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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 19th 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 VIII: Towards recognising Spanish America


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Chapter VIII

Towards recognising Spanish America

Although for several years after 1814 relations between London and Madrid were dominated by the complex problem of Hispanic America, the only matter successfully settled by diplomacy was the abolition of the slave trade. Until the Congress of Aachen, with the proviso that essential concessions to trade beyond the ocean be granted to European merchants and that administrative and economic autonomy be guaranteed to the colonies first, the British government had already been ready to come to the rescue of the Spanish empire’s integrity. This conditional support from London was by no means selfless. Restoring Spain to power in America would serve the purpose of stabilising the political situation in the region. It would also provide an important guaranty that the colonies would not come under the control or influence of Great Britain’s rivals, with the United States on top of the list1. Obviating the danger of a social revolution could facilitate an unrestrained growth of trade exchange, with Britain’s dominant position – by virtue of its superior economic and maritime potential – remaining unthreatened. It must also be borne in mind that London then saw Hispanic America merely from the angle of the absorption capacity of British markets, which was why, in view of the enormous changes in the structure of British commerce coming about in the years after the Napoleonic Wars, Spain’s overseas dominions were gaining special importance as intended to compensate the British merchants for their...

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