18th Century Warfare: Crash Course European Historical past #20

published on July 2, 2020

Hi I’m John Green and this is Crash Course
European History

Last time, we looked at how the monarchs did–and
didn’t–incorporate the ideas of the Enlightenment

into their domestic policies

Today, we’ll look outward to how the 18th
century European powers engaged with each

other and beyond Europe–which is to say that
warfare is coming

Or, continuing, I suppose, because it never
really left town

So, population was rising in 18th century

Europe and despite an extremely uneven distribution
of wealth and lots of wartime casualties,

many people were leading better lives

For example, inventories of French people’s
possessions show that in 1700 women owned

an average of two garments generally in solid
black or brown;

in 1800 that number was five garments of more
varied, even bright colors

Now, this may seem like minor progress, but
here’s another way of thinking about it:

The average number of garments owned by people
living in France rose by more in a hundred

years than it had in the previous hundred

By the way, did that dress look gold to you,
or blue?

And do you even remember that meme?

Probably not

Oh god, I’m so old

I grow old, I grow old, I shall wear the bottoms
of my trousers rolled

That’s an even older meme

At any rate, we associate these and many other
improving conditions in Europe with what is

called “modernity”—an idea combining
improvement and novelty that we will examine

later in the series

But when it came to warfare, Europeans were
still battling it out among themselves on

the continent and on the seas–and always
at great cost

The 18th century opened with wars of the Spanish,
Polish, and Austrian successions, all of which

were just what their names suggest: fights
over who was going to become king or queen

amidst a dispute over rulership—disputes
not unlike the one at the heart of the Hundred

Years War

And so in that sense, progress had been minimal

As far as wars between states, the dominant
idea in foreign relations was still to grab

as much territory as possible from foreign

Because only by making your kingdom bigger
could you also make it richer

So for instance as Austria fought with itself
during its war of succession over whether

a woman, Maria Theresa, should be allowed
to ascend to the Habsburg throne, Frederick

the Great of neighboring Prussia quickly mobilized
his army and seized Silesia from the Habsburgs

When I read the phrase, “seized Silesia”
it rolled right off the tongue of my mind,

but man

Saying it is a completely different matter

At any rate, Maria Theresa’s rulership survived,
but Habsburg control of Silesia did not

Because of economic globalization, still other
wars aimed at controlling trade routes and

productive territory around the world

For that reason sometimes a cluster of wars
in the middle of the eighteenth century has

been called a “world war” or the Great
War for Empire

Like, it was a world war, but unfortunately
we already have a World War I, so we’re

in a bit of a tight spot, name-wise

But these wars did occur across truly global
battlefields and oceans

They included wars between the British and
local Native American peoples (sometimes called

the first and second Anglo-Indian Wars), and
also the French and Indian War in North America

and there was also the Seven Years War, which
was fought partly within Europe, but there

were also battles between Britain and its
rivals—most notably France and Spain—in

the Caribbean, the Philippines, and India

In this complicated and many-tentacled set
of wars—or arguably a single war in many

different theaters—the French and British
were ultimately fighting over who would be

the dominant European force in the wider world

Spain was a somewhat smaller player, fighting
to protect its holdings in the Caribbean and

the Philippines

Native people around the world were enlisted
in these struggles, and local peoples changed

sides often as their interests shifted, and
in the end trusted none of the Europeans,

who pitted native peoples against each other
and also were not known for keeping their


Simultaneously the Russians were waging war
against the Ottomans in eastern Europe, the

Mediterranean, the Middle East, and the Caucasus

In Russia, like in the other European kingdoms,
the wars’ costs were passed on mostly to

ordinary people, who faced more efficient
and demanding tax collection

Additionally, central governments were disrupting
local traditions and practices–for instance,

local traditions related to the consumption
of alcohol were disrupted in Russia by HUGE

increases in taxes on alcohol

Did the center of the world just open?

Is my favorite book, The Bear and the Dragon
in there?

Ah, The Bear and the Dragon by Tom Clancy

I’ve never actually read it, but inside
my copy of the bear and the dragon is this

So in 18th century Russia, this huge tax on
alcohol eventually funded 22% of the empire’s

total budget

And there were other disruptions as well,
arguably more important ones, including the

conversion of some free peasants into serfs

Local people fought back in a variety of ways

The first of the extensive uprisings against
the efficient and “enlightened” taxation

to pay for warfare was the Pugachev Rebellion

It was led by former Cossack and Russian army
deserter Emile Pugachev

He managed to persuade rural Russians that
he was in fact Peter III, husband of Catherine


Now, Peter had been assassinated in 1762 within
months of his accession to power, most likely

at Catherine’s command (and possibly by
her lover)

So given that Russian history really was playing
out like a soap opera, it didn’t seem impossible

that the murdered Czar had been hiding out
all along as a Russian army deserter named


Pugachev claimed to have wandered poor and
alone like Jesus until he could become the

“Tsar Redeemer”

And as Peter III, Pugachev created quite the

He had Russian clergy and officials—both
high and low—issue a series of measures

relieving serfs of their burdens

Pugachev also roused the Cossacks, who were
fearful of being forced into the army and

losing their freedom

He confirmed their rights and liberties and
he granted everyone permission to sport beards,

which, as you may recall, Peter I had outlawed

And some three million Russians followed Pugachev
until he was captured in 1774, then gruesomely

tortured and executed in January 1775

After that, Catherine again tightened the
nobility’s grip on serfs

Hard on the heels of Pugachev’s uprising,
the American Revolution erupted over a series

of taxes Britain imposed on its thirteen colonies
in North America—again to pay the costs

of imperial warfare

Now, the British government felt that the
expense it had incurred in defeating the French

and Native Americans in the French and Indian
War should be paid by the colonists who’d

profited from the protection

But in America, we don’t stand for that
kind of reasoning!

There were some other things going on

The royal government had also closed off westward
expansion at the Allegheny Mountains, which

in effect eradicated the property rights of
people like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington

who claimed land there

And King George agreed with his advisors that
the Americans were rough, stupid, and ineffective,

especially as miltary people

So to keep the Native Americans under control,
a standing army of British soldiers should

be stationed on the North American continent
and financed by the colonists

So if history is all about shifting perspectives,
we’re gonna shift perspectives quickly here

From the british perspective, American colonists
were taxed 1 shilling for every 26 paid by

a homeland Briton, and that seemed like a
pretty good deal

But from the perspective of the North American
colonists, they did not have the rights of

other Englishmen, including the right not
to be taxed without representation

Colonists created a Declaration of Independence,
which was issued in 1776

The British the sent additional troops, and
soon war erupted

Those who wanted independence harassed, beat
up, murdered and destroyed the property of

the loyalists, who responded in kind

The rebels were greatly aided by the Spanish
and French who sent decisive aid in the form

of ships and military personnel

And besides, the British had other concerns,
including preserving their far more lucrative

sugar islands in the Caribbean, as well as
their holdings in India, and in Canada

Although comparatively insignificant at the
time, the newly independent colonies that

became the United States established a representative
form of government with a written constitution

that featured many Enlightenment principles

Now, it was hardly a true democracy, as only
a minority had any legal say or rights and

the Constitution itself enshrined slavery

But it also definitely wasn’t a monarchy

Anyway, this little country would eventually
grow big enough for us to make an entire Crash

Course about it

Meanwhile, the defeated loyalists, including
slaves who had been promised their freedom

in return for fighting for the crown, fled
to Canada and other parts of the world

And for the record, they rarely received the
financial support that the British had promised

them for their faithful assistance

Spain also saw uprisings against the reforms
of the enlightened monarchs, though grievances

had been piling up even before efficient and
tax-heavy policies were put in place

Also, Spain lost Manila in the Philippines
to the British, and they lost Florida, which,

you know, not exactly a tragedy

I am a Floridan so I am allowed to make that

And, that’s not fair

Florida is lovely

It really is the best place in the United
States to run from your past mistakes, straight

into new ones

But back to Spain

So, across the occupied Spanish lands in the
Western Hemisphere, local people found ways

to express their discontent with colonial
oppression, at times violently protesting

injustices by imperial officials or overbearing
behavior by priests

Religious activists claimed that the Spanish
were false gods; in the former Incan lands,

several Incans actively opposed the Spanish
government in a concerted uprising that began

in 1742, but was soon defeated

Let’s go to the Thought Bubble


In 1780, another uprising battling Spanish
rule broke out in the Andes


Inca Tupac Ameru led a powerful rebellion
against Spanish authorities in an attempt

to restore the former Incan empire

3 and to liberate local people from the increased
Spanish demands for labor and taxes


His wife Michaela Bastidas, who was part Incan,

5 was operational manager and chief enforcer
of loyalty to her husband’s uprising


In that role she was especially brutal


She threatened slackers, even her husband,
whom she chastised for following losing strategies


And she ensured that the revolt’s soldiers
were supplied with arms and food and that

they were paid

9 —concerns that Tupac Ameru seemed to
forget sometimes


Alongside Bastidas, who mostly directed military


entire units of women soldiers took to the
battlefields in several parts of the empire,

building on traditions of active resistance


Spanish soldiers noticed them for their intense
commitment to victory in battle,


calling them “supermasculine” and one
fighter in particular “as bloody a butcher

as her brother”


The rebellion was put down with focused determination
and its leaders were eventually captured


In 1781, the Spanish colonial government (in
present day Peru) had Michaela Bastidas dragged

bound hand and foot to her execution, garroted,
then hanged;


finally they cut her body to pieces with her
head posted on a pike for all to see


Which, unfortunately is not the last time
we’re going to be talking about heads on

pikes in Crash Course European History


Her husband’s execution and mutilation followed
shortly thereafter

Thanks Thought Bubble

Some 100,000 people died in the uprisings
in the Spanish empire—that is, around ten

percent of the native population in all of
Spain’s South American holdings

The Spanish imperial government prevailed
whereas the British did not for a number of


For one, the Spanish administration was less
dispersed in its efforts and had seen how

Britain suffered because it was fighting all
around the world

Also, Spain had also begun the process of
integrating creoles—people of Spanish descent

born in the colonies—into the officer corps
of the Spanish imperial armies

Professional training, access to military
schools and military privileges all served

to build loyalty to Spain

And that was essentially the opposite of British
treatment and attitudes towards North American


Britain saw its North American colonials as,
like, useless at fighting and hopeless as


and so the Spanish Empire in the Americas
survived for now

Still, some saw a different outcome

Francisco de Miranda, a creole official in
the Spanish army, helped achieved the victory

for the American Revolutionaries at Yorktown

He watched the Spanish dealings with the rebels
in Peru, observing “how astute and perfidious

the Spanish agents had proved

But Miranda predicted, “the Anglo-American



was bound to be the infallible preliminary
to our own”

And indeed, people of South America had greater
battles to come as they continued to fight

for their freedom from Spain

So, these eighteenth century wars had many
long-term outcomes

First, as the Seven Years War unwound and
the Prussian army built itself up, Frederick

the Great saw a chance to cut up Poland-Lithuania,
proposing to divide a good chunk of it among

Austria, Russia, and Prussia itself

This was the First Partition of Poland; so-called
because further partitions would follow

Meanwhile, while Britain lost what it thought
of as a less lucrative part of its empire,

it kept its domination of the Caribbean sugar
islands and turned its attention to extracting

the wealth of India

Finally, after providing the crucial aide
that allowed the birth of the United States

of America, France was in dire financial straits
and badly in need of reform

As the French watched, and supported, the
emergence of a nation without a monarch across

the Atlantic, few of them could have imagined
that a great revolution was just one episode

away that would see the French monarchy beheaded–both
literally and figuratively

Thanks for watching

I’ll see you then

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