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Great powers in the 17th and 1

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Great powers in the 17th and 1

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 continent from the inside out. All 3 of these great powers were being opposed from their pursuits, and survival was always the top concern. Also, after 1660, a growing multipolar system of European states made decisions within each state based more on national interest than before, when most conflicts and militaristic decisions were based on religion.

Louis XIV(1661-1715) is responsible for a considerable gain in the power of France. He had huge armies, (at some points reaching up to half a million troops), that were organized with barracks, hospitals, parade grounds, and depots to support them. Along with an organized enormous fleet at sea, France became a true hybrid power. Its energies were diverted between continental aims and maritime and colonial ambitions. For two decades with no real competition, France was successful, but other powers soon built up enough recourses and power to challenge it. By 1713, and the Treaty of Utrecht, France's boundaries were established covering the Saint Lawrence River valley, the Ohio and Mississippi river valleys, the West Indian islands of Saint Domingue, Guadeloupe, and Martinique. Constantly defending these territories with the navy, and wars on land with Italy and other states, split French energy into the navy and military. 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 ...

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Keywords: great powers 17th century, great powers of the 16th century, 17th century superpowers, great powers in 19th century, great powers in 1900

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