What were the major alliances and wars of 18th century Europe? Critically examine their conflicts while keeping in focus the delicate balance of power.
In 18th century Europe, nations focused nearly all their attention on the struggle for power, dominance, and territory. Four major players took stage: Austria, led by the Habsburg family, especially Maria Theresa; Prussia, ruled by the Hohenzollern family, especially Frederick II; France, controlled by the Bourbon family, especially Louis XIV, Louis XV, and Louis XVI; and Great Britain, ruled by the German House of Hanover.
These four nations participated in several conflicts throughout the century. In the War of the Spanish Succession, 1701-1714, Austria, Prussia, and Great Britain teamed up against France to determine who would sit on the Spanish throne. The Treaties of Utrecht and Baden allowed Frenchman Philip, duke of Anjou, to reign in Spain and included some prizes for Britain, Austria, and Prussia.
The War of the Austrian Succession, 1740-1748, began when Frederick of Prussia grabbed the Austrian territory of Silesia. France allied with Prussia, while Great Britain sided with Austria. In the end, the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle confirmed Frederick’s possession of Silesia but permitted Austria to retain its other traditional territories.
Finally, the Seven Years’ War, 1756-1763, pitted Austria and France against Prussia and Great Britain. Once again, Prussia kept Silesia in the Treaty of Hubertusburg, and the Treaty of Paris allowed Great Britain to hang on to France’s North American colonies. By the end of the century, the four major players were turning their attention to new endeavors.