In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714)

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Journals and Edited Collections
  • Origins of the War
  • The Belligerents
  • Alliances
  • Military Operations
  • Revolts and Rebels
  • Diplomats and Negotiation
  • Intelligence
  • The Peace of Utrecht

International Relations War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714)
Jamel Ostwald
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 June 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 June 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0134


Of Louis XIV’s many wars, his last, the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714), remains the most studied. Not only do the war’s results appeal to those seeking to humble the self-declared Sun King, but the war’s conduct also raised several military commanders to the status of great captains as well as resulting in a series of congresses to resolve the many thorny issues engendered by the conflict. Stuart Britain, the Dutch republic, and Habsburg Austria formed a Grand Alliance against Bourbon France and Spain, while a constellation of minor allies aligned themselves with one of these two poles, over the fundamental question of whether the French or Austrian candidate would succeed to the vacated Spanish throne. The traditional historical approach to the war, narrative biographies focused on elite politicians, diplomats, and generals, continues unabated. The collection and publication of primary sources in the 18th and 19th centuries led to the dissemination of national narratives of foreign affairs, military operations, and diplomatic negotiations. Authors supported their own country’s justifications for war, generally replicating the divisions seen in the war itself. By the mid-20th century a new generation had begun to assemble these narrow and often-partisan narratives into a wider synthesis; the heyday of traditional diplomatic history, with its interest in state-directed policy, lay in the 1960s and 1970s. Over the latter half of the 20th century, new questions began to slowly permeate the international history of the War of the Spanish Succession, while still remaining relevant to earlier questions about the development of diplomacy. Three trends are particularly important and mirror advances in international history more broadly. First, there has been a growing recognition of the influence of a wide variety of nonstate actors on foreign policy as well as a more general interrogation of the very idea of a state-centered history of the prenational early modern period. Second, the resurgence of interest in religion has led more recent historians to question the traditional notion that the Peace of Westphalia (1648) ended the “wars of religion.” Finally, questions of diplomatic culture have encouraged some historians to explore the internal workings of the negotiators themselves and to reassess the professionalization of these state servants. A grand synthesis of the War of the Spanish Succession remains to be written, and the expansion of questions about the war will require a broad brush indeed.

General Overviews

Given the participation of more than ten European countries, with communication in as many different languages, fighting across four different theaters of war, and diplomatic connections with another major war in the East (the Great Northern War), it is no surprise that there are no overviews of the War of the Spanish Succession that cover the full scope of the conflict. The closest to achieve this is the older collection in Bromley 1970, which provides broad overviews of all the major powers. More focused is Lamberty 1724–1740, which provides a participant’s reconstruction of the outlines of the war from an allied perspective. Lynn 1999 offers a more recent attempt to place the War of Spanish Succession in the context of Louis’s long series of wars.

  • Bromley, J. S., ed. The New Cambridge Modern History. Vol. 6, The Rise of Great Britain and Russia, 1688–1725. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1970.

    DOI: 10.1017/CHOL9780521075244

    Useful, basic narrative of individual countries as well as thematic chapters, although many interpretations have been superseded in more recent works. Chapter 5 focuses specifically on international relations, whereas other chapters discuss individual countries; chapter 13 offers a good summary of the War of the Spanish Succession.

  • Lamberty, Guillaume de. Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire du XVIII siècle, contenant les negociations, traitez, resolutions, et autres documents autentiques concernant les affaires d’etat: Liez par une narration historique des principaux evenements dont ils ont été précédez ou suivis, et particulièrement de ce qui s’est passé à la Haïe, qui a toûjours été comme le centre de toutes ces négociations. 14 vols. The Hague: Scheurleer, 1724–1740.

    Authored by a Swiss agent in allied service, this collection provides a narrative of the main political events throughout Europe from c. 1700 to 1713. Incorporated within the text are hundreds of documents detailing the diplomatic and military positions of various powers.

  • Lynn, John A. The Wars of Louis XIV, 1667–1714. Modern Wars in Perspective. London and New York: Longman, 1999.

    The only modern overview of all of Louis’s wars, with a heavy reliance on French sources. Synthesizes existing accounts by emphasizing the attritional nature of the wars. Chapter 7 covers the Spanish Succession.

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