Prussia and the Second Armed Neutrality, 1800-1801

Philip Gerard Dwyer

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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    The purpose of this study is to analyse the role played by Prussia during the Second Armed Neutrality. In contrast to traditional interpretations of this period, an attempt is made to prove that the Prussian government's actions were not a result of its subordination to France and Russia, but rather that it acted with its own territorial and foreign policy interests in mind.
    After an examination of the characters most involved in the formulation of foreign policy, namely the King Friedrich Wilhelm III, his Foreign Minister Haugwitz, and certain members of the Geheimkabinett, there follows an outline of Prussia's foreign policy before 1800, and a summary of Prussia's foreign policy objectives during this period. Before going into Prussia's involvement in the Armed Neutrality, a brief résumé of the circumstances and the foreign policies of the other major participants leading to the formation of the maritime alliance is given. Then an examination is made of Haugwitz's attempts to mediate between Russia and France, the decisions surrounding Prussia's adherence to the association, and the consequent invasion of north Germany. One question is always kept in mind - was Prussia coerced into joining the alliance and taking military action? Prussia, it is reasoned, joined the Armed Neutrality: (i.) not out of enmity towards England, but to win French and Russian sympathy for the forthcoming negotiations over German secularisations;(ii.) out of a desire to defend its own commercial interests; and (iii.) in an attempt to strengthen its position in north Germany by abandoning its isolationist policy. The King considered the alliance useful to his people, but never thought that it posed a threat to England. One of the most important points in this study was to determine when, and why, Prussia decided to invest the electorate of Hanover with its troops. By demonstrating that the decision was made independently of French and Russian exhortations to do so, the study establishes that Prussia was not simply a pawn used to further the interests of powers greater than itself, but that it had its own particular interest in mind; the protection of its maritime trade, and especially the desire to pre-empt a French invasion of Hanover. The final chapters deal with the failure of the Armed Neutrality, and the Prussian withdrawal from Hanover.
    To conclude, an attempt is made to determine what impact this short lived alliance had on future Prussian foreign policy decisions. The study demonstrates that Prussia's role, without being crucial to the outcome of the Armed Neutrality, was certainly a key one.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • The University of Western Australia
    Publication statusUnpublished - 1992

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