The Old Regime, the institutions that existed in France and Europe before 1789, exhibited features of both the medieval and early modern worlds. The economy was largely agrarian, but in western Europe serfdom had disappeared. The social foundations of the Old Regime were based on three estates. Increasingly, the economic, social, and political order of the Old Regime came under attack in the eighteenth century.
The Old Regimes
The peace settlements of Hubertusburg and Paris ended the greatest international crisis that was to occur between the death of Louis XIV and the outbreak of the French Revolution.
New crises were to arise, but they did not fundamentally alter the international balance; they accentuated the shifts that had long been underway. And although American independence cost Britain thirteen of its colonies, the maritime and imperial supremacy it had gained in 1763 was not otherwise seriously affected.
In Europe the dramatic shift of alliances called the Diplomatic Revolution immediately preceded the formal outbreak of the Seven Years’ War, which had already begun in the colonies. Britain, which had joined Austria against Prussia in the 1740s, now paired off with Frederick the Great. And in the most dramatic move of the Diplomatic Revolution, France, joined with its hereditary enemy, Habsburg Austria.
Britain and France collaborated in the 1720s and 1730s because both Walpole and Fleury sought stability abroad to promote economic recovery at home. The partnership, however, collapsed over the competition between the two Atlantic powers for commerce and empire.
Neither Walpole nor Fleury could prevent the worldwide war between Britain and the Bourbon monarchies that broke out in 1739 and that lasted, with intervals of peace, until the final defeat of Napoleon in 1815. This “Second Hundred Years’ War” had, in fact, already begun half a century earlier, in the days of Louis XIV.
In 1716 the Ottoman Empire became embroiled in a war with Austria that resulted in the Treaty of Passarowitz (1718), by which Charles VI recovered the portion of Hungary still under Turkish rule, plus some other Ottoman lands in the Danube valley. Another Austro Turkish war (1735-1739) modified the Passarowitz settlement.
In the early eighteenth century the international balance was precarious. Should the strong states decide to prey upon the weak, the balance was certain to be upset. One such upset resulted from the Great Northern War, which enabled Russia to replace Sweden as the dominant power in the Baltic.