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Between the years of 1740 and 1764, two major and separate wars occurred that changed the landscape of Europe for the years to come. Both of these wars involved basically every major power on the European continent at the time, and had a worldly impact. The first of these was the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748), which was fought over the question of Maria Theresa’s succession to the realms of the House of Habsburg (McKay, 2006). This war includes a number of other wars; the War of Jenkins’ Ear, The First Carnatic War in India, King George’s War in North America, and the First and Second Silesian Wars.
The second of these was the Seven Years War (1755-1764), which was sparked by conflict between Great Britain and France, when Britain attacked disputed positions in North America. The war became continental with the struggle between the rising power of Prussia and Austria within and outside the Holy Roman Empire in central Europe (Christopher, Brinton & Wolff, 1955). Both of these wars meant that the continent was divided into two distinct alliance systems, which were involved in fighting both on the continent of Europe and through the expanding colonial empires, where there were vastly differing objectives. Both of these wars were contributors in the Diplomatic Revolution of 1756, where there was a reversal of longstanding alliances on the European continent (Winks, 1988).
The differing objectives between continental fighting and maneuvers and fighting within the expanding colonial empires can be seen through both the War of the Australian Succession and the Seven Years War. Each of the sides can be observed having two very differing tactics to the difference between continental and colonial fighting. The French and its allies, for example, tended to let its colonies defend itself, offering minimal help by sending limited troops or those with little experience, while training and effective and needed domestic army (Pritchard, 2004). This tactic difference was for a number of reasons, the most prevalent of which were the fact that the British had a dominant navy that made it hard to transport troops and supplies (Dull, 2007) along with the fact that France had several long land borders that needed an effective domestic army for protection (Bomeman, 2007). To this end, France based its strategy on European conquests, where it tended to restore the status quo ante by returning European conquests for the regaining of territories lost overseas (Lee, 1984). France led the same strategy through the Seven Years’ War, although it did not work with the same success as the War of the Austrian Succession, where they were left with few counterbalancing European successes for their colonies lost (Lee, 1984).
The British on the other hand, tended to avoid large amounts of troops on the Continent (Till, 2006), aiming to offset this disadvantage by allying themselves with one of the larger Continental powers who had similar interests against enemies of Britain (in particular France). Interestingly, during the Austrian War of Succession they were allied with Austria, but by the Seven Years War rolled around they found themselves allied with the enemy of Austria, Prussia (commonly called the Diplomatic Revolution). Britain would use its enormous financial might to fund its allies and further its military might onto the continent, as was particularly apparent in the Seven Year War with Prussia (Mahan, 2013). Britain tried to push its naval power by targeting colonies of its enemies throughout the war (Black, 1999). They would use a two-pronged strategy of naval blockade and moving troops quickly by sea to where ever the conflict was apparent (Vego, 2003). This plan worked better in North America than in Europe, because the colonies were generally smaller and less well fortified.
As mentioned earlier, between the two wars there was a Diplomatic Revolution, which involved with the original alliances of France and Prussia, Great Britain and Austria switching allies, where France became allied with Austria and Great Britain with Prussia. This was largely due to the breakdown of the Anglo-Austrian alliance between Austria and Britain, where Austria believed that the British were no longer fully committed to the alliance (Winks, 1988). They believed that the British were only interested in the alliance as it suited their goals. When in 1756 Prussia was close to launching an invasion of Bohemia, fears of British inaction reached a high and Austria rescinded on its deal with Britain and made an alliance with its traditional enemy France to enact protection. (Winks, 1988) Britain then made an alliance in response to this action with the other major power of the time, and previous enemy, Prussia, hoping that the new balance of power would prevent war – it did not (Anderson, 2001).
As can be seen, there were very different objectives in war between the France and Britain. These differences are most characterized by the differences between Continental fighting and Colonial fighting. Further, it can be seen that one of the root causes of the Diplomatic Revolution was a combination of military pressure from Prussia and general distrust of their British alliance by the Austrians.
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