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Title: The financial administration of the French Navy during the War of the Spanish Succession
Author: Darnell, Benjamin
ISNI:       0000 0004 6062 1562
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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The prevailing historical narrative of the collapse of Louis XIV's naval power has emphasised the importance of political decision-making, either in the strategic shifts between the guerre d'escadre and the guerre de course, or in the decision to reduce the naval budget in the midst of war in 1694 and 1707. As France faced massive financial overextension and an increasing need to fight for territorial survival in the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714), it was inevitable that Louis XIV's government would fund its armies in preference to its naval capabilities. However, a shift in priorities at Versailles does not provide a full explanation for the navy's decline. Recent works emphasise the effectiveness of the state's revenue-raising capabilities and the importance of the fiscal intermediaries who financed royal expenditure. Yet, these connections between French naval power and Louis XIV's fiscal capabilities remain only partially explored and this thesis presents a fresh examination of the navy's financing arrangements. It is argued that the difficulties that Louis XIV faced in maintaining the fleet were rooted in a unique set of issues embedded in the navy's financing mechanism and the way it was managed. The problem was four-fold: the naval ministry consistently overspent its allocated funds; the navy's budget was increasingly underfunded as a result of the finance ministry's mismanagement and also of wider fiscal instability; the naval treasury was not fit-for-purpose since the navy's fiscal intermediaries, the trésoriers généraux de la Marine, lacked the capacity to sustain costly levels of borrowing; and the crown failed to meet the organisational challenges of war by not controlling spending and the activities of the trésoriers. These structural issues surfaced internally early in the war and would be progressively and disastrously exposed by the loss of liquidity and the mounting debts that affected France in the 1700s.
Supervisor: Parrott, David Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Spanish Succession ; War of ; 1701-1714--Economic aspects--France ; France--History--Louis XIV ; 1643-1715 ; France--History ; Military--1643-1715