** war and social upheaval: specific 18th century conflicts

War and Social Upheaval: Specific 18th Century Conflicts

Figure 1.--Boys were involved in 18th century wars,a tradition that continued into the 19th centyry. Younger boys might serve as drummer boys. In naval war they might serve as powdermonkeys. Upperclass boys as young as 12-13 years of age might also be involved. They served as ensigns or eessentially apprentice officers, at the time a rank in both the English army and navy. The boy here is identified as Master James Hatch. He was painted by Sir William Beechly in 1796. We have been unable to find ant information about James. Beechly desriped the portrait as "Marshall's Attendant at the Montem, Eton". The Motem is a hill near Eton wher new boys were initiated and had to collect tribute at a nearby road.

HBC has collected information on the following wars and crises. In most cases we have just collected basic information on the conflict and our understanding of fashion impacts are still limited. We have primarily focused on 19th and 20th century conflicts. This is the historical period in wich specialized clothing existed for boys. Some of these conflicts had major impacts on fashion. Some of these conflicts had less impact on fashion, but are important to fully understand the sweep of history and the other conflicts we are assesing. We hope to eventually, however, expand our coverage to earlier conflicts as well.

Great Northern War (1700-21)

The Great Northern War was the first war of the 18th century. It extended over two decades and was fought in different phases as battlefields and beligerants shifted. The phases of the War cnsisted of 1700-06, 1707-09, 1709-14, 1714-18, and 1718-21. The origins of the War began in the 1890s. At the time Sweden was the dominant power in northeastern Europe. A coaltion (Russia, Denmark, and Saxony-Poland) gradually formed to resist Sweden (1697-99). When Charles XII assumed the throne at only age 15, it seemed an opportunity to deal with Sweden which controlled a broad area of northeastern Europe. Charles V of Denmark had designs on Scania and other territories on northern coast of the Baltic that was once Danish territory. Denmark also wanted to seize the Duchy of Holstein-Gottorp which Sweden now controlled. Agustus II of Saxony-Poland wanted Livonia on the Baltic. Augustus was known as Augustus the Strong. He was the Elector Frederick Augustus of Saxony within the Holy Roman Empire. He was elected king of Poland (1697). Possession of Livonia would enable Augustus to significant reduce Swedish commercial influence in the Baltic. Augustus saw the potential of comvining Saxony's productive know how with Polish rawmaterials, but Sweden commercial power impaired Augustus' plans. Russia's dynamic young Tsar had more limited goals. He primarily wanted an outlet on the Baltic. And Sweden possession of Karelia, Ingria and Estonia blocked Peter's westward advancement. The War began in Livonia where by J R von Patkul and other anti-Swedish noblemen.

War of the Spanish Succession (1701-14)

The War of the Spanish Succession was the second war of the 18th century. It was another war resulting from Louis XIV's desire to expand French territory and influence. The immediate objective was Spain. The War was fought in Europe from 1702-14. The War was primarily fought on land and was the first major engagement of English forces on the European continent beyond French coastal areas. It was the last of the wars launched by Louis XIV in his drive to expand French power and territory. Two great military leaders emerged, the Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene who secured major victories over the French. The War eventually statemated and the English withdrew. The Treaty of Utrech (1713) left the crown in Bourbon hands, but with the stipulation that the French and Spanish crowns never be unified. England gained important territories including Gibralter and areas of Canada.

Austro-Turkish War (1716-18)

The Ottoman Janasaries and other elements in the Empire became disenachanted with the Sultan who seemed more interested un plasure than on undoing Hapsburg victories in Hungary and the northern Balkans--the humiliating Peace of Karlowitz ending the Great Turkish War (1699). They installed a more vigorous sultan--Ahmed III. The Ottomans ac=hievd some victories. They mauled a Russuian army on the on the river Pruth (1711). They then seized the Venitian privince of Morea (1714). [Coxe, p. 100.] The Austrians began to preoare for attack Hungary and undo the Karlowitz settlemenht. The Sultan rejected an Austrian offer to negotiate. Emperor Charles VI ordered Pruince Eugene to Hungary with an army a fraction of the size of the Ottoman army. The ensuing clash would be one of Eugene's most brilliant campaigns and a rare major war Austriua fought almost entirely on its own.

War of the Polish Succession (1733-38)

Augustus the Strong King (Elector) of Saxony had been elected king of Poland. The issue of the sucession became a najor Europen issue. Two rival candidates emrged, each of which was supported by rival European powers. The primary Polish candidate was Stanislaus I Leszczynski who supported by France and Spain, important but distant countries. Poland's neigbors (Austria and Russia) supported Frederick Augustus II, elector of Saxony. The issue was finally resolved by the Treaty of Vienna (1735). The Treaty was not rarified until 1738). Frederick Augustus was able to secure election as King Augustus III of Poland. Leszczynski was partially compensated with the duchy of Lorraine which Francis I reluctantly surrendered. Francis was Maria Theresa's husband and would become Holy Roman Emperor. (The Hapsburgs dominated the post of Emperor, but Maria Theresaas a woman was inelkugible.) Austria gained Parma and Piacenza from Spain in the settlement, but Spain recovered both in the War of the Austrian Succession. Th primary significance of the War was the impact on Poland, especially Russian influence, leading to the subsequent partition of the county.

Industrial Revolution (1740- )

No development in modern history has affected individuals more than the Industrial Revolution. Historians debate just where and when the Industrail Revolution began. We would set it at about the mid-18th century in the English Midlands. Some authors might take issue with this, but this would be the most widely accepted view. The first industry affected was the weaving or clothing industry, which is one reason that the study of the clothing indusytry is so important. It was at this time that workers instead of weaving piece work at home, began to work in factories. Here cotton manufacture became especially impirtant. Several inventions at this time were responsible, including the spinning jeany, flying shuttle, and a water-powered loom. This was soon followed by the key invention of our time which served as a catalyst for industrial expansion--the steam engine. John Newcomen and James Watt developed the steam engine. Watt between 1769-84 developed an efficient engine. The abundant supplies of coal in Britian combined with the technological advances by British inventors in part explain why Britain led the way in European industrial expansion. The significance was that the steam engine was an efficent source of energy that could be put to work in virtually every industry and because inexpensive energy was available, helped develop new industies. The railroad was essenially a steam engine on wheels. The railroad in turn revolutionalized the world economy. Many bulk goods like grain could not be sold at any significant distance from where it was grown or produced. The railroad allowed bulk goods to be transported at great distance for limited costs, including ports where goods could be then shipped aound the world. At at those ports awaited steam-powered boats, floating steam engines, to effiently move cargos at low cost around the world.

War of Jenkens' Ear (1739-48)

The rather dismissive name of the War of Jenkens' Ear hides what was arguably the most impprtant war that all but historians know about. The Treaty of Utrecht (1713) ending the War of the Spanish Secession included provisions defining the boundaries of the European overseas empires. The treaty guaranteed the British some commecil rights in the hitherto legally closed Spanish Empire in the Americas. The British were given a 30-year exclusive contract to sell slaves to the Spanish colonies--the asiento. The English were also permitted to send one merchant ship a year to the Portobello trading fair. Portobello was located on the Caribbean coast of Panama. It was not a major port like Cartagena. It was a key port for the Spanish treasure ships. The Spanish brought silver from their phenominlly productive mines in Peru up the coast to Panama City and by mule caravana transited the Istmus where it could be loaded aboard galleons for shipment back to Spain. Despite the echaustive efforts Conquistadoes to find El Dorado, the Spamish found little gold in the America. What they found was vast deposits of silver, in both Peru (Bolivia) and Mexico. Portobello and a trading fair came to life for 2-weeks every year when the silver arrived from Peru and the galleons arrived from Spain. The galleons arrived with a variety of trade goods for sale to the people of Panama City and shipment to Peru. The English wanted into this immensly valuable trade. The colonial provisions of the Treaty of Utrecht, however, created a great deal of tension. The Spanish navy on the outlook for pirates and unauthorized English traders regularly stopped and inspected English ships. On one such incident, Spanish authorities cut off the ear of Robert Jenkens, the master of an English merchant ship (1731). Cpt. Jenkins retrieved his ear and pickeled it in a jar. English West Indian merchants who wanted more access to lucrative Spanish colonial markets lobied the British Government to prevent Spain from interfering with their attempts to trade in the Americas. Several years later, Cpt. Jenkens waved the jar with his severed ear at a session of the House of Commons. Prime Minister Robert Walpole was forced into a political corner and had to declare war (1739). The outcome of the War had few important consequences, but that was only because the English failed in campaigns to take the major Spanish bastions (St. Augustine, Havana, and Cartagena) defending tha annual treasure fleet transporting silver to Spain. The importance of silver at the time can not be overstated. It was vital fo trade with China, at the time the largest and most developed economy in the world and the major engine of international commerce. And there was a huge demand in Europe for Chinese products (silk, porcelin, tea, and other goods). Spanish power at the time had declined and the English saw the opportunity of seizing the Spanish Empire with its valuable silver mines. The British gained a victory at Portobello--which was commenorated by naming a now famous London street. The Spanish, however, held their major castions. Had the english suceeded, the history of Lar\tin America today would be very different. An interesting footnote is that a fervent British patriot in Virginia, one Lawrence Washington, named the family home, Mt. Vernon, after the British victor--Sir Edward Vernon. The outbreak of war between Britain and Spain, was followed the next year by Prussia's invasion of Austria Silesia which soon widened into a major European War--the War of the Austrian Secession. When Britain and Spain entered that continental War, the War of Jenkins Ear merged into the War of the Austrian Secession.

War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48)

The War of the Austrian Succession was an early world war. Some European rulers refused to recognize the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 and thus Maria Theresia's right to rule. These included Augustus III of Poland and Saxony and Charles Albert of Bavaria (later Emperor Charles VII). Both had married nieces of Charles VI and thus had dynastic claims to the Hapsburg lands. They and otheres, especially Frederick II (the Great) saw the opportunity to benefit from the succession of Maria who because she was a woman they assumed would be weak and inefectual. Maria Theresa succeeded her father Emperor Charles VI as ruler of his Hapsburg dominions (1740). The war began with the invasion of Hapsburg Silesia by Frederick the Great of Prussia (1740). Within a year nearly all the powers of Europe were involved in the conflict. The hear of the War was the struggle between Prussia and Austria for Silesia. Battles were also fought in southwest Germany, the Low Countries and Italy. Major battles were also fought between Austria and France. France and Prussia were supported by Spain and Bavaria. Austria was supported by Britain and the Netherlands. Sardinia and Saxony also at times supported Austria. The war was ended by the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen) (1748). It was embematic of the difficulties faced by continental powers. A huge amount of treasure and countless lives were expended and all that changed was the possession of Silesia--an important but hardly vital province. And Prussiae cistly wars to hold it. Today it is in Poland.

Seven Years War (1756-63)

King Louis XV concluded an alliance with Austria in 1756, and the two went to war with Great Britain and Prussia in the fateful Seven Years' War (1756-63), one of the most disatrous in French history. The War was actually precipitated with a young colonel in the Virginia militia, George Washington, chanced accross a French military force in the disputed territory west of the Apalachens. Louis' commitments to the Austrians prevented him from concentrating on the colonial struggle with Britain and as a result, by 1763, France had lost to Britain almost all her colonial possessions in North America and India. Later, the failure of his secret diplomacy resulted in the near elimination of French influence in central Europe. The French defeat was so crushing that it stirred a desire for revenge, a major factor in Louis XV's grandson, Louis XVI's decission to support the colonists in the American Revolution.

Polish Partitions (1772-95)

Poland at one time was a majoe Euorpean power. The sucess of the noobility in emasculting the monarchy caused a disatrous decline in Polish fortunes. And ultimately the neigboring powers (Russia, Prussia, and Austria) partitioned and annexed all of the former Polish kingdom (1772-95). This Poland disappeared grom the maps of Europe until being revived after World War I. Russia acquired the largest share of Poland, including all of eastern and central Poland as well as Warsw. Prussia acquired western Poland, much of which was renamed West Prussia (formerly Royal Prussia) and Posen. This was Wielkopolska or Greater Poland. Austria acquired southern Poland, including Krak�w and Lw�w and renamed "Galicia". During and after the Napoleonic Wars, Poland briefly reemerged as the small Duchy of Warsaw under Napoleon and the Kingdom of Poland within the Tsarist Empire.

American Revolution (1776-83)

The Revolutionary War was an astounding occurance in a world sill dominated by kings. It established the firt important republic since Rome in the middle of what at the time was a wilderness far from Europe. It was a war that the British could have easily voided had King George and his adviors been willing to show the least flexibility. Many in Britain objected to the War and a minority of Americans wanted independence at the time the war began. It was also a war that the American colonists won by the slimest of margins against the most powerful country in the world. The Americans suceeded in their stuggle only because they were aided by a French king who was opposed to offering the same liberties to his people that the Americans were demnding from their king. The American Revolution is a struggle that has been somewhat lost as a result of the much greater scholary interest in America on the Civil War. Asa result, most American's view thewar through simplistic primary school readings which obssure the trmendously complicated course of events that led to the War and creation of America. English scholars, perhaps because of Britain loss the War, have given it almost no scholarly attention.

French Revolution (1789-99)

The rise of the bourgeoisie in France signaled the deathnell for Ancien Regime, the old aristocracy. Unlike Britain and the new United States, the economiclly important bourgeoisie was denied any political role and support of the increasingly frivolous aristocracy imposed a great economic cost on France. Not only was the bourgeoisie denied any real political role, but the lower classess lived in increasingly deprived conditions, a situation intensified by the bankruptsy of he royal government. The increasing oposition to France's virtually feudal government suddenly ignited during a 1789 riot that exploded into open revolt. The Revolution was oposed by the other counties of Europe--all monarchies. The disorders and violence in France were to engulf all Europe in war, first with the new French Republic and then with Napoleon's Empire. The resulting wars and campaigns were the most significant in Europe until World War I (1914-18). The French Revolution have profound political, social, and economic influences. The dress of aristicracy came into question. Powdered wigs disappeared very quickly. Knee breeches endured longer as they were also worn by the bourgeoisie. The working class had already begun wearing long trousers. It was boys from well to do families that first began wearing long pants as part of a dress costume--usually a skeleton suit. I'm not sure why boys were the first to adapt this style.

Napoleonic Wars (1798-1815)

The French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars did more to foster nationalist sentiment than any other events during the late 18th century and early 19th century. Fashions were largely pan-European before the Napoleonic Wars. After Waterloo (1815) and the Congress of Versailles (1814-15), individual nation satates coalessed and developed theie own values and fashions. One factor was the increasing nationalization of European monarchies. Before the Napoleomioc Wars, there were many royal families which ruled provinces that that spoke different languages and had culturres different than the monarch. Even a large country like England had a series of Dutch and German kings. After the Naopoleonic Wars, nation states began to colaese, Finally Germany and Italy emerged. The monarchs in 19th centurty Europe (although not necesarily therir wives) were identified with the national culturel The English monarch (Victoria), the Czar, the Kaiser, the Italian king. the French kings and emperors were the embodiment of the national image--it would be unimaginable that such monarchs woulod be foreign. At the same time, destinctive national fashionsd became increasingly important. No longer would Europeans accept pan-Europran fashions like the skeleton suit. The impact on Germany and Central Europe after wars of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars need to be examined as much focus is usually on England and France.


Coxe, W. History of the House of Austria (Cadell: 1807).


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Created: October 22, 2002
Last updated: 2:23 AM 6/5/2019