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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 VII: Great Britain in the face of the Spanish Liberal Revolution (1820-1823) and the intervention of the Holy Alliance on the Iberian peninsula


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Chapter VII

Great Britain in the face of the Spanish Liberal Revolution (1820-1823) and the intervention of the Holy Alliance on the Iberian peninsula

The events shaking Europe since the early 1820s, starting with the Spanish liberals’ victory in 1820, had their impact on the bilateral relations between Spain and Great Britain. Although the two states had been in alliance for more than a decade, otherwise acquiring a purely formal character after the end of the Spanish War of Independence, the international ramifications of the revolt, triggered off by Rafael del Riego’s pronunciamento, clearly brought up to date the objectives that had motivated the signatories to sign the Treaty of 18141.

The problems which still remained unresolved, thereby maintaining tension between the governments of the two states, included first of all issues relating to the progressive emancipation of Hispanic America and the unregulated commercial dealings. The rigorous tariffs in Spain were curbing the development of legal trade exchange between the two countries, thus making Ferdinand VII’s monarchy presumably the largest contraband market in Europe. The value of illicit trading that flourished between the British merchants and Spain, mainly via Gibraltar, but also in the ports of Cadiz, Malaga or Barcelona, was considerably higher than that of legal business. From the approximate data compiled by a French diplomat, Baron de Boislecomte, for the period of 1816-1824, a conclusion can be inferred that the advantage of the British contraband over official trade was...

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