European History Pt. 23 — Western Europe after Utrecht

Last time I closed out a general survey of economics and culture in the 18th century, but we’re back to the narrative. Remember, French dreams of universal monarchy had just been dashed by the Grand Alliance. Peace was negotiated at Utrecht. Spain was partitioned but given a Bourbon ruler. The relative positions of other countries changed a significant amount as territory was split and shared around. For instance, England got Gibraltar.

After reading through this section, there’s wasn’t really that much to interest me. I don’t like saying that, usually there’s SOMETHING worth remarking, but pretty much, the book treats the  years of 1713-1740 as just buildup for the great war of the mid 18th century, what was called the “French and Indian War” for you Americans out there, but what was actually a worldwide conflict fought in the new world and the old. Britain would be the huge winner in this war.

The books discusses the changes from the Stuart monarchy in England to George I, a German who didn’t speak English. The key intrigue at this time was whether James “III” would return to England and take his place as the stuart successor to the crown (he was the son of James II who fled during the glorious revolution). The supporters for this “pretender” were called “Jacobites”

There is also a lot of talk at this point about the bubbles, for instance the “South Sea” bubble. Many ventures were undertaken with government funds, and in the early 1700s there were several mishaps with how stock was bought in these public companies. I don’t  understand how it works and I’ve found the book’s explanation on this to be pretty poor. So, I’ll just leave it at that: there were a lot of financial explosions at this time.

Also fun fact: the bankers and financiers of this age were all Scots. Not sure why, but they were. The Scots.


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