Friday, July 13, 2012

French History Essay

French History Essay

French monarchy lacked ambition and means to develop the successful foreign policy in the eighteenth century. France was almost invaded during the War of the Spanish Succession and the French government was in need to preserve the balance of power in Europe as well as to expand its colonial empire. Both of these goals failed. Britain was the chief foe of France and despite of the efforts it was impossible to avoid the conflicts. By 1754, France was again fighting Britain in America. French armies were poorly led and British manages to capture French possessions in India and Canada. Even though the peace settlement of 1763 has laid the foundation for the military reforms aimed at strengthening military force of France, the nation was unable to fight against continental rivals.

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Eighteenth century France was ruled by the Louis XV who has tried to strengthen the country. He utilized the royal council to advise him in administering the government. Between years 1720-1740 there was the relative period of stability in the country: the commercial activity was increasing, harvests were abundant and there were no wars with French participation. Nevertheless, Louis XV was not very interested in the affairs of his country and there was no uniformity of the law; taxation was hard on the unprivileged. Such inner situation in France weakened its position in Europe (Lough 1960).

Eighteenth century is characterized as the age of maturation of the states. Europe experienced the balance of power and no other state threatened to dominate the Europe. There were three major European conflict areas: central Europe (dynastic rivalries), eastern Europe (Russia and Poland), and colonies (France and England were battling for the empires in North American and India). The historical rivalry between England and France is the most important factor which led to the fall of the French domination in Europe. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, France, despite of the thin population, had well-organized colonies in America, however, by the Treaty of Paris, Great Britain managed to become the greatest colonial power in the world (Lough 1960) and the French position was shaken. In addition, British government paid a lot of attention to maintaining the navy (the strongest in the world at that time) and the French naval power was much weakened by England.

The victory of British over French in the French and Indian Wars has further weakened the power of France in Europe. In the result of the wars, France lost all her possessions in Canada and North American to England and was no longer the threat to the security of the colonies. Subsequently, with the loss of major colonies, France experienced significant financial hardships and the government was unable to invest into military and economic development. England, on the other side, has raised taxes in colonies and paid for the war.

One of the most significant victories of France over Britain was the defeat of British in Virginia (1781), when the American troops united with French. However, the victory did not bring any territorial or financial gains for France which was already unable to maintain its army and naval forces (Lough 1960). France experienced permanent deficit and the government was forced to ask the elites for help. Money was also the key factor in the collapse of the French empire. Thus, from the strong European country, France has evolved into the weak, poor state dominated by British rule. France remained independent but there were no resources (both military and financial) to re-gain the powerful position in Europe.

If at the beginning of the eighteenth century, France (with the centralized system, industrialization and commercialization) has displaced Spain and Portugal as the major powers in Europe, the parliamentary state in England has provided m ore effective support for the national expansion. Notably, France was the earliest and very effective state with absolutism, however, the successors of Louis XV have failed to preserve the country’s power. Eighteenth century is characterised with battles for continental domination and for control of colonies. Russia and Prussia have managed to become the great powers in the result of continental struggles; Great Britain became the major naval force, while France has lost its power both on the continent and oversees.

In conclusion, the eighteenth century France has failed to gain the political or economic power in Europe because it had the strong rival (Britain), experienced permanent financial deficit, was unable to maintain navy and army, has lost all of its colonies and had the indifferent rules. Britain has managed to become the strongest country at that time in Europe and France lacked resources to fight to the first place.
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