** war and social upheaval: 17th century conflicts

War and Social Upheaval: Specific 17th Century Conflicts

Figure 1.--The English Civil War is arguably the most important conflict of the 17th century. Royal houses throughout Europe sought to establish the absolutism achieved by Louis XIV in France. King Charles I with French support attempted to establish an absolutist monarchy. This led to the English Civil War which pitted the Royalist (Caveliers) and Parlimentarians (Roundheads). Oliver Cromwell who led the Parlimentarians was not committed to democracy, but the Parlimentarian victory in the Civil War was an important step in the evolution of English democracy. This painting by Laslett J. Pott is entitled, 'The Young Royalist'.

The century began when the War for Dutch Independence still underway. Religion was still an important factor at the beginning of the century, both in the Dutch War for Independence and the Thirty Years War. The Thirty Years War can be been as the last religious war in Europe. The War was settled in a way which led to growing toleration because Catholics could not suoress the Protestants and the Protestants were two divided among different sects to even try to supress rival sects. The wars in the mid-century (Thirty Years War, the Fronde, and the English Civil War) determined the dynastic system in Western Europe. The ensuing wars had a more dynastic character. The wars of the late 17th century evolved primarily around the efforts of Louis XIV to expand France's boundaies and the efforts of neigboring countries to resist Fremch encrochments. This added to the French-English and French-Austrian rivalry as England and Austria often played a major role in the resistance to Louis.

The Dutch War for Independence (1581-1648)

Spain and the northern provinces of the Netherlands negotiated a 12-year truce (1609-21). Spain was preparinfg a new offensive against the Dutch when the truce ended. The problem for Spain was how to support military operations in the low countries. The rise of a Dutch navy made it difficult to send troops and provisions by sea. Reach the Dutch by land was also difficult. France stood between Spain and the Netherlands. And the French were not about to permit Spanish troops to pass through their country. It suited French purposes at the time to have an independent Netherlands even though they were Protestant. Thus the Spanish would have to send their forces along a circuitous route from Spain to Italy by sea and then through the Alpine passes to the the Rhine River Valley. The Rhine than led to the Dutch. This was a very difficult march for any body of troops and needed equipment and supplies, especially given the nature of roads at the time. The key to the route was the Rhineland. This was a contested area. The Spanish hoped to acquire Alsace which Ferdinand had promissed for supporting his imperial candidacy.

Dutch-Portuguese War (1602-61)

The Dutch-Portuguese war figured into the Dutch War for Independence. The Dutch incursions into Brazil proved the greatest threat to the Portuguese. The Portuguese became involved with the Hapsburg attmpt to supress the Reformation in Germany and the related rebellion of the Dutch. A succession crisis in Portugal led to a personal union under the Habsburg rule after the War of the Portuguese Succession, Spanish King Philip II of Spain thus controlled Portugal as part of the Iberian Union (1580). This meant that Portugal and Brazil became involved in the Dutch War of Independence (1581-1648). Philip II prohibited trade with the Dutch (1581). The Dutch were at a disadvantage in land warfare with the Spanish, but their expanding naval fleet gave them the ability to strike at the colonies. The result was the Dutch-Portuguese War (1602-61). The War was waged by the Dutch East India Company and the Dutch West India Company against the Portuguese Empire. The War primarily involvedDutch privateers attacking Portuguese colonies in the Americas, Africa, India and the Far East. The war was essentially an extension of the Dutch War for Independence, sometimes called the Eighty Years War, fought in the European Low Countries by Spain. The conflict provided the opportunity for the Dutch to gain an overseas empire and weaken the Portuguese. English forces aided the Dutch to an extent, but also fought a series of naval wars with the Dutch. Spanish forces aided the Portuguese. And the sugar wealth of Brazil was an attraction. Brazil did not have a navy as such, but they conducted naval war with privateers. Queen Elizabeth in England did the same, but focused more on the Spanish. The Dutch, an important 17th century naval power, seized Bahia for a brief period. Dutch privateers began plundering the largely unprotected Brazilian coast. They sacked Bahia and even captured the capital Salvador for a brief period (1604). The Dutch also attacked the Portuguese African possessions.

The Thirty Year's War (1618-48)

The Thirty Years War was the most bloody and destructive war ever fought in Europe until the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th century. It was not as the name suggests one single war lasting 30 years, but rather a series of related wars fought over that period. The War began in Germany (Holy Roman Empire) and gradually spread to much of the rest of Europe. It was actually a series of wars involving most European countries, but fought primarily in Germany. The war was exceedingly brutal, in part because of the religious passions of the Reformation. The struggle was between Catholic and Protestant princes aided by non-German coregilionalists. While initially a religious war, the fighting was complicated by dynastic rivalries and the desire of the Sweeds and French to curb the power of the German Holy Roman Empire dominated by the Hapsburgs. The War devestated Germany. It is believed that about 6 million civilians, mostly Germans, perished in the conflict. More Germans died in this War than in either World war I or II.

Franco-Spanish War (1635-59)

The mid-17th century in many ways marked a turning point in European history. Newly unified Spain with its expanding empire and annual shioments of bullionm from the Americas, dominated the 16th century. But France was an inherently stronger power with a larger population and more productive agricultural potential. Agriculture was still the primazry producer if wealth. The Thirty Years War dominated European history suring the mid-16th century. The War was primarily fought in Germany. Most European powers became invplved in some aspect of the struggle, not only because Germany was located in the heart of Europe, but because the future of Germany affected all European countries. And the wide-spread holdings of the Hapsburgs who were deeply involved in the Thirty Years war was another factor. The Franco-Spanish War was associated with the larger Thirty Years War. Hapsburg famility ties and Catholic religion meant as well as the on going war with the Protestant Dutch meant that Spain supported the Emperor in the struggle with the Protestant princes. France while Catholic stayed out of the Thirty Years War for some time. A factor here was the Hugenoughts. Spanish forces supporting the Emperor gained some notable victories. They captured Breda from the Dutch (1626). They defeated the Swedes and Weimarians at Nördlingen (1634). This would be the last great victory of Spanish arms. Finally, fearing the Emperor's victory, France intervened in the Thirty Years War. King Louis advised by Richleau decided he had to prevent a German victory. A unified Germany under a Hapsburg Emperor threatened France. France declared war on Hapsburg Spain (May 1635). Spanish forces advanced on Paris (August 1836). Richelieu advised evacuating the city. King Louis XIII in an uncommon decisive intervention, decided to fight for the capital. Louis managed to rally his forces and repulsed the Spanish. As the War continued Louis' Catholicism caused him to reconsider, but Richelieu managed to convince him to persist. The Spanish war effort was impaired by the separatist rebellions of Catalonia and of Portugal. Portugal became independent under John IV (1640). The Battle of Rocroi (1643), was a major engagement of the Thirty Years' War. It was fought between a French army led by the 21-year-old Duke of Enghien and Spanish forces under General Francisco de Melo only five days after the accession of Louis XIV to the throne of France following his father's death. Fought only says after the 4-year old Louis XIV becamne king bRocroi is regarded as the graveyard of the myth of invincibility of the Spanish Tercios, t The Treaty of Westphalia ended the Thiry Years War (1648). It did not, however, end the Franco-Spanish War which continued another 11 years. By the end of the War, the House of Bourbon and began its rise as the leading monarchy and country of Europe.

English Civil War (1642-51)

The Tudors did a great deal to strengthen the authority of the English monarchy, but were deft politicans and managed Parliament carefully. The Stuarts had a different mindset. They were commited to not only divine-right monarchy, but royal absolutism as well. Rather than attempting to mamage Patliament, the Stuarts were affronted by Parliament's perogatives. The conflict between the Stuart monarchy and Parliament culminated in the English Civil War. The English stepped back from establish a republic which they might have done if the War had occurred in the 18th century. The Civil War was, however, a major step in the development of English democracy. It also had a profound impact on American democracy. During this period of turmoil in Britain, the colonists were left largely to their own devices. This meant at an early stage of colonial development, the new colonial legisltures had to exercise considerable authority independent of royal control.

The Fronde (1648-53)

The Fronde was a French civil war resulring from the conflict between and increasongly absolutist maonarchy and the nobels of France. It occured the monarchy of King Louis XIV, but while he was still a child. It occurred at about the same time as the later stages of the Civil War in England and immediately after the Thirty Years War in Germany. All three of these conflicts were caused by the attempt of the monarchy to expand the authority of the monarchy at the expense of the nobility and wealthy merchants. The outcome in each country was radically different. The name Fronde was derived from a play sling used by the boys of Paris in mimic street fights.

Dutch Wars (1652-74)

The English played a major role in securing the independence of the Netherlands. And usually the Dutch and English were on the same side of European conflicts. Never-the-less, the English fought three naval wars with the Dutch during the 17th century. The more important ones were conducted by Stuart King Charles II who maintained close relations with England's traditional enemy France. The Dutch Wars are thus somewhat of an anomaly in England's basic policy of resisting foreign domination of the Low Lands, although the Third Dutch War turned into Louis XIV's wars of expansion. The Wars were fought as naval engagements. One important outcome was the English seizure of New Amsterdam which became the English colony of New York,

Barbary Pirates

The Barbary Pirates operated from the coast of North Africa for over three centuries (16th-early 19th centuries). As Europe advanced with developments in science and capitalism, North Africa dominated by Islam fell behind economically and culturally. The pirate operations came to be the central aspect of the North African economy as they could prey on increasingly wealthy Christian Europe. The high point of Barbary operations appears to have been the mid-17th century. Historisans believe that over 1 million European Christians were captured and enslaved. The rich were ransomed. The ordinary captives were condemned to a life of slavery and toil. The Barbary raids were conducted as far north as Scandinavia. European powers conducted military operations, but ir proved more cost effective to pay tribute. The first overseas military operations of the new United States was against the Barbary Pirates. The Barbary raids continued until improivements in European navies in the early 19th century and French efforts to colonize the area finally put an end to it.

The War of Devolution (1667-68)

Newly united Spain had been the strongest European power in the 16th century, drawing on the incredible wealth of its American empire. Potentially Germany was the strongest country, but the Holy Roman Empire was divided by principality and religion. By mid-century, the European power balance had begun to shift toward France. The Thirty Years War (1618-1648) had devestated Germany. And the Franco-Spanish War (1635-1659) had exhausted Spain. France was potenially a much ruicher country than Spain. Agriculture was the primary basis of wealth and the rich farmland of France was the basis for a powerful nation. Louis XIV's Superintendent of Finances, Colbert, helped convert that potential into real power. Prosperous France could thus support a powerful standing army. Louis married Marie Therese, daughter of King Philip IV of Spain (1660). Philip died only a few years later (1665). Louis in the name of his wife claimed areas of Spanish Flanders which bordered northern France (1667). Spain rejected the claim. The War of Devolution was the first war launched by Louis XIV to expand France's borders. France declared war and a French army commanded by Turenne occupied Flanders. Another French army under Conde seized control of Franche Comte--the Free County of Burgundy along the Swiss border and at the time Spanish territory (1668). The inability of Spain to resist the French invasions caused the governments of England, the Dutch Republic, and Sweden to form the Triple Alliance to resist French expansionism (1668). Louis had no allies. The War was ended by the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1668). France gained some territory in Flanders, but Louis had to return most of the Spanish Netherlands, as well as Franche Comte, to Spain. The Treaty of Aachen did not, however, settle the territorial issues. It was in effect a truce and an unstable true at best. Spain clearly did not have the ability by herself to defend territorites north of the Pyraneees, namely the Spanish Netherlands and the Franche Comte. Louis with the superior French military beginning with the War of Devolution would be at war with much of the rest of Europe for 40 years. This was only the first effort by Louis to exert hegemony over continental Europe. Repeated efforts by Louis to gain territory woukld follow. The Triple Alliance which resisted Louis was not stable in the face of French aggression. The Dutch Republic would be the next target only 4 years later. Louis' campaigns did exand France's borders, but the territory he won was very modest in comparison to the emormous costs. Louis' wars would leave France virtully bankrupt. The impact was to weaken France and the monarchy and would eventually lead to the Revolution. [Lynn]

Dutch War of Louis XIV/Third Anglo-Dutch War (1672- )

Louis XIV saw the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle (1668) as a truce. He did not reduce trrp strength, but increased it. The French Army was the kargest in Europe. The French had nearly 120,000 men under arms (8,000 household troops, 86,000 infantry and 25,000 cavalry). This was an enormous force by the standards of the day. Louis decided to shift his focus fromn the Spanish to the Dutch. Louis saw the Dutch as an obstacle to further French expansion into the Spanish Netherlands and as trading rivals. And he anticipated easy victories as long as tge Dutch did not have allies. Foreign Minister Arnauld de Pomponne worked to isolate the Duch diplomatically. This process was facilitated by the Restoratuin in England. The reinstalled Stuarts were less concerned over the Protestant Dutch. The French were thus able to negotiste with England and signed the Treaty of Dover with Charles II. The Swedes, and various German princes (including Bavaria, Münster, Cologne and Hanover) pledged neutrality. Louis this time had a rare ally. The English took the first step and declared war, this launching the Third Dutch Naval War. Dutch Admiral, De Ruyter, decided on a pre-emptive strike against the combined Anglo-French Fleet. At the Battle of Sole Bay (May 28, 1672), the Dutch benefitting from poor communications between the now allied English and French fleets, scored asignificanht victory. The English Admiral, Edward Montagu, 1st Earl of Sandwich was killed. The French army then attacked, overrunning the Province of Utrecht. This unerved Dutch Pensionary, John de Witt who sued for peace. Louis flush with victory made extrodinary demands. The Dutch decided to resist and opened the sluices, flooding large areas of the Netherlands to stop further French advances. The Dutch removed the descredited De Witt from power. He was subsequently attacked abd murdered. This brought the young William of Orange in power. The French success resulted in other countries becoming concerned. Frederick William of Brandenburg-Prussia intervened. Turenne had to detach troops to meet the challenge from the east. Frederick William was forced to make peace (June 1673), but this relieved pressure on the Dutch.

Glorious Revolution (1688)

The Glorious Revolution is the term applied for Protestant William of Orange's seizure of the English throne from Catholic monarch James II (1688). King James had none of the political judgement of his brother Charles II. After just a few years of ruling he managed to alienate every impoetant center of power in England, including the Church of England. The largely Protestnt British establish was disposed to tolerating this, fearing another civil war. This toleration was largely bssed on the fact that James was childless. Next in line to the sucession was his daughter, the Protestant Mary Stuart, Willian's wife. This all changed when James and his second wife had a son who would be a Catholic heir. William landed a small Dutch Army in England. James judiciously fled England rather than fighting. He proved to be the last Catholic monarch of Britain. The Glorious Revolution was more political than military in character. It was not just a dynastic change on the English throne, but a far reaching shift in power relationships within the English constitution. It proved to an event of enormous significance, far more important than mamy major European wars which often only involved which monarchy might gain control of a few provinces. The Glorious Revolution is often left off lists of revolutions, in part because it was so brief and so little blood spilled. It was, however, the most important of all the great revolutions, except perhaops the American Revolution.. The Dutch-English relationship was complicated by English religious/dynastic struggles. Protestant monarchs were favorably disposed toward the Dutch. Queen Mary, however, attempted to return England to Catholicism. And the Stuarts while heads of the Church of England were more desposed to France and Catholocism. Charles II converted on his deathbed and James II was openly Catholic. This eventually led to invasion by a small Dutch Protestant army led by William of Orange whjo was married to Mary Stuart, James' Protestabt dsughter. Today the English celebate this as the Glorious Revolution (1688). Parliament forced King William to accept a constitutional monarcy--in esence the first modern monarchy. In return it financed what he wanted, a war with Louis XIV's France to preserve Dutch independence--King William's War. This began a series of wars with France that did not end until Waterloo (1815). Anne sided with her sister and brother-in-law (Mary II and William III).

War of the League of Augsburg (1688-97)

King Louis XIV sucessfully concluded the Dutch War with the advantageous Peace of Nijmegen (1678). Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes, in part due to Madame de Maintenon's influence (1685). The Edict had provided for religious toleration in France. French Protestants had the right to worship as they chose. The revokation was followed by the brutal supression of French Protestants. Thousands were killed and many more fled the country. Louis saw a divided kinghdom as a weakness. In fact the loss of the Protestants weakened the French economy. Louis XIV again attempted to enlarge France's borders in the War of the League of Augsburg. Europe's protestant rulers formed the the League of Augsburg to resist Louis, but Catholic poers also joinned. Louis was resisted by England, United Provinces (Netherlands), Spain, the Holy Roman Empire, Sweden, Brandenburg-Prussia, Saxony, Bavaria, and Savoy, all joining in the Grand Alliance. Luis made a huge mistake. He assumed that England was going to be involved in anothder civilmwar vas James II faced off with Parlaiment. As a result, the French did nothing to prevent William, the stadtholder of the Dutch Republic landing his army at Torbay (November 1688). James fled the country William and his English wife, Mary Stuart replaced James in the Gloruius Revolution. This left Louis's most stalwart Protestant enemy in control of both the English and Dutch fleets. The War followed the pattern of Louis' previous wars. Louis hopecfor a quick victory. And rance's superior army gained early victories. Ssustaining the war effort became the major problem for Louis. It placed immense pressure on the French population, economy, and France. He increased the size of the economy was increased to 300,000 troops (early 1690s). The multiple allies proved capable of taking heavy losses, but reinforcing their army corps before the French were able to exploit tactical advantage. The French victories and successful sieges failed to force the allies to the negotiating tablevas Louis nhoped. The already weak French financial system became strained. And supplying French aemies on distant battlefiekls becamne increasingly difficult. This was also supported by French agriculture benefitng from riuch farmmkand and a favorable climate. But then French farmers suffered harvest failures (1693-94). This created a domestic crisis. The resulting famine and disease, killed something like 10 percent of the population. Tax revenues plummeted. This made it impossible tompay or even feed his army. This ended all hope vof a quick victory. The French navy had gained an important victory over the combined Anglo-Dutch fleets at Bézeviers (1690). And diud well in subsequent engagements. The domestic crusis casused Louis to decommissioned the fleet (1695). Some vessels were contracted out to privateers to pursue a guerre de course (commerce campaign) against the allies. The rest of the fleet rotted in port. The War was ended by the Treaty of Ryswick (1697).

Habsburg-Ottoman Wars (1525-1718)

The Habsburg-Ottoman Wars began in the 16th century and continued throughout the 17th century, although for the most part at a relatovely low level. The Ottoman Empire began to advance into the Balkans (14th cenutyry). They defeated the Bulgars and Serbs. The serbs were defeated in the decuisive battle of Kosovo (1389). The Ottomans defeated a Christisn army (French, German, Hugarian, and Polish) at Varna (1444). Control of the Balkans was confirmed by the fall of Constantinople (1453). It was not until the Ottoman defeat of the Hungarian Army at Mohács that the conflict with the Hasburgs began (1525). Hungaring King Louis II was killed at Mohács. The Hasburgs had a dynastic claim to the Hungarian crown. A great deal of fighting ensued in the 16th century. Sultan Suleiman I the Magnificent invested Vienna at almost suceeded in capturing the city (1529). The Hasburgs were variously supported over time by the Holy Roman Empire, Kingdom of Hungary, Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, and Habsburg Spain. This support was crucisl in resistiung huge Ottomsn armies. The fighting was dominated by land campaigns in Hungary (including Transylvania). and Vojvodina (modern Serbia), Croatia and central Serbia. There was much less fighting in the 17th century as the Ottomans began to weaken. Historians have generally focused on the second siege of Vienna of 1683, seeing it as a decisive Austrian victory that saved Western Christendom and began the serious decline of the Ottoman Empire. It was the begimming of the Great Turkish War. Prince Eugene of Savoy began his career as a young officer in that campasign. A decade and a half later, Prince Eugéne now in commnd defeated a huge Ottoman army under Elmas Mehmed Pasha at Zenta (1697). This was the end of Sultan Mustafa II's campaign to retake Hungary. The Ottomans suffered a serious defeat at Zenta. Sone limited engagemnents were reported in the early 18th century. The Habsburg-Ottoman Wars were finally afterr nother brilliant vuctory by Prinbce Eugene a Belgrade. The Austrian Ottomsbn wars were finallt ended by the Peace of Passarowitz (1718).


Lynn, John A. The Wars of Louis XIV, 1664-1714.


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Created: 6:37 PM 9/20/2006
Last updated: 5:58 PM 7/24/2021