly organized and productive in the area of agriculture but did not become an important naval or trading power. The masses of people in Prussia were not well educated and government policy did not encourage their education. A strong domestic economy did not develop. The society and state were restricted and highly organized along military lines. Although Prussia was a strong military power on the European continent, its influence outside of Europe was limited.
The major goal of the French during the period 1660 Ė 1815 was to expand French influence throughout Europe and the world. France was already the major land power in Europe because of its large size, its large population, and the fact that it was able to feed itself with enough resources left over to permit the creation of a large army. France also became an important naval power and competed with the British and the Dutch for overseas colonies and trade. Until the Seven Years War (also known as the French and Indian War), the French were in a position to benefit from the great wealth of the North American continent. However, their defeat by the British in the French and Indian war meant that Britain would be the major power in North America. Even after the defeat in North America, France was still an important world trading nation.
France had some effective leaders such as King Louis XIV and Napoleon. However, the overall French government was not as efficient or as trustworthy as the government of states like Britain and the Netherlands during this period. Government officials often owed their jobs to influence and connections to members of the governing group rather than to their ability. In many instances, they bought their jobs. There was quite a bit of corruption. The way French society was organized there were people at the top and a lot of farmers and peasants at the bottom but not a big middle class involved in business and commerce as in a country like Britain. Therefore, France did not develop complex modern financing methods such as sale of bonds that were used in England to finance the army and navy. The French relied more on direct taxation of the population which was unpopular. Where French leaders did borrow money to finance military actions, they had to pay high interest rates. This was because investors did not have confidence that the debt would be repaid so the only way they would take the risk of lending money was if they were promised large returns.
In terms of geography, France was centrally located in western Europe but leaders such as Louis XIV tried to "round out" the northern border of France by grabbing land from the Hapsburg areas in the Netherlands. This was resisted by the British and others who wanted to maintain a sort of balance of power in Europe. Throughout the 1700s France made deals with different other European powers to advance its interests but as soon as it got too successful, other nations would fear France and start to turn against it. The most obvious example of this was in the early 1800s when Napoleon conquered most of Europe and a large part of the world. However, he got caught deep inside Russia trying to take Moscow and his army could not be supplied at such a great distance. Even worse, he got caught in the Russian winter and lost a large part of his army . Then almost all the European countries ganged up on him and he was eventually defeated at the Battle of Leipzig. His final defeat came at the Battle of Waterloo.
Although France was an important naval power, it could never put the resources into its navy that Britain did because France still had to maintain an enormous army. This was critical to Franceís ability to accomplish its national goals. For example, the defeat of the French fleet by the British at the Battle of Trafalgar gave the British control of the English Channel and ruined Napoleonís plans for an invasion of England. Had Napoleon been able to land his army in Britain, it would have been bad for the English because Napoleon had such a strong army.
When compared to France and Prussia, Britain was a nation where the commercial and manufacturing middle classes were very important to the society. These were the groups in society that helped make Britain the major trading and naval power in the world. Although British monarchs were powerful, they did not possess power to the extent of King Louis XIV in France or King Frederick William in Prussia. British royalty had to consider the interests of the commercial and manufacturing classes. These were also the groups in society that brought about highly developed financial arrangements that made it possible for Britain to efficiently raise the money needed to put together an army or navy in time of war. Also, the fact that the British government was relatively reliable and free of corruption, meant that the government could raise money when it was needed to support an army or navy without bankrupting that treasury.
Britainís population was much smaller than that of its major competitor, France, but its geographical position as an island made a large army less necessary. As long as no other nation could defeat the British navy, England was safe. Also, the fact that the British economy and form of government enabled it to raise large sums of money when necessary made it possible for the British to buy soldiers (mercenaries) and give money to other countries to advance British foreign policy. This compensated for not having as big an army as that of France.
The British throughout the 1700s were a major international power with a lot of influence in the Western hemisphere, India, and Africa. The strong navy tended to strengthen the commercial fleet while manpower and technology from the commercial fleet improved the navy. Throughout this time Britainís international activities were constantly challenged by the French who also wanted to be a major international naval power. For example, the French aided the British colonists in North America in their attempt to break away from Britain (the American Revolution). In this instance, British naval power was not able to defeat the Americans who could largely supply themselves in spite of the British blockade and the stronger British army (even with the help of mercenaries) could not defeat the Americans because it was impossible to subdue the vast territory involved. However, in spite of the loss of the American colonies, Britain remained a major factor in the rest of the Western hemisphere and in the rest of the world. It was also able to put together different coalitions of countries against France such as that which finally defeated Napoleon in 1815. This left Britain in a position to become the major world power throughout most of the 1800s.
chapter 3 notes-
1.) The central thesis is that during the period covered by this chapter the European nations had evolved into something close to modern nation states. The conflicts between the countries were less to do with religious conflicts and conflicts between royal families and more to do with conflicts of national interest. Kennedy says that finance and geography were big factors in determining the goals of these nations and how they pursued these goals. The context of this thesis is the many wars of the period (1660-1815).
2). A. Warfare after 1660 involved much larger armies and more technology than in the past. This was particularly true of navel warfare which involved larger and more complex ships. It came to be the case that a nations ability to carry on a war depended less on the fighting skill of its citizens and more on the governments ability to put together sufficient financial resources to staff and equip the military. In other words, even if your people were all great fighters, if the army was always with out money, it wasnít going to be a effective fighting force. The countries which had efficient ways of getting money had a military advantage over those who did not. Another factor is the degree to which raising money for wars imposed hardship on the citizens of the country. If taxation was too much of a hardship, it was unlikely that the people would support the leadersí war aims.
B. Kennedy says that during this period, the aim of warfare becomes more related to developing the national economy. For example, Britainís strong navy was a factor in making it possible for Britain to be a strong trading nation. Also at this time, more complex finical arrangements made it possible for countries to raise the large amounts of money that were needed to carry on large scale wars. For example, the stability and reliability of British financial policy made it possible for England to borrow money to support armies and the navy. In France, on the other hand, people did not trust the government as much, so money had to be raised more through direct taxes and where the government did borrow, it had to pay higher interest.
C. Kennedy says that the countries with more developed trading and manufacturing economies, such as Britain and the United Netherlands, were most successful in bringing about a financial revolution. Prussia was well organized but its economy was not sufficiently developed to cover the costs of its military. The less efficient governments of France, Poland, the Hapsburg Empire, and Russia were least able to wage modern warfare.
3). A. By the geographical factor, Kennedy means the size and position of the country (wither itís a island or on the continent), its natural resources and its population.
France was a strong power because it was a large country, it had a lot of resources, and it had a large population. France also tried to become a naval power but, because it was both a land and naval power, it was never able to devote sufficient resources to the navy to seriously challenge England. The French government was not very efficient and wasted a lot of resources.
Britain was strong because as an island nation it had been forced to turn to overseas trade for much of its economic development. This had give it a strong navy which compensated for its smaller navy. Also, trade had made England relatively wealthy which allowed it to buy mercenaries and pay other countries to supply troops to advance Englandís military goals.
Russia had a vast population and could field large armies but it was still a very backward nation and its armies were not well supplied and its military leadership was not very effective. In terms of national security, Russia was well situated because its major population centers were so remote from the rest of Europe that and invader such as Napoleon risked getting overextended and caught in the Russian winter if he invaded.
Prussia was another land power in an area of the world where there were few natural boundaries to invasion. The thing Prussia had going for it was a well-organized, efficient state and good military leadership.
The United Netherlands had some natural geographical barriers and a well developed commercial and trading economy. Like England, the Netherlands was a relatively small country which had amassed considerable wealth and influence through overseas trade. However, during the period covered by this chapter, the Dutch were beginning to lose out to Britain which was taking over as the major world ocean power. One thing that hurt the United provinces relative to Britain was their much smaller population.
The Hapsburg Empire (Austria) was in decline at this time. The Hapsburg holdings in southeastern Europe were vulnerable to invasion and conflict. Years of conflict with the Ottoman Empire (Turks) had worn down the Hapsburg Empire. The machinery of government in the Hapsburg Empire had become fairly inefficient.
Poland was geographically vulnerable to attack from Prussia on the west and Russia on the east. There are few natural boundaries to prevent invasions of Poland which is one of the reasons Poland has historically been everyoneís favorite invasion target.
4) A. He wanted to "round out" the French nation in part by grabbing Hapsburgs lands in the Netherlands. He was encourged by the relative decline of the Hapsburgs and the fact that his government had lavished resources on the army and navy. The advantages was that he had the biggest army in Europe and other powers had been bottled up (other wars, other conflicts, no one else was feeling very strong at that time.)
B The clear emergence of Louis XIVís aggressive policies in Europe allowed the British to gather together a coalition of other nations against the French. In the meantime, William of Orange had come over from the Netherlands to take the British throne. William provided more effective leadership against the French who soon found themselves isolated.
C. The United Provices of the Netherlands were at the center of the wars of Louis XIV in part because Louis XIV saw the United Provinces as the main obstacle to his desire to expand French territory and influence. Also, the emergence of France as the major threat in Europe forced the United Territories into a series of alliances with Franceís main opponent, Great Britain. The United Provinces with its small population was unable to defend itself against the French army but French threats against the United Provinces provoked the British to work more closely with the Dutch against France.
D. The "allied capacity to would but not kill" refers to the fact that during the War of the Spanish Succession (as was the case with mostof the wars of this period) there were not decisive victors. The pattern was that a group of countries would attempt some territorial advantage and another group of countries would form up against them and at some point the combatants would start to run out of money and the conflict would wind down without major changes to the status quo. In the War of the Spanish Succession Louis XIVís grandson took the Spanish throne and Louis XIV attempted to use the occasion to make territorial advances in the southern Netherlands. The French-Spanish advance was resisted by the Dutch and British. Although Louis XIVís dreams on conquest were thwarted, the balance of power on land was not greatly changed from the situation that existed before the war.
E. The Treaties of Utrecht-Rastadt revealed that the main desire was for an equilibrium on the European continent. The main beneficiaries of these treaties were the British who gained Gibralter and other territories throughout the world and who forever separated the Spanish and French kingdoms. Dutch independence was preserved but Dutch power continued to diminish as the United Provinces focused many of their resources on protecting their southern provinces from french incursion.
5. A. Power was redistributed in the east from 1660 to 1815 in large part by the continued decline of the Ottoman (Turkish) empire, the decline of Sweden and the increased importance of Russia under Peter the Great.
B. Russiaís size and wealth (both in terms of natural resources and manpower) guaranteed that Russia would be a major power in the long run. The fact that the remaining Hapsburg territories in Eastern Europe were in areas that were vulnerable to attack and involved restless local populations (such as in the Balkans) pointed to continued decline of the Hapsburg Empire. Sweden had overextended itself beyond what was warranted by its population and size. Poland continued to be vulnerable because of its position between Prussia in the west and Russia in the east. Prussia was still a major land power although it could not achieve "superpower" status in part because it did not at this time have a strong navy like France and Britain.
C In 1756 there was a "reshuffling" of alliances in Europe. France joined with the Austrian Hapsburgs and Russia against Prussia. Britain allied itself with Prussia to combine the strong Prussian army with the dominant British fleet and the decisive British ability to produce revenue to finance wars. As the Eastern powers emerged and the Western powers looked for new allies in their conflicts, the international politics of Western and Eastern Europe became more involved with each other.