Book Review of William III and the Northern Crowns during the Nine Years War, 1689-1697

Stewart P. Oakley. William III and the Northern Crowns during the Nine Years War, 1689-1697. Outstanding Theses from the London School of Economics and Political Science series. New York and London: Garland, 1987. ISBN 978-0-824-01928-0.  Maps. Notes. Bibliography. Pp. 504.

One of the leading British scholars of Scandinavian history was the late Dr Stewart P. Oakley, Reader in History at the University of East Anglia in England.  Oakley was also one of the founding members and a long-standing chairman of the Nordic History Group.  He is known for his studies The Story of Sweden (1969), The Story of Denmark (1972), War and Peace in the Baltic 1560-1790 (1992), and many scholarly articles on Scandinavian history.  The present study, William III and the Northern Crowns during the Nine Years War 1689-1697, is the published version of Oakley’s doctoral dissertation completed under the guidance of the late Dr Ragnhild M. Hatton in 1961 at the London School of Economics and Political Science.  It was published in the Garland series of outstanding theses in 1987, and has been out-of-print and hard to find since the early 1990s.

In this study, Oakley examines William III’s policy and diplomatic relations with the Northern Crowns of Sweden and Denmark during the Nine Years War (1688-1697).  He states that William III, the King-Stadholder of the Maritime Powers of Britain and the Dutch Republic, initially aimed to enlist both Nordic Powers into the Grand Alliance against Louis XIV of France.  However, poor relations between Charles XI of Sweden (ruled 1655-1697) and Christian V of Denmark (ruled 1670-1699) over the duchies of Holstein-Gottorp and Saxe-Lauenberg threatened to erupt into a war in 1689 and 1693.  The King-Stadholder responded by threatening intervention in the impending conflicts, which deterred Christian V in his designs in northern Germany and preserved peace in northern Europe.  Oakley stresses that William III sought to maintain peace in the Baltic at all costs.  William III’s Northern Policy quickly turned from gaining offensive alliances with the Nordic Powers to maintaining friendly relations with both states without drawing either one of them into the Grand Alliance.  William III realized that if one power joined the alliance the other would most likely side with the Sun King.

William III encouraged friendly relations between the Maritime Powers and Scandinavian states.  He added a defensive alliance with Denmark in 1690 to the Dutch-Swedish defensive alliance of 1682.  Moreover, he hired Danish troops for the Williamite War in Ireland in 1689.  But, the Anglo-Dutch Convention of 1689 caused much tension between the Maritime Powers and Scandinavia.  William III proclaimed a blockade on commerce, including neutral trade, with France.  Both Charles XI and Christian V reacted by challenging the ban on neutral commerce.  Oakley shows that William III gradually backed down to the demands of the Northern Crowns.

The author argues that William III had relatively little success in his Northern Policy.  The King-Stadholder failed to gain Sweden’s participation in the Nine Years War, including troops and ships, as stipulated in the defense treaty of 1682, along with Swedish acceptance of the ban on French trade.  Moreover, he did not persuade Denmark to join the anti-French alliance, provide more troops after 1689, or accept the ban on commerce with France.  However, Oakley credits the King-Stadholder for taking a firm stand against Danish territorial ambitions in order to maintain peace in northern Germany.  William III also yielded to Scandinavian commercial demands before Charles XI and Christian V drew closer together into an alliance, and possibly created a third party in northern Europe which might have intervened in the Nine Years War.  Oakley stresses that William III’s policy with the Northern Crowns was limited by his inability to afford large subsidies to effectively influence Scandinavian actions, the military stalemate in the Low Countries, and the naval setback at the battle of Beachy Head (1690).

The study is valuable for the consideration of William III’s diplomacy in northern Europe.  Oakley examines Danish and Swedish diplomacy, commerce, and policies in northern Germany.  He also explores Sweden’s diplomatic mediation of the Nine Years War.  The work is based on archival research in England, The Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden.  Other interesting works that relate to the relationship between the Maritime Powers and Northern Crowns in the late seventeenth century include Andrew Lossky, Louis XIV, William III, and the Baltic Crisis of 1683 (1954) and Anthony F. Upton, Charles XI and Swedish Absolutism (1998).  For surveys that consider the diplomatic and military interests of the Baltic Region, see Robert I. Frost, The Northern Wars, 1558-1721 (2000), Stewart P. Oakley, War and Peace in the Baltic, 1560-1790 (1992), Jill Lisk, The Struggle for Supremacy in the Baltic, 1600-1725 (1967), and David Kirby, Northern Europe in the Early Modern Period: The Baltic World, 1492-1772 (1990).

Dr William Young
University of North Dakota
Grand Forks, North Dakota

About William Young

Dr William Young is a retired historian with more than 30 years of experience in teaching and research. He has 18 years of teaching experience at the University of North Dakota and Valley City State University. Moreover, he was a historian in the United States Air Force History Program for 15 years. He possesses a doctoral degree in international and military history and master’s degrees in history and international relations. Young is the author of German Diplomatic Relations, 1871-1945 (2006), International Politics and Warfare in the Age of Louis XIV and Peter the Great (2004), and European War and Diplomacy, 1337-1815 (2003). He has also written 42 official Air Force unit histories, two monographs, and other studies. Young is the recipient of many history awards, including three U.S. Air Force Historian of the Year Awards and a U.S. Air Force History Program of the Year Award. He has studied and worked for 13 years overseas in the United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Germany, and Saudi Arabia. He has traveled extensively in Europe and the Middle East. His hobbies include collecting and reading history books and attending college ice hockey games.
This entry was posted in Anglo-French Wars, Book Reviews, Danish Foreign Policy, Dutch Foreign Policy, English Foreign Policy, Europe in the 17th Century (1598-1715), Nine Years War (1688-1697), Swedish Foreign Policy, Wars of Louis XIV (1661-1715) and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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