A Short History | Late Baroque | Classical

The late Baroque era (1700–50) was a time of major political change throughout Europe, involving a shift in the balance of power between sovereign states.

Across the continent it was a period of almost continuous warfare, the effects of which were later felt in other parts of the world as a result of conflicting ambitions among the various trading empires consolidated in the previous century.

Certain European nations witnessed, in the process, a decline in their international influence and status; others rose to new prominence, seriously affecting the peace and security of their neighbours. Spain, though still in possession of an immense South American empire, never regained the great power role it had enjoyed in the previous centuries. Sweden lost its hold on extensive areas of northern Europe. In Italy, the Republic of Venice finally gave up its long and costly struggle against the Turks in the Mediterranean and entered a slow but perceptible period of decline.

The two states whose meteoric success made them forces to be reckoned with on Europe’s new political map were Russia (in the past often called the Empire of Muscovy) and Prussia (formerly the principality of Brandenburg, it became a kingdom in 1712). Under Tsar Peter I (‘the Great’), Russia seized Swedish territory around the Baltic, together with much of what is now Ukraine. This Great Northern War (1701–21) established it as a major European power. By challenging the Austrian Habsburg dynasty, Prussia to the west laid the foundations of what would eventually become a united Germany.

France continued to hold on to the power, influence and wealth that it had enjoyed during the earlier decades of the reign of Louis XIV. Following Louis’ death, the extravagant court of Versailles flourished under the regency of the Duke of Orléans, and the Parisian aristocracy lavishly patronized the various arts. However, French supremacy in Europe, both military and economic, was now being contested by the British. Great Britain was benefiting from the union of the English and Scottish kingdoms and swiftly gaining economic strength as a trading and industrial power. London expanded steadily in the early eighteenth century; its reputation for growth made the city a magnet to musicians from all parts of Europe.

Key Events

1702 Outbreak of War of the Spanish Succession
1706 Thomas Newcomen invents the first practical working steam engine
1709 Battle of Poltava: Peter the Great, Tsar of Russia, consolidates power by defeating Swedish army of Charles XII
1710 Bishop George Berkeley publishes A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge
1713 Treaty of Utrecht ends War of the Spanish Succession; Habsburg Emperor Charles VI names his daughter Maria Theresa as his heir
1718 Gabriel Fahrenheit invents the mercury thermometer
1719 Daniel Defoe publishes Robinson Crusoe
1720 The South Sea Bubble, the first international stock market crisis, causes financial panic in London and Paris
1726 Jonathan Swift publishes Gulliver’s Travels
1728 John Gay’s Beggar’s Opera opens in London
1733 John Kay invents the flying-shuttle loom
1739 John Wesley founds the...

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