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The Struggle for Wealth
and Empire
1715 - 1789
Characteristics of the
18th Century
• Political
• Monarchy remained the most prevalent
form of government.
• Divine – right monarchy evolved into
enlightened despotism in eastern
• Aristocrats regained much influence.
Powerful nobles and wealthy merchants
influenced and sometimes dominated
inept monarchs.
• International Relations
• The great powers of Europe included
Britain, France, Austria, Prussia and
• Spain, Holland, Poland, Sweden and the
Ottoman empire were no longer
considered great powers.
• The great powers fought limited wars:
− Professional armies fought wars based on
maneuver and strategy
− Rulers fought for specific territory
− There were no religious wars
• Three distinct periods
• A period of peace and prosperity
from 1715 – 1740
• A period of warfare from 17401763
• A period of enlightened despotism
from 1763-1789
Peace and Prosperity
1715 - 1740
• Growing Prosperity
• Great Britain emerged as Europe’s
leading commercial nation.
• The upper classes benefited the most
from the rising tide of commercial
• The labor of African slaves and eastern
Europeans serfs supported key
− African slaves/ sugar plantations in Caribbean
− Serfs/ rich grain regions of Europe
• England under Walpole
• The first two Hanoverians monarchs spoke little
English and exercised little real power.
• A ruling aristocracy of landed gentry and
wealthy merchants dominated Parliament.
• Robert Walpole emerged as England’s first prime
minister. Walpole led the Whig party in
Parliament ans was the government’s leading
minister Horrible Histories- George I- Doesn't
Understand English.. - YouTube
• France under Louis XV
• Reigned from 17-15-1774 and was a
weak leader who was dominated by his
royal mistresses and court favorites.
• The nobles regained much of the power
and privileges lost during the reign of
Louis XIV
• Although France was a prosperous and
potentially powerful country,
government debt continued to mount.
The Bubbles
• Background
• Britain, to fund the war of Spanish
succession they chartered companies
and gave them monopolies and in return
received cash reserves as loan to pay
for the war.
• Debt was held by the Bank of England,
East India Co. and the South Sea co.
• Background:
• For France, the Bank of France set up a
Mississippi Co. which founded New Orleans. It
received a monopoly of colonial trade and
assumed the entire French National debt.
• Share in both French and British Co, rose sharply
and quickly ( thus the bubbles)
• Confidence was lost resulting in crash which
discredited both countries. Allowing Cardinal
Fleury and Walpole to rise in power.
• Results:
• Bank of France was ended and growth of
capitalism was retarded a century. The
government took on most of the debt/ reducing
faith in government.
• Britain, Walpole saved the principle institutions,
created a sinking fund and ultimately paid all
debts. Neither Walpole or Fleury made waves
allowing the middle class to flourish.
• Walpole rigged parliament to stay in power. Set
the principle the cabinet should be responsible
to the majority in parliament.
Warfare, 1740-1763
• Great Power Rivalries
• The Hohenzollerns of Prussia and
the Habsburgs of Austria vied for
power in central Europe.
• The British and the French vied for
trade in North America, the west
indies and India.
• The War of Austrian
Succession, 1740-48
• The Austrian-Prussian rivalry
• The Pragmatic Sanction gave Maria
Theresa the right to the Habsburg
throne and territory
• Frederick the Great ignored the PS
and took Silesia…adding 1 million
people and resources
• This was supported by France.
• The Anglo-French rivalry
• Europe- the French supported
Prussia and the English supported
• Canada- American colonists
captured the French fortress of
• India- the French seized Madras
from the British.
• The Treaty of Aix-la-Chappelle
• Frederick retained control of
Silesia, thus confirming Prussia’s
role as a great power and rival of
Austrian affairs.
• The English restored Louisbourg to
France and the French gave
Madras back to England
• The Diplomatic Revolution
• The Austrian chancellor, Count Kaunitz, vowed
to recover Silesia
• Kaunitz successfully formed a coalition that
included France, Austria and Russia. One
consequence of this new alliance was the of
Marie Antoinette, daughter of Maria Theresa, to
the future Louis XIV of France
• England formed an alliance with Prussia to
implement its policy of maintaining a balance of
• The DR did not change any rivalries
• The Seven Years’ War 1756-63
• The Colonial war
• Canada-the British defeated the
French and took Quebec
• West Indies- British gained control of
sugar islands
• India- British took control of French
trading posts. The Seven Years War:
Crash Course World History #26 YouTube
• The Seven Years’ War 1756-63
• War on the Continent
• Anti-Prussian alliance achieved a
series of victories that threatened to
crush Prussia
• Prussia was saved from defeat when
Russia’s new tsar, Peter III, who
admired Frederick the Great dropped
out of the war.
• The Treaty of Paris
• The British acquired French
Canada and land between the
Appalachian Mts. And Mississippi
• French retained her Caribbean
sugar islands and a few posts in
• Prussia retained Silesia
• Test Tip:
• It is important to remember that
through all of this, Prussia kept
Silesia and the British
strengthened their global empire
Enlightened Despotism
• The Concept of Enlightened
• The philosophes urged Europe’s
absolute rulers to use their power for
the good of the people.
• Enlightened despots would combat
ignorance and superstition by elininating
irrational customs, promoting religious
toleration, reforming legal codes and
• It is important to note that the
philosophes did not support
democracy. Like Hobbes, they
believed that the people could not
be trusted with self-government.
• George III of England and Louis XV
had little or no interest in either
the philosophes or the concept of
enlightened despotism.
• Catherine the Great/Russia,
Frederick the Great/Prussia and
Joseph II/Austria were Europe's
best known enlightened despots.
Catherine the Great
• Enlightened reforms
• Corresponded with Voltaire and invited
Denise Diderot to visit
• Supported Russia's first private printing
• Restricted the practice of torture
• Allowed limited religious toleration to
• Tried to pass an enlightened law
code/nobles wanted nothing to with it.
• Pugachev’s Rebellion
• From 1773-75 a Cossack soldier, Emelian
Pugachev led a dangerous uprising of
serfs living along the Volga R. The
rebellion ended when Pugachev was
captured, tortured and executed.
• This marked an end to Catherine's
• To prevent future serf rebellions,
Catherine gave nobles absolute power
over estates and serfs.
• Territorial Expansion
• Catherine ignored the arguments
against war, Russia gained territory at
the expense of the Ottoman empire and
• Took control of the Crimean Peninsula
and most of the Black sea
• Russia along with Prussia and Austria,
annexed Poland in a series of partitions,
1772, 93 and 95. As a result Poland
disappeared as an independent nation.
Frederick the Great
• Enlightened reforms
“The first servant of the state”
Invited Voltaire to Potsdam
Supported scientific agriculture
Prepared a unified national code of law
Abolished torture/except for treason and
• Encourage Calvinists an Jews to
immigrate to Prussia
• The Junkers and serfs
• A firm believer in social order,
strengthened the Junkers
• The Junkers retained full control
over their serfs.
• Frederick the Great was a lot like
Peter the Great in reforms.
Joseph II 1780-90
• Enlightened reforms
• Abolished serfdom and feudal dues
• Abolished the system of forced labor
known as the robot
• Proclaimed religious toleration for all
Christians and Jews
• Reduced the influence of the church
• Reformed the judicial system
• Abolished torture and the death penalty
• Protest and reactions
• The nobles hated him
• Following Joseph’s death, Leopold
placated to the Nobles and
repealed many of the reforms.
• Serfdom and the robot remained
until 1848
• Test Tip:
• The enlightened despots have a
significant number of multiple
choice and free response
• Be familiar with Catherine,
Frederick and Joseph – successes
and failures as enlightened