How Britain was Affected by the French Wars Essay

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How Britain was Affected by the French Wars

When studying the effect of the French Wars on Britain one must not forget that 18th century warfare is not comparable in any degree to the 20th century world wars which as Tongue suggests "were fought with a ferocity and scale unknown in previous centuries". The French wars did not dominate British society during this period and therefore it is extremely hard to determine which changes in the economy, politics and society were induced by the war and which would have happened anyway.

There were many changes in Britain's politics of the period and although they could have all happened if there had not been any French wars there are obvious links
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While Fox expected the example of France to reinvigorate the reform movement in Britain, Burke was of the opinion that the French revolution was a threat to European civilisation. However, other factors were also crucial in dividing the Whig party (such as the close association with some elements of the party with the Prince of Wales) as O'Gorman suggests "it exposed inherent contradictions with the Opposition Whig party, but it did not create them". The gulf between the two parties also deepened during this period, from a divide on a question of the royal prerogative to an increasing political and ideological chasm. However the Ministerial instability after Pitt was not only the result of the War but also, of other factors such as the role of different characters or the King.

The effect of the war on the economy varied in scope and intensity from sector to sector. Trade was greatly affected by the war, both negatively and positively. Statistically, the rate of growth of export only slightly slowed down during the war (by 1% to the 1798-1802 period), the rate of re-exports doubled and there was a slight increase in imports, however this was only partly due to the war. The wars stimulated British trade, because they crippled England's continental competitors and because of the Royal Navy, Britain's commercial fleet had a monopoly on relations with non-European countries.
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