Austrian History Yearbook

War and Society: The Impact of War on Politics, Diplomacy, and Social Change

A Question of Empire: Leopold I and the War of Spanish Succession, 1701–1705

Linda Freya1 and Marsha Freya2

a1 University of Montana

a2 Kansas State University

The War of Spanish Succession (1701–1714), one of the major international conflicts of the eighteenth century, sought to resolve the greatest diplomatic issue of the day: the partition of the Spanish empire. This essay focuses on the Austrian emperor Leopold I's diplomatic efforts in the courts of the Maritime Powers to obtain the Spanish inheritance during the first years of that conflict. The early years of the war (between 1701 and 1705) were a formative period in the development of Habsburg foreign policy. The problems that plagued the Maritime Powers after Leopold's death in 1705, such as the disputes over the deployment of troops, the differences of opinion over precisely how the Spanish empire should be divided and the policy to be followed in dealing with the Hungarian rebels and the elector of Bavaria, and the questions that arose over the alliances with Portugal and Savoy were all either existing or anticipated during the latter years of his reign.