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Great Powers In The 17th And 1

1556 words - 7 pages


Great Powers in the 17th and 18th Centuries
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Great Britain, France, and the Hapsburg Empire were all competing for the fate of Europe. France, in particular, was caught between being a continental power or a world power; taking control of the Rhine and most of Central Europe, or taking control of The New World. France’s primary goal at the time was for control of the Rhine, but this goal was not without obstacles. Great Britain’s main concern was to keep the balance of power in Europe on their side, while expanding overseas. The Hapsburg Empire’s goals were dealing with conquering the Holy Roman Empire and the Germanic states, in turn taking over the entire ...view middle of the document...

Never putting enough effort into just one of these two divisions, French strategy was described as a constant “falling between stools”, with no direction. If one of the two divisions were solely concentrated on, French success within that division would have been much more successful. Also, France’s economy was not strong. France was much wealthier than countries such as England, but the weak economical structure, tax strategy, interest policies, and lack of a proper system of public finance in France made less money per capita than in than most states. Each tax collector took a “cut” from whatever he collected, then each receiver of that took a cut before passing it on to a higher level, plus each person received 5 percent interest on the price he had paid for office. Thus, much of the taxpayer’s money was going to private hands. The system was greatly flawed, and it showed, in how much money the government got to spend on the navy and military. Geographical placement of France boxed it in to one big lowland, with openings to the North, which was good for defense, but not as good for expansion and conquest. France could have been much more powerful if it wasn’t for their long list of economical and strategic disadvantages.
Great Britain domestically “stabilized” after James II was replaced by William and Mary in 1688. It fulfilled its potential as being the greatest of the European maritime empires. It showed very stable and fast-growing commercial and industrial strength, and a flexible, while successful, social structure. The “financial revolution” was a huge part in the role Great Britain played during this time. The tax structure was much less resented by the public than that of France, or any other country. Britain had a system of loans and interest that increased their total income greatly. Three-quarters of extra wartime funds used to help Britain’s troops came from loans, while outgoing loans had an interest fee. The Bank of England in 1694 controlled the national debt as well as much of the stock exchange, while growth of paper money without much inflation helped the economy. As a result of the organization of England’s economy, foreign investors flocked to the British government stock. Technological and other breakthroughs were constantly allowing the system to better itself, and providing even more of an advantage for Britain. For the entire 18th century, Great Britain’s economic system was the most efficient in Europe. Credit for such a good system was “the principal advantage that England hath over France.” The geographical location of Great Britain also contributed to their success. It was described as situated to neither be “forced to defend itself by land, nor induced to seek extension of its territory by way of land”. This situation led to concentration on building up their Royal Navy, which became the best of Europe. This location was also very beneficial for trade, because many countries were open to Britain’s navy to easily...

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