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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 III: Towards normalisation. Political relations between Spain and Great Britain in the years 1808-1814


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Chapter III

Towards normalisation. Political relations between Spain and Great Britain in the years 1808-1814

1. Outbreak of the Spanish War of Independence and Spain’s political turn towards Great Britain

The continental blockade imposed by Napoleon with the purpose of destroying the foundations of Great Britain’s economy failed to produce the expected results. A tight closure of European markets to British goods was practically unfeasible. Given Great Britain’s utterly important part in European economy, the Napoleonic concepts must have adversely affected the balance of the national economies in individual countries. Hence, not all states could be forced to observe the rules of the blockade1. Great Britain’s allies still included Portugal, which had violated the conditions of the peace agreement putting an end to the so-called War of the Oranges by refusing to close its seaports to the British fleet2. The diplomatic pressure present in April 1805 proved ineffective too. General Jean Andoche Junot, dispatched on a special mission to Lisbon, insisted that Portugal break off any and all ties with Great Britain, abandon its declared policy of neutrality and, de facto, become dependent on France. The pressure brought to bear on Portugal, which France and Spain resorted to in August 1807 by demanding that Portuguese ports be closed to British trade, the British ambassador be expelled, all British residing in Portugal be taken into custody, British property be sequestrated, and the Portuguese naval forces be joined with the French ones3, was...

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