During the seventeenth century Britain's main enemies were Spain, Holland and France. War with Holland resulted from competition in trade. After three wars in the middle of the century, when Britain had achieved the trade position it wanted, peace was agreed, and Holland and Britain co≠operated against France.
At the end of the century Britain went to war against France. This was partly because William of Orange brought Britain into the Dutch struggle with the French. But Britain also wanted to limit French power, which had been growing under Louis XIV. Under the duke of Marlborough, the British army won several important victories over the French at Blenheim (on the Danube), Ramillies, 3udenarde and Malplaquet (in the Netherlands).
By the treaty of Utrecht in 1713 France accepted limits on its expansion, as well as a political settlement for Europe. It accepted Queen Anne instead of James IIís son as the true monarch of Britain. In the war Britain had also won the rock of Gibraltar, and could now control the entrance to the Mediterranean.
The capture of foreign land was important for Europe's economic development. At this stage Britain had a smaller empire abroad than either Spain or Holland. But it had greater variety. On the east coast of America, Britain controlled about twelve colonies. Of far greater interest were the new possessions in the West Indies, where sugar was grown. Sugar became a craze from which Britain has not yet recovered.
The growing sugar economy of the West Indies increased the demand for slaves. By 1645, for example, there were 40,000 white settlers and 6,000 negro slaves in Barbados. By 1685 the balance had changed, with only 20,000 white settlers but 46,000 slaves. The sugar importers used their great influence to make sure that the government did not stop slavery.
During this time Britain also established its first trading settlements in India, on both the west and east coasts. The East India Company did not interfere in Indian politics. Its interest was only in trade. A hundred years later, however, competition with France resulted in direct efforts to control Indian politics, either by alliance or by the conquest of Indian princely states.
Lecture fifteen.Life and thought.
The revolution in thought. Life and work in the Stuart age. Family life.
The political revolution during the Stuart age could not have happened if there had not been a revolution in thought. This influenced not only politics, but also religion and science. By 1714 people's ideas and beliefs had changed enormously. The real Protestant revolution did not, in fact, happen until the seventeenth century, when several new religious groups appeared. But there were also exciting new scientific ideas, quite separate from these new beliefs. For the first time it was reasonable to argue that everything in the universe had a natural explanation, and this led to a new self-confidence.
Another reason for this self-confidence was the change in Britain's international position during the century. In 1603, in spite of the Armada victory of 1588 and in spite of the union of England and Scotland under one sovereign, Britain was still considered less important than France, Spain and the Holy Roman Empire. But by 1714 the success of its armies against France had made Britain a leading European power. At the same time Britain had so many new colonies that it was now in competition with earlier colonial nations, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands.