Diplomacy during the Great Northern War
Kevin L. Boyd
After studying the Peace Treaty of Westphalia and its impact upon how states conduct relations with each other I was interested in finding out how it impacted conflicts subsequent to the treaty. This paper will therefore analyze The Great Northern War and both the diplomatic impact upon the conflict as well as the conflict itself impact upon diplomacy. The Great Northern War lasted from 1700 until 1721 and had the nation-states of Russia, Denmark, and others allied against the Swedish Empire, as well as dominated the European political scene alongside the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714). That this major conflict occurred so soon after the Treaty of Westphalia, and had two of the major belligerents literally switch sides during the conflict then back again, begs for study. I initially chose this bit of history because having lived in Scandinavia and it occurring at such a pivotal time in history intrigued me, however finding out that one of the leading historians, Stewart P. Oakley taught at Norwich was a bonus (Until I learned that it was the Norwich campus of the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom). In this paper I will discuss the historical highlights that led up to war as well as the diplomatic history that influenced it, the war itself, the relations between the belligerents and why diplomacy failed during several critical points, and finally the historical legacy that remained afterwards. I found that diplomacy at this stage in history was still infantile and that the personalities of the leaders still had a much larger impact upon both diplomacy and the war than the treaties themselves.
Keywords: Great Northern War, Peace Treaty of Westphalia, diplomacy, conflict
Diplomacy during the Great Northern War from 1700-1721.
The Thirty Years War was a great windfall for the Swedish Kingdom as they emerged from it with nearly half of the provinces of the Holy Roman Empire (Conquered during the war, not all controlled after the war), as the leading nation-state in Western Europe’s Protestantism, and the much sought after ‘dominion maris baltici’ (Baltic Sea Dominium; or control of the Baltic Sea), in fact during the time of the Swedish Empire they called the Baltic Sea ‘Mare Nostrum Balticum’ ("Our Baltic Sea"). The Swedish Empire began in 1560 when King Gustav Vasa seized modern day Finland. They were the dominant nation-state in Northern Europe; and after Westphalia were nearly as powerful politically in Europe as France who remained a close ally. Additionally after Westphalia they were the third largest nation in Europe geographically, after Russia and Spain. With the Swedish Empire continuing to gain territory after Westphalia through diplomacy and conquest, Russia under Peter the Great felt threatened by the expanding Swedish Empire, and additionally he possessed a strong desire for a port on the Baltic Sea. Through diplomacy Peter managed to form an Alliance with Denmark and Saxony and in 1700 attacked the Swedish Empire and her allies. The war which came to be known as the Great Northern War ended in 1721 with Swedish defeat, and loss of her Baltic empire. The diplomacy that took place before, during, and after the conflict bears investigation as it impacted this major European conflict up until the present day. In the pages that follow I will investigate the history prior to, during, and after the conflict and how diplomacy or lack thereof played a role. I will do so primarily from the perspective of the Swedish Empire as they were the primary empire and the ones who suffered defeat and the loss of their empire. Additionally, I will focus on the historical events as they relate to diplomacy and while it is necessary to include many of the battles of the war I will limit them so this is not an exhaustive paper about the history of the Great Northern War itself....
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