In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section War of the Spanish Succession

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Warfare
  • Origins of the War
  • Negotiations and Peace

Atlantic History War of the Spanish Succession
David Onnekink
  • LAST REVIEWED: 19 December 2012
  • LAST MODIFIED: 19 December 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199730414-0100


The War of the Spanish Succession is usually seen as part of a longer conflict involving the whole of western, southern, and central Europe, and was the last in a series in which an alliance tried to contain the expansion of France under Louis XIV. By 1689, a Grand Alliance consisting of the Habsburg Monarchy, England, and the Dutch Republic had formed, which was renewed in 1701 and would take on France and Spain. The War of the Spanish Succession was triggered by the decision of Carlos II of Spain to bequeath the full Spanish inheritance to the Duke of Anjou, a grandson of Louis XIV. As a result of the association between France and Spain, the Allies feared the balance of power in Europe would be upset, and Dutch and English overseas trade would be gravely damaged. Under the leadership of two military geniuses, the Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene of Savoy, the Allies won great victories over France. Also, the logistic and financial infrastructure played a major part in winning the war. In a series of splendid victories (the Battle of Blenheim in 1704, Battle of Ramillies in 1706, Battle of Oudenaarde in 1708, and Battle of Malplaquet in 1709) the Allied army brought the Franco-Spanish alliance to its knees but never quite achieved ultimate victory. The War of the Spanish Succession was a conflict that spanned the globe, most notably the Americas, but was still primarily seen as a struggle for the hegemony in Europe and the balance of power. The War of the Spanish Succession has been largely uncontroversial as a subject of historiographical research. It is seen as the last great conflict to contain French aggression, the first war that sparked Anglo-French conflict in the colonies and the settlement of the balance of power. That said, from the 1970s onward historians have questioned the anti-French paradigm in which the war was cast, historians pointing out that by 1702 France had no master plan to achieve hegemony and tried to evade conflict. Revisionist history focuses mostly on the cultural, social, and religious context of the war. There is renewed attention to national sentiments, the role of the church, the Protestant interest in international relations, and the role of public debate.

General Overviews

Although plenty of short descriptions are available in multiple general textbooks on early modern Europe on the War of the Spanish Succession, specific overviews are actually scarce. The best starting point remains Bromley 1970, which is a volume of articles found in the New Cambridge History, which focuses precisely on the period of investigation. Though dated, the volume is still extremely useful for an overview of the main events, subjects, and participants.

  • Bromley, J. S., ed. The New Cambridge Modern History. Vol. 6, The Rise of Great Britain and Russia (1688–1715/25). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1970.

    DOI: 10.1017/CHOL9780521075244

    The articles by specialists in the field cover the main events of the interwar years (1697–1702), the War of the Spanish Succession (1702–1713), and the Peace of Utrecht. There are also chapters dealing with perspectives from the main participants (Spain, France, Britain, the Dutch Republic, and Austria), and chapters on international relations, economy and finance, religion, and more. Now also available as an e-book.

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