What was the American War of Independence’s impact on Europe ? Use the example of 3 countries.


The impact of the American War of independence was as diverse as it was complex. It’s ideology rendered the masses in Paris aflame and ultimately some historians suggest it caused the French revolution. However, outside France it’s ideological effect was more subdued and it’s main impact was economic as a result of the war. There were some advantageous long term trade opportunities which in time were good for the various economies however it’s direct results as for most post-war economies were terrible.

The American War of independence deeply influenced the political life in Britain as Evans suggests : « Defeat profoundly affected political life ». North resigned in March 1782 as a result of the war, his departure initiated two years of grave instability during which « the respective rights of the King and commons were unsettlingly rehearsed ». Military reverses and the increased taxes to which war inevitably leads unbalanced the political scene and the proof of this is the resurgence of the Whig opposition and the brief period of parliamentary reform associations between 1778 and 1782 were both largely attributable to discontent provoked by war. However although there was discontent due to the war probably because of the military defeat, there was no considerable increase in numbers, or power, of those seaking more liberties and democracy in Britain.

The impact of the war on the economy threatened the well-being of Britain. The volume of British exports, which flourished for much of the century, declined by almost 20 percent between 1772 and 1780 ; exports to North American mainland, Britain’s largest market outside Europe, fell off by almost a half. Both imperial and private commercial compagnies suffered from the turn of events in America. As Evans suggests : « It is certain that military disasters and mercantile setbackes induced those who did not stand politically a stand of lugubrious introspections ». Considering that Britain lost the War and the colonies it is amazing that the economic repurcussions weren’t more profound.

The political and ideological impact of the American war of Independence on France contributed to causing the French Revolution. France’s alliance with the Americans introduced into France ideas of democratic government. Their joint victory therefor seemed a victory for liberty and natural rights which the French were not enjoying so that the more intellectual elements of society would see it as hypocritical that their government should ally themselves with the powers of democracy rather than those of conservatism. Politically, it made democracy respectable and fashionable in French society as the Comte De Segur suggests "I was far from being the only one whose heart palpitated at the sound of the growing awakening of liberty". The ideology of the War was so pleasing to the French that they had the constitution translated into French and there was even a political party called "les americains". The War showed the French how victory over oppression was feasible and the American way of life came to be considered as the perfect one.

The impact of the war on France’s economy made as Cowie suggests "an extremely difficult situation practically insoluble". Before France decided to join the war Louis XVI financial state was horrible, by joining it he exhausted all his resources and virtually ruined the economy. The financial crisis made the revolution that much closer as Cowie suggests: "every war fought by France in the 18th century had produced a severe financial crisis. Now the American War of Independence, combined with food shortages and political disturbances was to cause a revolution". However one must not forget that the people supported the war thus it was the discontent emerging from the crisis not the war that helped cause the revolution.

The impact for Spain was mainly a redrawing of the bounderies of her colonies and there were some small economic repercussions. Spain declared war on Britain for it’s own dreams of expansions not because it agreed with American ideology. They attacked Gibraltar failing to conquer it, but managed to take Minorca and Florida which they were allowed to keep at the treaty of Versailles. Their victory and gain of territory provided a moral boost for the spanish armed forces however there were some later political repercussions as, as May suggests : « the foundation of the US which Spain had supported, encouraged her colonies to seek their independence ».

The impact of the American War of Independence took on many forms and shapes and varied from country to country so that in France « the price to be paid for American Independence was a French Revolution » while in Spain, ideologically and politically nothing of real significance beyond the cost of war took place.


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