chapter  17
18 Pages

The coming of Revolution

It is easy to think of the 1780s mainly in terms of the approach to the French Revolution and to see the decade as dominated by the coming breakdown of the old regime in France. A well-informed observer in the later 1780s would almost certainly have said if asked that the situation in parts of the Habsburg Empire was more critical, and the difficulties faced by its rulers more intractable, than any challenge which Louis XVI and his ministers had to meet. The French government, though tempted by the possibility of gaining Luxemburg and Hainault, was even more uneasy at the possibility of a great accession of power to the Habsburgs in Germany. Vergennes, the French Foreign Minister, temperamentally cautious, insisted that the other German states consent to the exchange, a consent which he knew well would not be forthcoming. The Dutch crisis was ended by foreign intervention of a kind which was never attempted in the Austrian Netherlands.