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Svante Norrhem

This chapter discusses, through a detailed study of three periods – 1632, 1675–1677, and 1727–1729 – the wider effects of French subsidies on Swedish society as well as the nature of dependency between Sweden and France. For long periods during both the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Sweden was dependent on foreign subsidies: in 1631–1680, it needed financial support to uphold its armies in occupied territories in northern Europe; and from the 1720s onwards, it needed subsidies to secure its own territory as well. With subsidies periodically amounting to from 5 to over 20 per cent of state revenue, in a country with very limited resources otherwise, they offered opportunities for careers and social climbing, as well as financial profit.

in Subsidies, diplomacy, and state formation in Europe, 1494–1789
Economies of allegiance

French subsidies played a central role in European politics from Charles VIII’s invasion of Italy in 1494 until the French Revolution. French kings attempted to frustrate what they viewed as a Habsburg bid to pursue universal monarchy. During the seventeenth century, the French monarchy would embrace the payment of subsidies on a different scale than previously, using alliances in which subsidies played a prominent role to pursue crucial aspects of royal policy. Louis XIII made alliances promising subsidies to support the United Provinces’ resumed war against the king of Spain, and for the Danish, Swedish, and various German princes to fight against the Holy Roman Emperor. Louis XIV continued some of these subsidies and used subsidies as a tool in order to implement his own politics. When Louis XIV appeared to Dutch and some English statesmen as aspiring to Universal monarchy, the Dutch and particularly the English used the tool of subsidies to frustrate the French monarch. During the eighteenth century, principally the French and the British, but also the Austrians, used subsidies to procure allies and attempt to maintain the balance of power. The subsidy system prompted significant debates about the legal, political, and moral implications, and was sometimes a source of political conflict between competing power groupings within states. The book argues that participation in the French system of subsidies neither necessarily accelerated nor necessarily retarded state development; but such participation could undoubtedly change political dynamics, the creation of institutions, and the form of states that would emerge.

Open Access (free)
Svante Norrhem
Erik Thomson

The chapter introduces the concept of subsidies and gives an overall view of the various uses of subsidies in the early modern period. Subsidies were ubiquitous features of diplomatic and military history throughout the early modern period, although such payments could assume a wide variety of names and forms. The early modern era also saw numerous variations of subsidy alliances. The most frequent as well as important subsidizers – in terms of sums – were France, Spain, the United Provinces, and England. On the receiving end, Sweden, Denmark, the Swiss confederation, the United Provinces, and a number of German and northern Italian states stand out. The reason why subsidies deserve more attention is that they highlight the manner in which resources were shared among sovereignties, and the manner in which diplomacy rested upon allies promising to share money and grant access to resources as a prominent part of diplomacy, military provisioning, and the construction of early modern states.

in Subsidies, diplomacy, and state formation in Europe, 1494–1789