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Allies or Enemies

Political relations between Spain and Great Britain during the reign of Ferdinand VII (1808–1833)

Patrycia Jakobczyk-Adamczyk

Spanish-British relations changed during the first three decades of the 19 th century. Both states emerged victorious from the Napoleonic wars and were united by the alliance, but their respective strength was totally different. While Great Britain enhanced its status as a sea power, strong enough to affect the political situation in Europe, Spain sank to the rank of a secondary state. Britain, protecting clearly defined interests, carried out long-term and rational policy. Spain’s policy was inconsistent and it could not be treated as a reliable ally in spite of its considerable economic resources and strategic importance. The book analyses a long and complex process of overcoming the traditional hostility between the two countries and outlines the international context as well as the internal conditions of that political evolution.
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Chapter II: Political relations between Spain and Great Britain at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries


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Chapter II

Political relations between Spain and Great Britain at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries

Political relations between Spain and Great Britain at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries were the product of the traditional policy that was conducted by the two states, by the events of the French Revolution and by Napoleon’s aspirations for domination over Europe. A crucial factor was also the deeply rooted and continually intensifying rivalry over the seas and in the colonies. Since 1789 and until 1808 the two monarchies were at almost permanent, more or less open, war. Their mutual relations were not repaired by Spain entering the first anti-French coalition (1793-1795) or by the several attempts at rapprochement that were made half-heartedly by Madrid.

The Spanish policy with regard to the British Isles was determined by Spain’s sense of insecurity and uncertainty of the stability of its empire1. Despite a deep-seated internal crisis, making it impossible for Spain to conduct its foreign policy independently and effectively, it continued to pursue ambitious and expensive goals, the most important of which resulted from the conviction for the need to preserve the massive empire’s territorial integrity. Another crucial determinant was the ambition to retain the Bourbon dynasty’s influence on the Italian countries (Naples, Parma and, next, Etruria). Spain’s concern for inviolability of its assets in the Americas and North Africa as well as for safe navigation and colonial trade provoked an inevitable...

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