Denmark between Britain and France

Theme

Hostage of the great powers

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The complicated international situation around the year 1800 saw Denmark become a hostage of the conflicts of the great powers. The country's foreign policy during these years had three primary objectives: maintain its neutrality, ensure the survival of the dual monarchy Denmark-Norway, and to win as much trade and shipping away from the warring powers. But during the Napoleonic Wars, Danish foreign policy failed in all three areas.

Throughout the 18th century, France and Britain were locked in an intense rivalry that led to several wars in Europe and in their colonies – particularly in North America. Many other European states took part in the wars as part of shifting alliances. Denmark's neutrality, meanwhile, benefitted its exporters and shippers, who were able to take over market shares lost by warring countries. Copenhagen and the growing Danish middle class prospered during the 18th century thanks to the blossoming trade. But the commercial success brought Denmark into conflict with Britain, which accused Danish ships of not living up to their neutrality.

The Battle of Copenhagen
In 1773, Denmark entered into a League of Armed Neutrality with Russia in order to have an ally against Sweden. By declaring war on Britain in 1800, however, Russia left Denmark in an impossible situation: go to war against Britain or risk a Swedish invasion of Norway. The answer came on 2…

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