Frederick’s decisive victory in the War of the Austrian Succession had laid bare the basic weaknesses of the Habsburgs’ dynastic empire. The empress Maria Theresa (r. 1740-1780) believed in the need for reform and often took as her model the institutions of her hated but successful rival, Frederick II of Prussia.
Scholars argue over how fundamental slavery has been to different cultures. Perhaps half of all societies have owned legal slaves. But if we define a slave society as one in which slaves play a significant role in production and constitute, say, 20 percent of the total population, then there have been only five slave societies in known history: classical Athens, Roman Italy (though not the remainder of the Empire), the West Indies under the British and French, the southern portion of the United States before 1865, and Brazil. This does not, of course, include other forms of forced labor.
The transition from modern to what some scholars refer to as postmodern history is marked by the rise and collapse of the great modern empires.
The age of maritime exploration and early colonialism had knit the globe together into one intellectual construct; the age of imperialism would give political and economic reality to this set of mental maps.
Imperialism, both as word and as deed, became part of the power struggle among the Western powers and, in the twentieth century, among non- Western nations as well.
The French, Dutch, and English all sought to gain footholds in South America, but had to settle for the unimportant Guianas. They thoroughly broke up the Spanish hold on the Caribbean, however. In early modern times these islands were one of the great prizes of imperialism. Cheap slave labor raised tobacco, fruits, coffee, and, most profitably, cane sugar.
In 1959 Khrushchev told Beijing that the Soviet Union would not furnish the PRC with atomic weapons and tried unsuccessfully to unseat Mao. PRC bombardment of Quemoy and Matsu (1958), offshore islands claimed by Taiwan, plus a savage conquest of Tibet and an invasion of Indian territory in Ladakh were undertaken without consultation between the PRC and the Soviets. The Soviets publicly declared themselves to be neutral between the
Stalin’s program was not achieved without opposition. The crisis of 1931 and 1932, when industrial goals were not being met and starvation swept the countryside, created discontent inside the regime as well as outside.
A few officials circulated memoranda advocating Stalin’s removal as general secretary, an act that the party had the right to perform. Stalin jailed them for conspiracy, and one leading Bolshevik committed suicide. Stalin’s second wife reproached him at this time for the ravages that the terror was working, and she, too, committed suicide in 1932.
The British had been the first to resist Napoleon successfully, at Trafalgar and on the economic battlefields of the Continental System. Then had come Spanish resistance, followed by Russian.
Now in 1813 almost every nation in Europe joined the final coalition against the French. Napoleon raised a new army, but he could not so readily replace the equipment lost in Russia. In October 1813 he lost the “Battle of the Nations,” fought at Leipzig in Germany, necessitating his retreat into France.
For the mother country the American Revolution implied more than the secession of thirteen colonies. It involved Britain in a minor world war that jeopardized its dominance abroad and weakened the power and prestige of King George III at home.
The most worrisome crises were in Russia. No sooner had the Germans been forced to withdraw from the regions they had gained at Brest-Litovsk than the Allies sent detachments to various points along the perimeter of Russia—on the Black Sea, on the White Sea in the far north, and on the Pacific. The Allies’ dread of final Bolshevik success and of the possible spread of Bolshevism westward added to the tensions at Versailles.
Proponents of the view that Europe underwent a severe crisis during the seventeenth century can find much evidence in the horrors resulting from Louis XIV’s aggressions. The total cost of his wars in human lives and economic resources was very great, especially in the deliberate French devastation of the German Palatinate during the War of the League of Augsburg.