A NEW BALANCE (1721–51)
The settlement which brought to an end the Great Northern War in 1720/1 led to the replacement of Sweden by Russia as the leading power in the Baltic. Denmark’s acquisition of the duke of Holstein-Gottorp’s lands in Slesvig under the guarantees of Britain and France was the kingdom’s only real gain, and it was one which was to complicate Denmark’s relations with both Russia and Sweden for nearly fifty years and was to bring it to the brink of war with both. Not until 1788, however, was the country actually drawn into armed conflict with another state. Brandenburg-Prussia’s winning of the control of the mouth of the river Oder with the port of Stettin was of some economic significance, but without a navy Prussia’s role in Baltic politics was bound to be limited; its rulers’ ambitions to secure West Prussia and so close the gap between Brandenburg and East Prussia at Poland’s expense competed with those further south, which brought the Hohenzollerns into conflict with the Austrian Habsburgs. Poland was to be for much of the period little more than a Russian satellite and in general was the passive victim of its neighbours’ ambitions. Before the new century was out it disappeared from the scene altogether as an independent state.