International relations, 1648–1814

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After the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, Europe's borders were largely stable. 1708 map by Herman Moll

International relations from 1648–1814 covers the major interactions of the nations of Europe, as well as the other continents, with emphasis on diplomacy, warfare, migration, and cultural interactions, from the Peace of Westphalia to the Congress of Vienna. It is followed by International relations of the Great Powers (1814–1919).

Diplomacy and warfare[edit]

The 17th century, 1601–1700, saw very little peace in Europe – major wars were fought every year except 1610, 1669 to 1671, and 1680 to 1682,[1] the wars were unusually ugly. Europe in the late 17th century, 1648 to 1700, was an age of great intellectual, scientific, artistic and cultural achievement. Historian Frederick Nussbaum says it was:

prolific in genius, in common sense, and in organizing ability. It could properly have been expected that intelligence, comprehension and high purpose would be applied to the control of human relations in general and to the relations between states and peoples in particular, the fact was almost completely opposite. It was a period of marked unintelligence, immorality and frivolity in the conduct of international relations, marked by wars undertaken for dimly conceived purposes, waged with the utmost brutality and conducted by reckless betrayals of allies.[2]

The worst came during the Thirty Years' War, 1618–1648, which had an extremely negative impact on the civilian population of Germany and surrounding areas, with massive loss of life and disruption of the economy and society. Scholars taking a "realist" perspective on wars and diplomacy have emphasized the Peace of Westphalia (1648) as a dividing line, it ended the Thirty Years War (1618–1648), where religion and ideology had been powerful motivating forces for warfare. Westphalia, in the realist view, ushered in an new international system of sovereign states of roughly equal strength, dedicated not to ideology or religion but to enhance status, and territorial gains, the Catholic Church, for example, no longer devoted its energies to the very difficult task of reclaiming dioceses lost to Protestantism, but to build large-scale missions in overseas colonial possessions that could convert the natives by the thousands Using devoted members of society such as the Jesuits.[3] According to Scott Hamish, the realist model assumes that "foreign policies were guided entirely by "Realpolitik," by the resulting struggle for resources and, eventually, by the search for what became known as a 'balance of power.'[4]

Diplomacy before 1700 was not well developed, and chances to avoid wars were too often squandered; in England, for example, King Charles II paid little attention to diplomacy, which proved disastrous. During the Dutch war of 1665–67, England had no diplomats stationed in Denmark or Sweden. When King Charles realized he needed them as allies, he sent special missions that were uninformed about local political, military, and diplomatic situations, and were ignorant of personalities and political factionalism. Ignorance produced a series of blunders that ruined their efforts to find allies.[5]

France set the standards for the new professional diplomacy, which were soon emulated by the other powers; the French language became the diplomatic tongue. The professional model slowly spread other national government agencies, and included distinct specified scope of operations, a full-time career oriented professional leadership at the top and middle ranks; a code of ethics and standards of expected behavior; and attractive pay scales and retirement pensions. Expertise was highly valued, although at the very highest level aristocratic status and family connections played an important role, the new bureaucracy preserved its documents carefully and central archives, maintain a professional office staff,, and gained a reputation at home and abroad for the quality of its work in expressing both the short term needs and long-term alliances and values of the state.[6] King Louis XIV of France worked hard to systematically develop the most sophisticated diplomatic service, with permanent ambassadors and lesser ministers in major and minor capitals, all preparing steady streams of information and advice to Paris. Diplomacy became a career that proved highly attack attractive to rich senior aristocrats who enjoyed very high society at royal courts, especially because they carried the status of the most powerful nation in Europe. Increasingly, other nations copied the French model; French became the language of diplomacy, replacing Latin.[7] By 1700, the British and the Dutch, with small land armies, large navies, and large treasuries, used astute diplomacy to build alliances, subsidizing as needed land powers to fight on their side, or as in the case of the Hessians, hiring regiments of soldiers from mercenary princes in small countries,[8] the balance of power was very delicately calculated, so that winning a battle here was worth the slice of territory there, with no regard to the wishes of the inhabitants. Important peacemaking conferences at Utrecht (1713), Vienna (1738), Aix-la-Chapelle (1748) and Paris (1763) had a cheerful, cynical, game-like atmosphere in which professional diplomats cashed in victories like casino chips in exchange for territory.[9]

France as the pivot of warfare[edit]

In 1648 France was the leading European power, and most of the wars pivoted around its aggressiveness. Only poverty-stricken Russia exceeded it in population, and no one could match its wealth, central location, and very strong professional army, it had largely avoided the devastation of the Thirty Years War. Its weaknesses included an inefficient financial system that was hard-pressed to pay for all the military adventures, and the tendency of most other powers to gang up against it.

During the very long reign of King Louis XIV (1643–1715), France fought three major wars: the Franco-Dutch War, the War of the League of Augsburg, and the War of the Spanish Succession. There were also two lesser conflicts: the War of Devolution and the War of the Reunions,[10] the wars were very expensive but they defined Louis XIV's foreign policies, and his personality shaped his approach. Impelled "by a mix of commerce, revenge, and pique," Louis sensed that warfare was the ideal way to enhance his glory; in peacetime he concentrated on preparing for the next war. He taught his diplomats that their job was to create tactical and strategic advantages for the French military.[11] By 1695, France retained much of its dominance, but had lost control of the seas to the combination of England and Holland. What's more, most countries, both Protestant and Catholic, were in alliance against it. Vauban, France's leading military strategist warned that king in 1689 that a hostile "Alliance" was too powerful at sea. He recommended the best way for France to fight back was to license French merchants ships to privateer and seize enemy merchant ships, while avoiding its navies:

France has its declared enemies Germany and all the states that it embraces; Spain with all its dependencies in Europe, Asia, Africa and America; the Duke of Savoy [in Italy], England, Scotland, Ireland, and all their colonies in the East and West Indies; and Holland with all its possessions in the four corners of the world where it has great establishments. France has ... undeclared enemies, indirectly hostile hostile and envious of its greatness, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Portugal, Venice, Genoa, and part of the Swiss Confederation, all of which states secretly aid France's enemies by the troops that they hire to them, the money they lend them and by protecting and covering their trade.[12]

Vauban was pessimistic about France's so-called friends and allies:

For lukewarm, useless, or impotent friends, France has the Pope, who is indifferent; the King of England [James II] expelled from his country; the grand Duke of Tuscany; the Dukes of Mantua, Mokena, and Parma [all in Italy]; and the other faction of the Swiss. Some of these are sunk in the softness that comes of years of peace, the others are cool in their affections. ... The English and Dutch are the main pillars of the Alliance; they support it by making war against us in concert with the other powers, and they keep it going by means of the money that they pay every year to ... Allies. ... We must therefore fall back on privateering as the method of conducting war which is most feasible, simple, cheap, and safe, and which will cost least to the state, the more so since any losses will not be felt by the King, who risks virtually nothing. ... It will enrich the country, train many good officers for the King, and in a short time force his enemies to sue for peace.[13]

Europe 1648–1721[edit]

The European political scene changed in the late 17th century. Warfare was still more powerful influence than demography, economics or diplomacy, so the major changes resulted from a series of large wars, at first France, with the largest population in the West, a well-developed economy, and a good Navy, was predominant.[14] It lost part of its preeminence in stages during a series of major wars: the Nine Years War, the War of the Spanish Succession, the Turkish wars of 1683–1699 and 1714–1718, and the great Northern war. Europe was largely regionalized, with wars fought either in the West, the North, or the Southeast. By 1700, there were five major states, Britain, France, Spain, Russia, and the Habsburg monarchy (also called Austria, or the Holy Roman Empire). Prussia was emerging primarily because of its aggressive leadership and its advances in the military arts. Spain, the Netherlands, Poland, Venice, Sweden and the Ottoman Empire were declining powers after losses in a series of wars,[15] the 1659 treaty of the Pyrenees marked Spain's submission to France.The major powers each developed sophisticated diplomatic, military, and financial systems at the national level, with a striking fall-off of the autonomy of regional aristocrats. England, although wracked with an intense civil war (1642–1646), managed to gain strength internationally, its Royal Navy reigned supreme on the oceans after a series of wars with the Netherlands. As an island nation secure from invasion, it could keep its army small, and invest in subsidies to support the armies of smaller countries to maintain its alliances. Its policy was to use diplomacy and enter wars on the weaker side so as to maintain a balance of power, and to thwart the danger of France maintaining its preeminence.[16]

Population and army strength[edit]

Main European countries Population about 1648 Army about 1690
France 15 million 130 thousand
Holy Roman Empire (Austria) 8 50
Italian states 12
Low Countries 3.5 73 (Netherlands)
British Isles 7.5 80 (England)
Scandinavia 2.5 90 (Sweden)
Source: Stearns, Encyclopedia (2001) p 284 Blanning, Pursuit of Glory (2007) p 289

Great Turkish War: 1683–1699[edit]

The Ottoman Empire in 1683; core possessions in dark green; vassal or autonomous areas in light green.

The Great Turkish War or the "War of the Holy League" was a series of conflicts between the Ottoman Empire and ad-hoc European coalition the Holy League (Latin: Sacra Ligua). The coalition was organized by Pope Innocent XI and included the Papal States, the Holy Roman Empire under Habsburg Emperor Leopold I, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth of John III Sobieski, and the Venetian Republic; Russia joined the League in 1686. Intensive fighting began in 1683 when Ottoman commander Kara Mustafa brought an army of 200,000 soldiers to besiege, Vienna,[17] the issue was control of Central and Eastern Europe. By September, the invaders were defeated in full retreat down the Danube, it ended with the signing of the Treaty of Karlowitz in 1699. The war was a defeat for the Ottoman Empire, which for the first time lost large amounts of territory, it lost lands in Hungary and Poland, as well as part of the western Balkans. The war marked the first time Russia was involved in a western European alliance.[18][19]

Nine Years War: 1688–1697[edit]

The Nine Years' War (1688–97) also called the War of the League of Augsburg was a major conflict between France and a European-wide coalition of Austria and the Holy Roman Empire, the Dutch Republic, Spain, Britain, and Savoy, it was fought on the European continent and the surrounding seas, Ireland, North America and in India. It is sometimes considered the first truly global war, it also encompassed a theatre in Ireland and in Scotland, where William III and James II struggled for control of Britain and Ireland, and a campaign in colonial North America between French and English settlers and their respective Indian allies, today called King William's War by Americans.[20]

Louis XIV had emerged from the Franco-Dutch War in 1678 as the most powerful monarch in Europe, an absolute ruler who had won numerous military victories. Using a combination of aggression, annexation, and quasi-legal means, Louis XIV set about extending his gains to stabilize and strengthen France's frontiers, culminating in the brief War of the Reunions (1683–84), the resulting Truce of Ratisbon guaranteed France's new borders for twenty years, but Louis XIV's subsequent actions – notably his revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 – led to the deterioration of his military and political dominance. Louis XIV's decision to cross the Rhine in September 1688 was designed to extend his influence and pressure the Holy Roman Empire into accepting his territorial and dynastic claims, but when Leopold I and the German princes resolved to resist, and when the States General and William III brought the Dutch and the English into the war against France, the French King at last faced a powerful coalition aimed at curtailing his ambitions.

The main fighting took place around France's borders: in the Spanish Netherlands; the Rhineland; Duchy of Savoy; and Catalonia. The fighting generally favoured Louis XIV's armies, but by 1696 his country was in the grip of an economic crisis, the Maritime Powers (England and the Dutch Republic) were also financially exhausted, and when Savoy defected from the Alliance all parties were keen for a negotiated settlement. By the terms of the Treaty of Ryswick (1697) Louis XIV retained the whole of Alsace, but he was forced to return Lorraine to its ruler and give up any gains on the right bank of the Rhine. Louis XIV also accepted William III as the rightful King of England, while the Dutch acquired their Barrier fortress system in the Spanish Netherlands to help secure their own borders. However, with the ailing and childless Charles II of Spain approaching his end, a new conflict over the inheritance of the Spanish Empire would soon embroil Louis XIV and the Grand Alliance in a final war – the War of the Spanish Succession.

Great Northern War: 1700–1721[edit]

The Swedish Empire at its height in 1658

Sweden 1560–1660 had engaged in large-scale territorial expansion in the Baltic region, at the expense of Denmark and Poland.[21]

Baltic Sea region in 21st century

In 1700, Denmark, Poland and Russia, the countries that had lost the most territory to Sweden, jointly declared war. Denmark was soon forced to peace after a joint intervention of Swedish, English and Dutch armies. King Charles XII took his Swedish army to the Baltic provinces, where Russian and Polish armies were laying siege to several towns, he defeated the Russian army in the Battle of Narva. Charles then moved into Poland with the intent of dethroning the Polish king Augustus II, this took several years, but in 1706, with the Treaty of Altranstädt, he reached his goal.

In the meantime, Russia had managed to take possession of several towns by the Baltic Sea. Instead of trying to retake these, Charles chose to march directly on Moscow, but due to extremely cold weather, failures in his supply lines and the Russian scorched earth strategy, he was forced to turn towards Ukraine, he had lost most of his soldiers and supplies but Charles, trusting in supposedly superior skills, faced the Russians in 1709.[22] Russia under Tsar Peter the Great had recently modernized its military forces, and won a decisive victory at the Battle of Poltava. Charles managed to escape south to the Ottoman Empire, which gave him refuge for six years. Following Poltava, Poland and Denmark re-entered the war, along with other countries wanting parts of the Swedish provinces; in the following years, most of them would fall, and Russia occupied the eastern half of Sweden (present-day Finland). Sweden lost control of the eastern Baltic and never recovered its former greatness. Instead Russia gained Finland and access to the Baltic Sea, gaining recognition as a European power.[23][24]


All the main decisions in the Russian Empire were made by the tsar (tsarist autocracy), so there was a uniformity of policy and a forcefulness during the long regimes of powerful leaders such as Peter the Great and Catherine the Great. However, there were numerous weak tsars--such as children with a regent in control--as well as numerous plots and assassinations, with weak tsars or rapid turnover there was unpredictability and even chaos.[25]

Peter the Great officially renamed the Tsardom of Russia the Russian Empire in 1721, and became its first emperor.

Geographical expansion by warfare and treaty was the central strategy of Russian foreign policy from the small Muscovite state of the 16th century to World War I in 1914, the goals were territory, warm water ports, and protection of Orthodox Christianity. The main weapon was the very large and increasingly well-trained Imperial Russian Army, although the large domestic economy was poor and was hard-pressed to provide adequate support given the poor transportation system.[26]

To the northwest, Russia engaged in a century long struggle against Sweden for control of the Baltic Sea. Peter the Great systematically remodeled the Russian administrative and military system along Western lines, building up a large army in the process, the Russian Navy remains small and unimportant The Empire succeeded by the 1720s, obtaining not just access to the sea but ownership of Finland and the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. To the west, there were a series of wars with Poland and Lithuania, followed by negotiated settlements with Prussia and Austria that gave Russia control of most of Ukraine, and a large slice of Poland.

Napoleon at one point was willing to split Eastern Europe with Russia; in 1812 he unsuccessfully challenged the Russians directly with his 1812 invasion of Russia. The invasion was repelled with heavy losses, and Russia played a decisive role in defeating Napoleon, any new territory, and played a strong conservative voice in the affairs of Europe from 1814 to the 1840s.[27]

The War of the Spanish Succession: 1702–1714[edit]

Spain had a number of major assets, apart from its homeland itself, it controlled important territory in Europe, especially the Spanish Netherlands ( which eventually became Belgian) and the Franche-Comté province on France's eastern border, as well as a large portion of southern Italy and Sicily. Overseas it had a major empire that dominated much of the New World, including South America, Mexico, Central America, and some critical West Indies islands such as Cuba. Other possessions included the Philippine Islands, the overseas territories were an important outlet for migration by the Spanish population. Most important all of all, Spain's colonies produced enormous quantities of silver, which were brought to Spain every few years in convoys. Spain had many weaknesses as well, its home economy was poor, there was little business or industry, or advanced craftsmanship. It had to Import practically all its weapons. Spain had a large army but it was poorly trained and poorly equipped, it had a surprisingly small navy, for seamanship was a low priority among the Spanish elites. It never recovered from the self-inflicted disaster that destroyed half of the large Spanish Armada in 1588. Local and regional governments, and the local nobility, controlled most of the decision-making, the central government was quite weak, with a mediocre bureaucracy, and few able leaders. King Charles II reigned 1665 to 1700, but he was in very poor physical and mental health.[28]

King Charles II had no children, and which of two rival would become king of Spain unleashed a major war. Charles II represented the Habsburg family, and that family, based in Vienna, had its candidate,[29] however the Bourbons, based in Paris, also had a candidate: the grandson of powerful King Louis XIV. Spain's silver, and its inability to protect its assets, made it a highly visible target for ambitious Europeans. For generations, Englishmen had contemplated capturing the treasure fleet—which happened only once—in 1628 by the Dutch. English mariners nevertheless seriously pursued the opportunities for plunder and trade in Spain's colonies.[30]

Charles II made a disastrous decision: in his will he bequethed his throne to the Bourbon candidate, a Frenchman who became Philip V of Spain. France, of course, rallied to the choice, however a coalition of enemies quickly formed, and a major European war broke out 1701–1714.[31] The notion of France gaining enormous strength by taking over Spain and all its European and overseas possessions was anathema to France's main rivals. Secondly the prospect of dividing up Spanish holdings prove very attractive. France's enemies formed a Grand Alliance, led by the Holy Roman Empire's Leopold I. It included Prussia and most of the other German states, The Netherlands, Portugal, Savoy (in Italy) and especially England. France took control of Spanish forces and added a few allies in Bavaria and among several local dukes in Italy and Germany. Extensive fighting took place primarily in the Netherlands, with both sides swaying back and forth. When Emperor Leopold died, he was succeeded by his oldest son Joseph, however when Joseph died in 1811, his brother Charles became not only the Alliance candidate for king of Spain, but he also became Emperor.[32] That combination would make the Empire much too powerful, so the allies deserted the alliance, and peace was at hand, the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 resolved all of the issues. Philip V became king of Spain, and kept all his overseas colonies, but renounced any rights to the French throne. Spain lost its European holdings outside the homeland itself, as the former members of the alliance picked up their spoils. England gained Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and Gibraltar, as well as trading rights in the Spanish colonies. Spain now had a new Bourbon government, which proved far more effective and energetic than the previous Habsburg rulers.[33]

Europe: 1715–1789[edit]

Peaceful interlude: 1715–1740[edit]

The quarter century after the Treaty of Utrecht was a peaceful, with no major wars, and only a few secondary military episodes of minor importance, the main powers had exhausted themselves in warfare, with many deaths, disabled veterans, ruined navies, high pension costs, heavy loans and high taxes. Utrecht strengthened the sense of useful international law and inaugurated an era of relative stability in the European state system, based on balance-of-power politics that no one country would become dominant.[34] Robert Walpole, the key British policy maker, prioritized peace in Europe because it was good for his trading nation and its growing British Empire. British historian G. M. Trevelyan argues:

That Treaty [of Utrecht], which ushered in the stable and characteristic period of Eighteenth-Century civilization, marked the end of danger to Europe from the old French monarchy, and it marked a change of no less significance to the world at large, — the maritime, commercial and financial supremacy of Great Britain.[35]

But "balance" needed armed enforcement. Britain played a key military role as "balancer." Increasingly that meant containment of France, leading to a series of increasingly large-scale wars between Britain and France, which ended with mixed results. Britain was usually aligned with the Netherlands and Prussia, and subsidised their armies, these wars enveloped all of Europe and the overseas colonies. These wars took place in every decade starting in the 1740s and climaxed in the defeat of Napoleon's France in 1814.[36]

Louis XV[edit]

In sharp contrast to the hyperactive Louis XIV, his successor was largely uninterested in the complex diplomacy and warfare during his long reign that officially started as a child in 1715; his active role began in 1722 and lasted to 1774. Louis XIV, with his eagerness for warfare, was gone, replaced by a small sickly child who was the last Bourbon survivor, and his death had the potential to throw France into another round of warfare, he was Louis XV and he lived until the 1770s. France’s main foreign policy decision-maker was Cardinal Fleury, he recognized that France needed to rebuild, so he pursued a peace policy. France had a poorly designed taxation system, whereby tax farmers kept much of the money, and the treasury was always short, the banking system in Paris was undeveloped, and the treasury was forced to borrow at very high interest rates.

London’s financial system proved strikingly competent in funding not only the English forces, but its allies as well.[37]The Treasury raised £46,000,000 in loans to pay for the wars with France of 1689–97 and 1702–13; by 1714 the national debt stood at £40,000,000, with a sinking fund operating to retire the debt.[38] Queen Anne was dead, and her successor King George I was a Hanoverian who moved his court to London, but never learned English and surrounded himself with German advisors, they spent much of their time and most of their attention on Hanoverian affairs. He too was threatened by instability of the throne, for the Stuart pretenders, long supported by King Louis XIV, threatened repeatedly to invade through Ireland or Scotland, and had significant internal support from the Tory faction, however Sir Robert Walpole was the dominant decision-maker, 1722–1740, although the role was not yet called prime minister. Walpole strongly rejected militaristic options, and promoted a peace program, he signed an alliance with Frahnce. The Netherlands was much reduced in power, and followed along with England.

One of the few military episodes in Western Europe was the War of the Quadruple Alliance (1718–1720); in Vienna, Austria (formally the Holy Roman Empire) the Habsburg emperors were bickering with the new Bourbon King of Spain, Philip V, over Habsburg control of most of Italy.[39] Philip V, and especially his wife Elisabeth Farnese and his chief minister Giulio Alberoni had designs on recovering much of Italy that Spain had lost to the Habsburgs in 1714 and perhaps even put Philip on the French throne. Spanish fleets captured Sicily and Sardinia, the Quadruple Alliance of Britain, France, Austria, the Dutch Republic and (later) Savoy was a coalition formed to restore the balance of power and end Spanish threats. Naval victories by the Alliance proved decisive and Spain pulled back.[40]

Britain: the trading nation[edit]

The major powers were primarily motivated toward territorial gains, and protection of their dynasties (such as the Habsburg and Bourbon dynasties or the House of Hohenzollern) in Prussia). Britain had a different primary interest (besides defense of the homeland), its national policy was building a worldwide trading network for its merchants, manufacturers, shippers and financiers. This required a hegemonic Royal Navy so that no rival could sweep its ships from the world's trading routes, nor invade the British Isles, the London government enhanced the private sector by incorporating numerous privately financed London-based companies for establishing trading posts and opening import-export businesses across the world. Each was given a monopoly of English trade to a specified geographical region, the first enterprise was the Muscovy Company set up in 1555 to trade with Russia. Other prominent enterprises included he East India Company, and the Hudson's Bay Company in Canada, the Company of Royal Adventurers Trading to Africa had been set up in 1662 to trade in gold, ivory and slaves in Africa; it was reestablished as the Royal African Company in 1672 and focused on the slave trade. British involvement in the each of the four major wars, 1740 to 1783, paid off handsomely in terms of trade. Even the loss of the 13 American colonies was made up by a very favorable trading relationship with the new United States of America. British gained dominance in the trade with India, and largely dominated the highly lucrative slave, sugar, and commercial trades originating in West Africa and the West Indies. China would be next on the agenda. Other powers set up similar monopolies on a much smaller scale; only the Netherlands emphasized trade as much as England.[41][42]

Seven Years' War[edit]

Louis XV is best known for losing badly in the world-wide Seven Years' War; in 1763 Louis ceded New France in North America to Spain and Great Britain after France's defeat in the war. He incorporated the territories of Lorraine and Corsica into the kingdom of France. Most scholars argue that Louis XV's decisions damaged the power of France, weakened the treasury, discredited the absolute monarchy, and made it more vulnerable to distrust and destruction. Evidence for this view is provided by the French Revolution, which broke out 15 years after his death.[43] Norman Davies characterized Louis XV's reign as "one of debilitating stagnation," characterized by lost wars, endless clashes between the Court and Parlement, and religious feuds.[44] A few scholars defend Louis, arguing that his highly negative reputation was based on later propaganda meant to justify the French Revolution. Jerome Blum described him as "a perpetual adolescent called to do a man's job."[45]


Western science and religion[edit]

Matteo Ricci (left) and Xu Guangqi (right) in the Chinese edition of Euclid's Elements published in 1607.

Ten Great Campaigns[edit]

The Manchu or Qing regime in Beijing used military force, diplomacy, and reliance on local leaders to extend its domain to western regions where the Han Chinese had not settled, but where Russian expansion was a threat, it launched Ten Great Campaigns in the mid–late 18th century. Three were launched to enlarge the area of Qing control in Central Asia: two against the Dzungars (1755–1757) and one for the pacification of Xinjiang (1758–59). The other seven campaigns were more in the nature of police actions on frontiers already established: two wars to suppress rebels in Sichuan, another to suppress rebels in Taiwan (1787–88), and four expeditions abroad against the Burmese (1765–69), the Vietnamese (1788–89), and two against the Gurkhas in Nepal. The most important and successful saw the final destruction of the Dzungar people in the 1755 Pacification of Dzungaria, the two campaigns secured the northern and western boundaries of Xinjiang. It also led to the pacification of the Islamicised, Turkic-speaking southern half of Xinjiang immediately thereafter,[46] the Ten Great Campaigns demonstrated China's vitality on its western fringes, and in Mongolia, Tibet, and Turkestan. The main threat was that Russia would take control, but instead they were over Allied and stayed away. Treaties with Russia at Nerchinsk (1689) And 1727 demonstrated that diplomacy could effectively establish stable borders, the treaties allowed for a Russian Orthodox religious mission in Beijing, and a small Russian caravan trade. In Qinghai (Eastern Tibet) China after 1724 divided ethnic groups against each other and relied upon local leaders as a counterweight to the Tibetan religious leader the Dalai Lama and the Mongols;[47] in Turkestan, they encountered a growing and expanding Muslim population. The solution was to appoint local Muslim chieftains, as governors, and allowing Islamic law to prevail, the Chinese did collect taxes on trade, and tried to keep order. The expansion to the west was the last major expansion of China.[48]


The Mughal Empire[edit]

The Taj Mahal near Delhi

The Mughal Empire (1526–1720) was founded by Babur, (1483–1530) a Sunni Muslim based in Afghanistan, he used advanced weapons, artillery – and especially mobile cavalry, he captured Delhi in 1526 with only 12,000 soldiers against an enemy force of over 100,000. He continued his conquests across much of North Central India, his vigor and charismatic personality earned him strong loyalties. Akbar (ruled 1556–1605) followed. He was a charismatic and brilliant leader who organized a highly successful military, and set up a financial system to pay for his extravagances, the Mughal Empire maintained diplomatic relations with numerous local and international powers, including Uzbeks, the Safavid dynasty in Persia, the Ottoman Empire, the French East India Company and especially the English East India Company. It tolerated the establishment of trading forts along the coast by Europeans because they brought trade, and because the Europeans had far superior naval power.[49]

The young new Empire had severe weaknesses. Extravagant spending drained the treasury and forced an extremely unpopular increase in taxes, the artistic achievement remains highly impressive in the 21st century: most notably, the Taj Mahal shrine, built in 1632–53 by tens of thousands of highly skilled artisans over two decades, using the most expensive materials, including jewels in the walls.[50][51]

The ruling regime did not value cohesion or loyalty to the lineage. Instead, fratricide was the standard in politics: it was son against father, brother against brother. To get the throne heirs murdered their brothers and executed all their retinue. Ugly rumors of betrayal were easy to believe, conspiracies multiplied, loyalties wavered, and competence became less important. By 1700 Europeans had begun to take control of regional trade routes, and started to take sides in internal political factionalism. Even at its height under Akbar, the Mughal Empire was not a centralized state, but a loosely knit collection of heterogeneous principalities. Akbar was a highly efficient military commander, and instead of paying his army salaries, he gave the victorious commanders the rights ("zamindars") to collect taxes locally, they therefore became locally powerful, and did not depend on central authority. A person who converted from Hinduism to Islam had much better political and economic opportunities. Akbar was highly tolerant of the Hindus, and reduced taxes. Aurangzeb (ruled 1658–1707) was deeply ascetic, and stopped the spending on magnificent palaces and shrines. He tried to curb numerous forms of corruption, and became especially unpopular when he tried to forbid gambling drinking and prostitution, he ended the policy of religious tolerance, and was seen as hostile by the Hindus. They were no longer allowed to build temples, and the Jizyah tax was reimposed on non-Moslems. Forced conversions to Islam were resumed, and non-Muslims were expelled from high office. Hindus began to revolt.[52] Most important, he spent decades in a futile military campaign to capture the large Deccan region south of the already large empire that Akbar had built, it was very expensive in money and lives. It became harder and harder to get the tax money owed by increasingly alienated powerful zamindars whose ancestors had been given the tax-collecting role by Babur or Akbar generations ago, they no longer had close ties to the throne. The result of a weak central government was that local zamindars, land owners, tribal leaders, money-lenders and merchants were increasingly independent of the central government, and instead shifted their allegiance to the East India Company, which paid them cash subsidies, it all greatly weakened the Mughar army, and strengthened the opposition Maratha caste of Hindus who gloried in their militaristic skills and took control of large sectors by 1720. The hapless Mughal emperor became a powerless figurehead; his empire was abolished in 1857.[53]

East India Company[edit]

The East India Company was a privately owned British commercial trading firm that exported British goods to India and adjacent areas, and imported Indian products such as tea, spices, textiles and (for the Chinese market), opium,[54] it started with several small port facilities, called factories, and expanded to control most of the Indian subcontinent by the 1850s. It primarily used diplomacy and financial incentives, with occasional use of military force. By 1803, at the height of its rule in India, it had a private army of about 260,000—twice the size of the British army, the company eventually came to rule large areas of India with its private armies, exercising military power and assuming administrative functions. The officers were British; the soldiers were "Sepoys" (Indians). Parts of the Sepoys revolted in 1857—after heavy loss of life, the British prevailed, the British government abolished the East India Company and set up the British Raj, which ruled most of India directly, and the rest indirectly through semi-autonomous princely states.[55]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ John A. Mears, "The Emergence Of The Standing Professional Army in Seventeenth-Century Europe," Social Science Quarterly (1969) 50#1 pp. 106–115 in JSTOR
  2. ^ Frederick L. Nussbaum, The Triumph of Science and Reason, 1660–1685 (1953) pp 147–48.
  3. ^ Norman Davies, Europe: A History (1996) p 593–94.
  4. ^ Scott Hamish, book review in English Historical Review (Oct 2013) pp 1239–1241.
  5. ^ J.R. Jones, Britain and the World: 1649–1815 (1980), pp 38–39.
  6. ^ John C. Rule, "Colbert de Torcy, an emergent bureaucracy, and the formulation of French foreign policy, 1698–1715." in Ragnhild Hatton, ed., Louis XIV and Europe (1976) pp. 261–288.
  7. ^ Gaston Zeller, "French diplomacy and foreign policy in their European setting." in Carsten, ed., The New Cambridge Modern History vol 5 (1961) p 198–99, 206.
  8. ^ Charles W. Ingrao, The Hessian mercenary state: ideas, institutions, and reform under Frederick II, 1760–1785 (2003).
  9. ^ Davies, Europe (1996) pp 581–82.
  10. ^ John A. Lynn, The Wars of Louis XIV 1667–1714 (1999).
  11. ^ James Nathan, "Force, Order, and Diplomacy in the Age of Louis XIV." Virginia Quarterly Review 69#4 (1993) 633+.
  12. ^ Quoted in Geoffrey Simcox, ed., War, Diplomacy, and Imperialism, 1618–1763 (1974), pp. 236-37.
  13. ^ Quoted in Simcox, pp. 237, 242.
  14. ^ Carl J. Friedrich, The age of the baroque, 1610–1660 (1952) pp. 246–66.
  15. ^ Friedrich, The Age of the Baroque, 1610–1660 (1952) pp. 197–245.
  16. ^ Andrew A. Lossky, "International Relations in Europe," in J.S. Bromley, ed. The New Cambridge Modern History, vol 6 pp 154–192.
  17. ^ Simon Millar, Vienna 1683: Christian Europe Repels the Ottomans (Osprey, 2008)
  18. ^ Wolf, The Emergence of the Great Powers: 1685–1715 (1951), pp 15–53.
  19. ^ Kenneth Meyer Setton, Venice, Austria, and the Turks in the Seventeenth Century (Memoirs of the American Philosophical Society, 1991) excerpt
  20. ^ John B. Wolf, The Emergence of the Great Powers: 1685–1715 (1951) pp 15–53.
  21. ^ Henrik O. Lunde, A Warrior Dynasty: The Rise and Decline of Sweden as a Military Superpower (Casemate, 2014).
  22. ^ Ragnhild M. Hatton, "Charles XII and the Great Northern War." in J.S. Bromley, ed., New Cambridge Modern History VI: The Rise of Great Britain and Russia 1688–1725 (1970) pp 648–80.
  23. ^ Derek Wilson, "Poltava: The battle that changed the world." History Today 59.3 (2009): 23+
  24. ^ R. Nisbet Bain, Charles XII and the Collapse of the Swedish Empire, 1682–1719 (1899) pp 56–190. online
  25. ^ Nicholas Riasanovsky and Mark Steinberg, A History of Russia (8th ed. 2010).
  26. ^ William C. Fuller, Jr., Strategy and Power in Russia 1600–1914 (1998).
  27. ^ Walter G. Moss, A History of Russia. Vol. 1: To 1917 (2d ed. 2002).
  28. ^ Cathal J. Nolan, Wars of the Age of Louis XIV, 1650–1715 (2008) pp 71, 444–45.
  29. ^ Wolf, The Emergence of the Great Powers: 1685–1715 (1951), pp 59-91.
  30. ^ Shinsuke Satsuma (2013). Britain and Colonial Maritime War in the Early Eighteenth Century: Silver, Seapower and the Atlantic. pp. 1–2. 
  31. ^ Henry Kamen, The War of Succession in Spain, 1700–15 (1969).
  32. ^ James Falkner, The War of the Spanish Succession 1701–1714 (2015) excerpt
  33. ^ John Lynch, Bourbon Spain 1700–1808 (1989)
  34. ^ Dale Miquelon, "Envisioning the French Empire: Utrecht, 1711–1713." French Historical Studies 24.4 (2001): 653–677.
  35. ^ G.M. Trevelyan, A Shortened History of England (1942) p 363.
  36. ^ Michael Sheehan, "Balance of power intervention: Britain's decisions for or against war, 1733–56." Diplomacy and Statecraft 7.2 (1996): 271–289. online
  37. ^ John Brewer, The sinews of power: War, money, and the English state, 1688–1783 (1989) pp 167-78.
  38. ^ John Miller (1988). Seeds of liberty: 1688 and the shaping of modern Britain. p. 64. 
  39. ^ Penfield Roberts, The Quest for Security: 1715–1740 (1947), pp 1–20, 240–44.
  40. ^ Ogg, Europe of the Ancien Régime: 1715–1783 (1965), p 131.
  41. ^ Eric J. Evans, The Forging of the Modern State: Early Industrial Britain, 1783–1872 (1996) p 31.
  42. ^ Ann M. Carlos and Stephen Nicholas. "'Giants of an Earlier Capitalism': The Chartered Trading Companies as Modern Multinationals." Business History Review 62#3 (1988): 398–419. in JSTOR
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  44. ^ Norman Davies (1996). Europe: A History. Oxford U.P. pp. 627–28. 
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  46. ^ F.W. Mote, Imperial China 900–1800 (1999), pp 936–939
  47. ^ Peter C. Perdue, "Empire and nation in comparative perspective: Frontier administration in eighteenth-century China." Journal of Early Modern History 5.4 (2001): 282–304.
  48. ^ John King Fairbank, China: A New History (1992) pp 152–53.
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Further reading[edit]

  • The New Cambridge Modern History; 700–900 pages; very wide coverage by leading experts; scholarship as of 1960s; chief focus is Europe but includes chapters on Asia, Africa and the Americas
    • F. L. Carsten, ed. V. The Ascendancy of France 1648–88 (1961)
    • J. S. Bromley, ed. VI. The Rise of Great Britain and Russia, 1688–1715/25 (1970)
    • J. O. Lindsay, ed. VII. The Old Regime, 1713–1763 (1957, new ed. 1996)
    • A. Goodwin, ed. VIII. The American and French Revolutions 1763–93 (1965)
    • C.W. Crawley, ed. IX. War and Peace in an Age of Upheaval, 1793–1830 (1965)
    • Darby, H. C., and Harold Fullard, eds XIV. Atlas (1970), over 300 new maps
  • Stearns, Peter N. An Encyclopedia of World History (6th ed. 2001) 1244pp; very detailed outline; see also previous editions edited by William L. Langer, which have even more detail.
  • Stearns, Peter N. ed. The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern World (8 vol 2008).


  • Anderson, M. S. Europe in the Eighteenth Century: 1713–1783 (1961) online at Questia
  • Beloff, Max. The Age of Absolutism 1660–1815 (1962)
  • Black, Jeremy. Eighteenth Century Europe 1700–1789 (1990)
  • Black, Jeremy. European International Relations, 1648–1815 (2002) excerpt and text search
  • Blanning, Tim. The Pursuit of Glory: Europe 1648–1815 (2007).
  • Bruun, Geoffrey. Europe and the French Imperium, 1799–1814 (1938) online, political and diplomatic context
  • Cameron, Euan. Early Modern Europe: An Oxford History (2001)
  • Dorn, Walter L. Competition for Empire, 1740–1763 (1940). online
  • Doyle, William. The Old European Order, 1660–1800 (2nd ed. 1992) online at Questia, esp pp 265-340.
  • Falkner, James. The War of the Spanish Succession 1701–1714 (2015) excerpt
  • Gershoy, Leo. From Despotism to Revolution, 1763–1789 (1944) online
  • Hill, David Jayne. A history of diplomacy in the international development of Europe (3 vol. 1914) online v 3, 1648–1775.
  • McKay, Derek, and Hamish M. Scott. The rise of the great powers 1648–1815 (1983).
  • Merriman, John. A History of Modern Europe: From the Renaissance to the Present (3rd ed. 2009, 2 vol), 1412 pp
  • Mowat, R. B. A History of European Diplomacy, 1451–1789 (1928) online at Questia
  • Mowat, R. B. A History of European Diplomacy 1815–1914 (1922), basic introduction onlinr
  • Nussbaum, Frederick L. The Triumph of Science and Reason, 1660–1685 (1953), despite the narrow title, a general survey of European history
  • Ogg, David. Europe in the Seventeenth Century (1954). online
  • Ogg, David. Europe of the Ancien Regime 1715–1783 (1965)
  • Pennington, Donald. Europe in the Seventeenth Century (2nd ed. 1989). online
  • Petrie, Charles. Earlier Diplomatic History, 1492–1713 (1949) online; at Questia
  • Petrie, Charles. Diplomatic History, 1713–1933 (1946).
  • Roberts, Penfield. Quest for Security, 1715–40 (1963) online
  • Ross, Steven T. European Diplomatic History, 1789–1815: France Against Europe (1969)
  • Rothenberg, Gunther E. (1988). "The Origins, Causes, and Extension of the Wars of the French Revolution and Napoleon". Journal of Interdisciplinary History. 18 (4): 771–793. JSTOR 204824. 
  • Saul, Norman E. Historical Dictionary of Russian and Soviet Foreign Policy (2014).
  • Savelle, Max. The origins of American diplomacy: the international history of Angloamerica, 1492–1763 (1967).
  • Schroeder, Paul W. The Transformation of European Politics 1763–1848 (1994) 920pp; online; advanced analysis of diplomacy
  • Scott, Hamish. The Birth of a Great Power System, 1740–1815 (2nd ed. 2005)
  • Scott, Hamish, ed. The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern European History, 1350–1750: Volume II: Cultures and Power (2015). pp 561–696.
  • Stoye, John. Europe Unfolding, 1648–1688 (2nd ed. 2000).
  • Treasure, Geoffrey. The Making of Modern Europe, 1648–1780 (3rd ed. 2003). Online at Questia
  • Wiesner, Merry E. Early Modern Europe, 1450–1789 (Cambridge History of Europe) (2006)
  • Wolf, John B. The Emergence of the Great Powers, 1685–1715 (1951)

Asia, Middle East, Africa[edit]

  • Abernethy, David P. The Dynamics of Global Dominance: European Overseas Empires, 1425–1980 (Yale UP, 2000), political science approach. online review
  • Akagi, Roy Hidemichi. Japan's Foreign Relations 1542–1936: A Short History (1936) online 560pp
  • Avery, Peter et al. eds. The Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 7 (1991) 1096pp; pp 296–425 cover relations with the Ottoman Empire, Russia, European traders, Britain and India excerpt
  • Catchpole, Brian. A Map History of Modern China (1976) uses map-like diagrams to explain events
  • Cleveland, William L. and Martin Bunton. A History of the Modern Middle East (6th ed. 2016).
  • Curtin, Philip et al. African History: From Earliest Times to Independence (2nd ed. 1991)
  • Embree, Ainslie T. ed. Encyclopedia of Asian History (4 vol. 1988).
  • Fairbank, John King. China: A New History (1992).
  • Finkel, Caroline. Osman's Dream: The History of the Ottoman Empire (2007).
  • Freeman-Grenville, G. S. P. The New Atlas of African History (1991).
  • Gray, Richard, ed. The Cambridge History of Africa: Volume 4. From c.1600 to c.1790 (1975)
  • Hall, John Whitney, ed. The Cambridge History of Japan: Volume 4. Early Modern Japan (1991) covers 1550 to 1800
  • Harlow, Vincent T. The Founding of the Second British Empire 1763–1793. Volume 1: Discovery and Revolution (1952); The Founding of the Second British Empire 1763–1793. Volume 2: New Continents and Changing Values (1964) review
  • Hsü, Immanuel Chung-yueh. The Rise of Modern China, 6th ed. (Oxford University Press, 1999), highly detailed coverage of 1644–1999, in 1136pp.
  • Li, Xiaobing, ed. China at War: An Encyclopedia (2012) excerpt
  • Markovits, Claude, ed. A History of Modern India, 1480–1950 (2004), by seven leading French scholars
  • Peers, Douglas M. India under Colonial Rule: 1700–1885 (2006).
  • Perkins, Dorothy. Encyclopedia of China: The Essential Reference to China, Its History and Culture. Facts on File, 1999. 662 pp.
  • Peterson, Willard J., ed. The Cambridge History of China. Vol. 9, Part 1: The Ch'ing Dynasty to 1800 (2002). 753 pp.
  • Quataert, Donald. The Ottoman Empire, 1700–1922 (2000).
  • Richards, John F. The Mughal Empire (1995). excerpt
  • Schmidt, Karl J. An Atlas and Survey of South Asian History (1995) excerpt
  • Spence, Jonathan D. The Search for Modern China (1999), 876pp; survey from 1644 to 1990s Questia edition
  • Wolpert, Stanley A. A New History of India (8th ed. 2008).

Military history[edit]

  • Dupuy, Trevor N. and Dupuy, R. Ernest. The Encyclopedia of Military History (2nd ed. 1970); new edition The Harper Encyclopedia of Military History: From 3500 BC to the Present (1993).
  • Esdaile, Charles. Napoleon's Wars: An International History, 1803–1815 (2008); 645pp excerpt
  • Knight, Roger. Britain Against Napoleon: The Organization of Victory; 1793–1815 (2013); 710pp
  • Nolan, Cathal. Wars of the Age of Louis XIV, 1650–1715: An Encyclopedia of Global Warfare and Civilization (2008) excerpt
  • Showalter, Dennis, ed. Encyclopedia of Warfare (2013) excerpt, emphasis on battles

Primary sources[edit]

  • Simcox, Geoffrey, ed. War, Diplomacy, and Imperialism, 1618–1763 (1974), war on land, sea & colonies


  • Carrió-Invernizzi, Diana. "A New Diplomatic History and the Networks of Spanish Diplomacy in the Baroque Era." International History Review 36.4 (2014): 603-618.
  • Sowerby, Tracey A. "Early Modern Diplomatic History" History Compass (2016) 14#9 pp 441–456 DOI: 10.1111/hic3.12329; Europe 1600–1790
  • Watkins, John. "Toward a new diplomatic history of medieval and early modern Europe." Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 38.1 (2008): 1-14.
  • Young, William. International Politics and Warfare in the Age of Louis XIV and Peter the Great: A Guide to the Historical Literature (2004) excerpt; evaluates over 600 books and articles