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How ‘Limited’ Was the ‘cabinet Wars’ of the Eighteenth Century?

Info: 2634 words (11 pages) Essay
Published: 8th Feb 2020 in History

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Historians explain the era of Cabinet Wars as a period where states came to blows over relatively limited aims. Military historians have also seen that European fighting showed that eighteenth-century wars were limited struggles which did not bring major outcomes. Historians have attempted to aggregate up the highlights of cabinet war and see that the political goals the war had to accomplish were limited as the war was there with the aim to re-establish control of a region as it is uncommon that in eighteenth-century wars the aim was to absolutely crush another state.  However, it can be said that states were very capable of fielding large armies which were capable of mass destruction such as European powers in the Seven Years War. Although there were signs of total war during the eighteenth century, it was mostly limited as commanders took no interest in causing total destruction. On the other hand, as mentioned earlier, the armies being presented made the European Powers capable of mass destruction. This essay examines Cabinet Wars in the eighteenth century such as War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714), War of Polish Succession (1733-1738), War of Austrian Succession (1740-1748) ,Seven Years War and the War of Bavarian Succession and whether these Cabinet Wars was totally limited or whether it showed signs of total war.

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The War of Spanish Succession from 1701 to 1714 can be seen as limited, however, there are other factors that do not make it limited. War broke out because when the King of Spain, Charles II, died he wrote in his will that his successor would be French prince Philip of Anjou, Louis XIV. This concerned other European powers because they already feared the French power. The Grand Alliance of England, Holland, Prussia, and Austria wanted to put the Archduke Charles of Austria instead of Louis XIV. It is evident that eighteenth century there was limited warfare as they were still cautious of humanity as Robert Parker compared how during the War of the Spanish Succession, Senior British army officer William Cadogan sent the best surgeons in the British army to help those who were severely wounded.[1] This shows how Britain came into the war not aiming to completely destroy human life as they were giving generous treatment to wounded soldiers. However, the fact that the war was fought at such a large scale cannot be ignored and it may lean towards not being that limited. Commanders had no interest in limiting the destruction In the towns and cities and were even welcome to targeting specific individuals and their property to try and cause discontent in between civilians.[2] This demonstrates that there were no restrictions for commanders on the cities and towns they wanted to destroy which contrasts Parker’s point of Commanders and senior army officers considering humanity. In addition, the battles between the Allies and France were so intense that whether Grand Alliance won a battle it would heavily affect the army size as it is evident that when the Allies eventually captured Mons they lost nearly 20,000 casualties whilst the French lost 12,000.[3] The fact that this specific battle was over a region and there were so many casualties shows that the intensity of the war may lead us to question whether the War of Spanish Succession was limited at all. Additionally, commanders such as the Duke of Marlborough were interested in being decisive and completely reducing the enemy threat. David Chandler who was a Marlburian scholar praised Marlborough’s decisiveness as he says, “From first to last he was the proponent of the major battle as the sole means to break an enemy’s military power and thus his will to resist.”[4] J. R Jones also agrees with the Duke of Marlborough strategic thinking as the Duke demanded, “French military predominance must be destroyed, or at least reduced, and only through winning set-piece battles against their main armies could this be achieved”[5] This reveals that commanders attitudes to war were not only to defeat their enemy but to completely reduce the threat of them winning another battle. Taking both factors into consideration, the War of Spanish Succession was not limited as Commanders did not come in with limited aims which would have impacted the armies approach the battle.

This paragraph examines whether the War of Austrian Succession was limited or whether there were aspects that made the war not seem limited at all. Between 1740 and 1748, European forces were engaged with a contention caused by who might succeed Maria Theresa’s for the Austrian Habsburg crown. On December 1740, King Frederick II of Prussia assaulted the Austrian area of Silesia. This prompted Prussia to associate itself to France, Bavaria, Spain, Sweden, and Saxony. It is evident that the aims of the War of Spanish Succession may have been similar to this war as Anderson argues the War of Austrian Succession was all about, “power, about territorial ambitions and the European balance, not about the legalities of dynastic rights”[6]. This reveals that the aims of all the European Powers were for complete domination of territory which weakens the argument of Cabinet Wars being limited. Also in terms of weapons, some European powers were not limited as Frederick, who was the king of Prussia, was able to develop his artillery in the wake of the Silesian War. In 1742 he mounted ammunition boxes on the gun-limbers, which meant the guns were made independent of their slower-moving ammunition carts.[7] However, in terms of financial and military capabilities, Austria was very limited as the “financial and military administration by permanent committees of these estates had broken down”[8] which meant Maria Theresa could not provide a stable defence for Silesia at the beginning of the war. This contrast Andersons point as even though they could have had aims of dominance,  some European Powers did not have the military capabilities to follow up on these objectives. Overall,  even though at first Maria Theresa’s army did not have the adequate resources to defend their Silesia territory which made it limited, the fact that European Powers such as Prussia had these objectives of conquering territory and also having the funds to develop their weapons shows that the War of Austrian Succession was not as limited.

This paragraph looks into whether the Seven Years War was limited or whether there are factors that make the war less limited. The Seven Years War is considered as the first global war fought in Europe, India, and America between 1756 and 1763 where Britain allied with Prussia and Hanover to fight against France and their allies such as Austria and Sweden. Daniel Marston believes that compared to the War of Austria Succession, the Seven Years War, “was truly a global war, requiring a total commitment of resources on the part of all combatants… because countries were putting all they had into a fight”.[9] Similar to Martson, David Baugh states how the Seven Years War was global contest rather than just a European one as power was being measured by naval prowess, financial stamina, and seaborne commerce.[10]  The fact that it was a global war as it unfolded in four continents which impacted regions in South Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, the west coast of Africa, and the Philippines[11] which shows us that due to it being large-scale it would be total due to a large number of European powers involved. Franz Szabo also argues, “The Seven Years War on the European continent was costly, bitter and sanguinary far beyond what might be imagined from the frequently expressed stereotypical image of the civilized and limited warfare of that century”[12] showing that this war diverted from the norms of an normal eighteenth-century warfare. Also, it can be seen that there were no limitations in the attacks that both Britain and France carried out on their enemies. Britain went into battles with France not only to defeat them but also to completely reducing their threat and take over their territory. For instance, the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in September 1759 proved to be a crucial part in the war as the British invasion force led by General James Wolfe not only triumph against French troops, it also led to a surrender of Québec to the British.[13] This demonstrates there were no limitations for the British as the came to battle France to completely reduce their threat and they wanted to win decisively. This reveals that the Seven Years War was not limited at all the war was fought at a global scale where European powers are fighting for territory and also there were no restrictions but on armies, so they had aimed to totally destroy their opponents.

This paragraph looks into whether the War of Bavarian Succession was limited or whether it was not. The war of Bavarian Succession happened on July 1778 to 21 May 1779 where there was a Saxon-Prussian alliance in order to fight against the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy to stop them from taking the Electorate of Bavaria. In Jeremy Black’s book, Warfare in Europe, he believes that the War of Bavarian Succession was a limited war as he feels, “very little fighting took place- most of it were small unit actions in hilly and wooded terrain”[14] It was seen that the King of Prussia, Frederick II, was did not want to gamble attacking, whilst Austria were on the defensive showing. Due to a failed offensive advance from Frederick, Maria Theresa’s Austria were able to gain peace as Frederick withdrew. In Michael Hochedlinger’s book he says how, “During the War of the Bavarian Succession almost 65 million fl. Were spent on the war effort in 1779 alone”[15] which is surprising considering how European powers came out of the fight with nothing significantly positive. This brief war demonstrates that neither European power gained significantly in this. Compared to the Seven Years War, this war was very limited as Prussia was deprived of resources so they could not gain control over Bavaria and also there was no significant battles in this showing no destruction took place.

To conclude although there are aspects of Cabinet War being limited, the majority of the factors shown in each war shows that Cabinet War was not limited. The War of Spanish Succession was not a limited war as it had most European powers involved in order to stop France from expanding their power. Also, the fact that Commanders aims were to destroy cities and target property shows there were no restrictions. However, the fact that during the war some commanders were cautious of humanity could show it was not entirely total. The War of Austrian Succession did show signs that it was a limited war due to Maria Theresa’s army having limited financial and military resources to defend Silesia. However similar to the War of Spanish Succession, the commanders just wanted complete domination of territory which shows it was not limited at all. The Seven Years War was not limited because it was fought on a global scale and there were armies did not feel restricted to completely annihilate their opponents to stop their threat. It can be said that out of the Cabinet Wars spoken about in this essay, the Seven Years War could be seen as the most total one because of the intensity of the war and amount of European powers that were involved in this war. On the other hand, the War of Bavarian Succession was a limited war due to how small scale it was and also the countries involved, which were Prussia and Austria did not take part in significant battles with each other.

Bibliography

  1. Charters, Erica Michiko, Eve Rosenhaft, and Hannah Smith, Civilians And War In Europe, 1618-1815
  2. David Chandler, Marlborough as Military Commander
  3. “Battle Of The Plains Of Abraham”, Faculty.Marianopolis.Edu, 2018 <http://faculty.marianopolis.edu/c.belanger/QuebecHistory/encyclopedia/BattleofthePlainsofAbraham.htm> [Accessed 30 November 2018]
  4. “The Battle Of Malplaquet, 11 September 1709 | Art UK”, Artuk.Org, 2018 <https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/the-battle-of-malplaquet-11-september-1709-182479> [Accessed 30 November 2018]
  5. J. R. Jones, Marlborough
  6. M.S. Anderson, The War of Austrian Succession 1740-1748
  7. Strachan, Hew. European Armies and the Conduct of War, Routledge, 1988
  8. Dorn, Walter L. Competition for Empire
  9. Daniel Marston, The Seven Years’ War
  10. Daniel Baugh, Daniel A. Baugh The Global Seven Years War 1754-1763: Britain and France in a Great Power Contest
  11. Frans De Bruyn, Shaun Regan, The Culture of the Seven Years’ War: Empire, Identity, and the Arts in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World
  12. Franz A.J. Szabo, The Seven Years War in Europe: 1756-1763
  13. Jeremy Black, Warfare in Europe 1650 – 1792
  14. Michael Hochedlinger, Austria’s Wars of Emergence, 1683-1797

[1] Erica Michiko Charters, Eve Rosenhaft and Hannah Smith, Civilians And War In Europe, 1618-1815. P5

[2] Erica Michiko Charters, Eve Rosenhaft and Hannah Smith, Civilians And War In Europe, 1618-1815. P7

[3] “The Battle Of Malplaquet, 11 September 1709 | Art UK”, Artuk.Org, 2018 <https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/the-battle-of-malplaquet-11-september-1709-182479> [Accessed 30 November 2018].

[4] David Chandler, Marlborough as Military Commander

[5] J. R. Jones, Marlborough, p59

[6] M.S. Anderson, The War of Austrian Succession 1740-1748

[7] Strachan, Hew. European Armies and the Conduct of War, Routledge, 1988, p32

[8] Dorn, Walter L. Competition for Empire,

[9] Daniel Marston, The Seven Years’ War, p7

[10] Daniel Baugh, Daniel A. Baugh The Global Seven Years War 1754-1763: Britain and France in a Great Power Contest, p1

[11] Frans De Bruyn, Shaun Regan, The Culture of the Seven Years’ War: Empire, Identity, and the Arts in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World, p3

[12] Franz A.J. Szabo, The Seven Years War in Europe: 1756-1763, p434

[13]Battle Of The Plains Of Abraham“, Faculty.Marianopolis.Edu, 2018 <http://faculty.marianopolis.edu/c.belanger/QuebecHistory/encyclopedia/BattleofthePlainsofAbraham.htm> [Accessed 30 November 2018].

[14] Jeremy Black, Warfare in Europe 1650 – 1792

[15] Michael Hochedlinger, Austria’s Wars of Emergence, 1683-1797, p285

 

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