Post by Pete Barrett Post by Alex Milman Post by Pete Barrett Post by Don Phillipson Post by Alex Milman
What if he was a capable and pragmatic ruler capable to understand
real situation and willing to do something to remedy at least some of
Could France avoid losing Canada?
Could France avoid losing its possessions in India?
What would be different if France did not participate in the War of Austrian
Succession and then tried to defuse situation which led to the 7YW?
-- Domestic finances (taxation and state spending.)
-- Foreign trade and colonies overseas.
-- Dynastic politics in Europe (evolving from feudal personal
holdings to a system of modern nonpersonal states.)
--Seldom involved in dynastic competition (except by choice.)*
1688? 1715? 1745?
As opposite to the Bourbons not being contested since 1589 so the issue
was simply irrelevant all the way to 1830 (or 1815, depending on how
"competition" is defined). :-)
Post by Pete Barrett Post by Don Phillipson
--Mutual interaction of overseas trade and overseas colonization.
If so, it was more by luck than judgement. Attempts to use the American
colonies as a market for EIC tea led to a revolt!
You mean one that the natives here tend to call "Revolution"? :-)
My mistake! <g>
Quite understandable one, all things considering. (OTOH, "revolt is never
successful, otherwise it is named differently" - not sure if this ever was
translated to English). :-)
Post by Pete Barrett Post by Alex Milman
The point of this ATL was that OTL British colonial domination was not
totally inevitable and to a great degree became possible because everybody
else was busy fighting the continental wars (which Britain encourages by
Definitely not inevitable, but Britain's only real colonial competitor was
France. Spain was exhausted, and the Dutch and Portuguese content to sit on
what they had; and the other major continental powers (Austria, Russia, and
Prussia) weren't competing for overseas colonies in the 18th century. So
British interests were well served by keeping France occupied in fighting in
Europe (I think there was only a single war from 1688 to 1815 in which
Britain and France were on the same side).
Exactly my point. And the kings of France had been quite willing to get
engaged in the very expensive affairs which at best had been giving France
the tiny bits of a territory in Europe.
It also seems that potential value of the colonies never was fully understood
by the French monarchs (before the Revolution) and even by the entrepreneurs.
Post by Pete Barrett
Britain also benefited by managing to come out of every war except the ARW
with more possessions than it went in with, which was something of a
diplomatic achievement, since they didn't always do that much of the
But it tended to do fighting where it really mattered and/or general exhaustion
of the continental fighters was providing a nice opportunity to negotiate
favorable conditions of peace (under appreciation of the colonies by France
was one more factor in the British favor).
Post by Pete Barrett
It seems to me that the best thing for France would be a long peace (I think
you've said the same yourself), and not getting involved in the War of
Austrian Succession or the Seven Years War. They'd still be fighting Britain
in North America and India, and they'd probably still lose, but perhaps they
wouldn't lose so much. And Austria and Prussia would still be going at it
hammer and tongs over Silesia, but no one else needed to get involved.
It seems that we agree on a general principle so let's try to go to more
Let's assume that (a) France is staying away from the Hapsburg-Hohenzollern
quarrels AND (b) the government manages to maintain army and navy in a
decent shape AND (c) the government demonstrates at least minimal competence
in handling the French economy.
(a) Taking into an account that in 2 consecutive wars France managed to fight
on the different sides of H-H conflict and that after the 1st war (Austrian
Succession) France gave away all conquests, it is probably not too big stretch
of truth to characterize these both wars (WAS and continental part of the 7YW)
as a political imbecility (the same goes for the Russian participation in the
7YW so the French idiocy was not something unique): of course it was very
flattering for Madame de Pompadour to receive a personal letter from
Maria Theresa but was this a valid reason for getting into the major war
that proved to be a complete disaster?
(b) In the terms of both organization and numbers French army was noticeably
superior to the British army even if it seems that in the terms of a drill
and fire discipline the Brits were somewhat ahead (it is easier to drill much
smaller numbers): this was demonstrated in the Battle of Fontenoy but the same
battle demonstrated that with a competent leadership the French could win even with the equal numbers. What was a BIG problem for the French at that time
was leadership on almost any level and things became much worse by the time
of the 7YW. The appointments had been made based upon the connections at the
Court so it was much more important to be on a good side of Madame de Pompadour
that to be a competent general. Following the old principle of fish rotting from
a head, the same problems could be traced on the lower levels. The high ranking
officers had been often given their commissions based on their connections and
not competence or experience (of which there often was none) and, as long as
these connections remained powerful, the discipline was something that happens
to other people: it was OK to leave a fighting army if an officer felt himself
offended, underappreciated, etc. On the lower levels, with a government wasting
money on court, the troops were often underpaid and lacking proper supplies
(even if on paper all necessary services existed). Could this be avoided without
intervention of the ASB's? Of course. If not up to the ideal degree but enough
to make a quality difference. More or less the same goes for the French Navy
(I know much less on this subject) but it was in a much better shape than one
France had after the Revolution and, again, things could be improved with some
determination and competence.
(c) In OTL there were some attempts to do something but IIRC they more or
less were boiling down to inventing the new ways of taxation. Even in the area
of laying hands on the Church money France was well behind Russia or Austria:
it all ended up with slightly increasing size of a "voluntary contribution".
Of course, the task of looting the Church was much easier to accomplish in
Russia (which was done by Catherine II) but as I understand France was not a
hopeless case either. Plus, an idea that the growing economy and trade are
going to increase a taxation base was seemingly not quite there, yet.
If conflict with Britain was inevitable, the most vulnerable area was one
to the West of the British settlements because the French presence there
was minimal (mostly allied Indians) and the very geography made sending
serious reinforcements very difficult.
Canada, with an adequate naval support and few extra regiments could be held.
French possessions in India just required coordination: they were under
different jurisdictions, and their heads not only were reluctant to cooperate
with each other but had different ideas on the colonial policy (from just
holding to the trade posts and all the way to the expansionism). Before things
went South, the French had been positioned quite well: besides French troops
they had sepoys (French invention) and quite a few local rulers had these
troops (led by the French officers) on their payroll. But intrigues at court,
absence of a single command and other similar issues led to the loss of almost
everything they got. Again, under a less incompetent regime most of these
issues either would not exist or would be remedied before they led to a
Post by Pete Barrett
Of course, that may not be realistic, given France's tradition of military
power, and their long land border.
But during the reign of Louis XV this border almost did not change (except
for the annexation of Lorraine, which was a vassal state, anyway) and it was
not challenged by the neighbors. So the military power was wasted on nothing.
IIRC, Louis XVI did not fight any continental wars and his colonial war was
quite successful militarily (but not too much so in the terms of gaining
something for France); it was fought pretty much traditional "British style":
supply enemy of your enemy with money and weapons, perhaps allow some token
volunteer force and get directly involved only at a critical point.