Kingdom of Great Britain - Great Britain in The 18th Century - Empire


The death of Charles II of Spain on 1 November 1700 and his bequeathal of Spain and its colonial empire to Philip of Anjou, a grandson of the King of France, had raised the prospect of the unification of France, Spain and their colonies, an unacceptable possibility for the other powers of Europe. In 1701, England, Portugal and the Netherlands sided with the Holy Roman Empire against Spain and France in the War of the Spanish Succession. The conflict, continued by the new state of Great Britain, lasted until 1714, with France and Spain proving the losers. At the concluding Treaty of Utrecht, Philip renounced his and his descendants' right to the French throne. Spain lost its empire in Europe, and although it kept its empire in the Americas and the Philippines, it was irreversibly weakened as a great power. The new British Empire, based upon what until 1707 had been the English colonies, was territorially enlarged: from France, Britain gained Newfoundland and Acadia, and from Spain, Gibraltar and Minorca. Gibraltar, which is still a British overseas territory to this day, became a critical naval base and allowed Britain to control the Atlantic entry and exit point to the Mediterranean.

The Seven Years' War, which began in 1756, was the first war waged on a global scale and saw British involvement in Europe, India, North America, the Caribbean, the Philippines and coastal Africa. The signing of the Treaty of Paris of 1763 had important consequences for Britain and its empire. In North America, France's future as a colonial power there was effectively ended with the ceding of New France to Britain, leaving a sizeable French-speaking population under British control, and Louisiana to Spain. Spain ceded Florida to Britain. In India, the Carnatic War had left France still in control of its enclaves but with military restrictions and an obligation to support British client states, effectively leaving the future of India to Britain. The British victory over France in the Seven Years War therefore left Britain as the world's dominant colonial power.

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