Politics and Foreign Policy in the Age of George I, 1714-1727

By Sack, James J. | The Historian, Winter 2016 | Go to article overview

Politics and Foreign Policy in the Age of George I, 1714-1727


Sack, James J., The Historian


Politics and Foreign Policy in the Age of George I, 1714-1727. By Jeremy Black. (Farnham, United Kingdom: Ashgate, 2014. Pp. xiii, 279. $119.95.)

The author of this book, the most productive and consequential student of British diplomatic history during the long eighteenth century, and arguably--with his magisterial study of George III--the leading biographer of the post-1714 royal family since James Pope-Hennessy, has now, not for the first time it must be admitted, turned his attention to the reign of George I. Building on the scholarship of Nick Harding, Brendan Simms, Torsten Riotte, and Andrew Thompson, amongst others, Jeremy Black very much views the post-1714 state as an "Anglo-Hanoverian" concoction with mutually supportive (or not) London and electoral ministers attempting to carry out, extend, or modify the desires of their king-elector.

Black is conscious throughout the study--if not of the primacy, then certainly the significance--of British domestic politics over foreign policy. He continually tests the role that Parliament, national general elections, and, especially, Whig, Tory, and Jacobite newspapers and periodicals played in the calculations of George's ministers and of French, Swedish, Austrian, Prussian, and Spanish policymakers. It is this emphasis upon multiple discourses that distinguishes Black's interpretation of the reign from the otherwise authoritative biography of George I by Ragnhild Hatton. Thus he convincingly illustrates how traditional, confessional, and ideological interest groups involving Catholics, Anglicans, and Dissenters, or Jacobites and Whigs, were as important in setting the national mood as any realist theory of British/Hanoverian policies.

The wider and sometimes complicated story Black tells is of a Whig Party that reached its political maturity under William III and Anne as anti-French, pro-Dutch, anti-Catholic, favoring aggressive war against the universal monarchical ideals of Louis XIV, and opposing successful Tory attempts to strike a more or less compromise peace at Utrecht. …

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