To what extent was warfare between Britain and France the main contributory factor in French political instability 1689 - 1789?

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To what extent was warfare between Britain and France the main contributory factor in French political instability 1689 - 1789?

On the 17th of June, 1789, the Estates-General was brought to an end by the majority of the Third Estate, outraged that their larger numbers counted for nothing, left to form the National Assembly which signalled the beginning of the French Revolution. What ensued was 10 years of political turmoil, war and mass killings, the result being a reformed nation using a more liberal system that many nations use today. There are many causes to the rise against the monarchy, many reasons the country plunged into chaos for a decade but how many of them were influenced by war between France and her greatest enemy, Britain? What effect did the period of wars known as the “Second Hundred Years War” have on France?

           France were the major power in Europe after the Franco-Dutch war in 1678, having gained several territories, Louis XIV was the most powerful monarch in Europe. However, this wasn’t to last for long as Louis’s desire for aggressive expansion, would eventually begin to cause France’s downfall. The other leading nations in Europe had grown weary of Louis XIV’s desire to expand, thus forming the Grand Alliance which consisted of the majority of Europe’s powers bar France, with the goal of forcing France back to her borders as they were when Louis XIV took power. The War of the Grand Alliance, otherwise known as the Nine Years War begun with France crossing into Germany with the intent of intimidating the German states, as they were still currently fighting the Ottoman Turks in the east. This caused the complete opposite of what Louis wanted to happen, rather than separating the German princes it caused them to unify, posing quite a formidable resistance to France. During this conflict in Germany, William III of Orange, who was Louis XIV’s main rival in terms of power, invaded England with the intent of bringing the English into the war on the side of the coalition. Having successfully invaded English in 1689 and had them declare war on the French, William finally had the coalition he wanted. Over the course of the next 8 years, fighting would ensue between the Grand Alliance and France, with the fighting mostly in the Spanish Netherlands, the Rhineland, and Catalonia. By 1697, both sides were desperate for peace and peace talks were about to commence. The war had a devastating effect on the economy of both sides, with Childs arguing “The strain of paying and feeding huge concentrations of soldiers reduced England to a fiscal crisis while France stumbled to peace under the weight of a shattered economy”. With the Treaty of Ryswick resulting in France having to give up a number of territories and recognise William III of Orange as the King of England, Scotland and Ireland, this can be considered a resounding defeat for France. Not only have they had the result of the Treaty against them, but their economy has been ruined and Louis must accept that he can no longer expect to take territory with minimal opposition. We thus begin to see the debt forming which Louis XVI will inherit, one of the major causes for the French Revolution. Frances dominance over Europe was starting to fade, but it took until 1701 in the War of the Spanish Succession for Frances downward spiral to really pick up speed.

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           The War of the Spanish Succession started in 1701 with disputes over Phillip V of Spain succeeding Charles II as the King of Spain. With Phillip V in the line of succession for the French throne, the unification of Spain and France was on the cards, this is simply something that the other powers in Europe couldn’t let happen. A coalition formed of England (later Great Britain), the Holy Roman Empire, the Dutch Empire, the Kingdom of Portugal, the Duchy of Savoy and the Spanish loyal to Archduke Charles. France and England were still recovering ...

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There are some examples of useful analysis here but the vast majority of this essay is a narrative account of the conflicts between Britain and France and does not therefore address the question. 3 Stars.