Why did the nations of Europe gang up against revolutionary France? How were the revolutionary leaders able to withstand this onslaught? A system of alliances between the ‘Great Powers’ of Europe had survived the wars of the Spanish and Austrian succession in the first half of the eighteenth century, but the French-Indian War forced a change. In the old system Britain was allied with Austria, who was allied with Russia, while France was allied with Prussia. However, Austria was chaffing at this alliance after the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle had ended the War of the Austrian Succession in 1748, because Austria had wanted to recover the rich region of Silesia, which Prussia retained. Austria therefore began, slowly, tentatively, talking with France. As tensions between England and France mounted in North America in the 1750s, and as war in the colonies seemed certain, Britain signed an alliance with Russia, and upped the subsidies it was sending into mainland Europe to encourage other, loosely allied but smaller, nations to recruit troops. Russia was paid to keep an army on standby near Prussia. However, these payments were criticised in the British parliament, who disliked spending so much on defending Hanover, from where the current royal house of Britain had come, and which they wanted to protect. In Europe, the Seven Years war was fought between an alliance of France, Russia, Sweden, Austria and Saxony against Prussia, Hanover and Great Britain from 1756 - 63. However, the war had an international element, particularly as Britain and France fought for domination of North America and India. As such, it has been called the first ‘world war’. The theatre in North America is called the ‘French Indian’ war, and in Germany the Seven Years War has been known as the ‘Third Silesian War’.
The First Coalition (Prussia, Spain, the United Provinces, and Britain) was formed against France in 1793, and in response the French declared a levy on all Frenchmen, creating a...
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