British Foreign Policy 1783-1830


Britain's 5 foreign policy aims were:

  • Prevent one power from dominating Europe
  • Prevent the coastline opposite Britatin from being dominated by one power (protect low country independence)
  • Ensure effective alliances
  • Ensure Russia didn't become too powerful or threaten India
  • Protect and promote trade

In 1783 Russia was friends with Spain, Russia, Austria and Germany, whilst Britain's main ally was Prussia. One of Britain's main foreign policy objectives was to prevent the United Provinces from ending up under French control; this was in order to to protect British trading interests, as the Sheldt River was a major trading route, and also to prevent British security policy from being threatened - this would happen if there was a major power dominating the coastline opposite Britain. The reason for the worry that France would dominate the United Provinces was that the merchant class in the United Provinces resented the British due to their policy of searching foreign ships (this was also the reason that Britain was isolated in Europe, as other countries were unhappy with this). These 'Patriots' in the United Provinces rebelled. The UP Stadtholder's wife being the sister of the Prussian King, Prussia aided the Stadtholder by sending 20,000 troops. Britain also had strong connections with the United Provinces because William of Orange had been a previous King of Britain. Pitt did not send any troops but sent money and ammunition, and the patriots were defeated.


The situation in 1790

In 1186 Britain had signed the Eden treaty with France which brought  solid economic benefits until after the French Revolution of 1789. Other positives in 1790 were that Britain had been brought out of isolation by the Triple Alliance and that Pitt had begun to build up the navy - by 1793 Britain's navy had 661 naval vessels in comparison to France's 291, was well led, and (...). This was a major reason why Pitt later decided to pursue the "blue water strategy" which was unfortunately not as successful as expected. However, in 1790 there was uncertainty caused by the French Revolution and both French continuing interest in the Netherlands as well as the threat of possible Russian interest into India. This meant that British trading interests were still under threat.

British response to the French Revolution

Although the French Revolution occurred in 1789, Britain did not interfere in France until 1793. There were several reasons for this; the King had been viewed as a poor ruler and many people in Britain simply assumed that France would also become a constitutional monarchy - this would encourage more trade as France would be more democratic. The pandemonium in France also rendered them weaker which enabled Britain to focus on Russia and the threat to India. However, in 1793 King Louis XVI was executed and as well as the French declaring a ban…


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