It is what it is, this year will have a clear focus on the First World War. We will again be reminded that Rainer Maria Rilke chose War for Love in August 1914, that Franz Marc who dreamed so intensely of blue horses running up the sky died in Braquis, close, too close to the hell of Verdun, and we will again see the Wilhelmine Germany listening to pompous Wagner and not dreaming of anything at all anymore beside of the war, the war and again the war. The women in Berlin and London both got their hair-dressed up in a way that their fore-heads seemed to be very low because the men who stopped dreaming so fast, were assured by the mode that women were inferior to them, but they have been proved wrong in so many aspects, that not even in Paris things went better.
But 300 years before in the year 1714 the War of the Spanish Succession finally came to an end. After nearly thirteen years of intense fighting Europe was not only very tired of the devastating consequences, the war have had and where many searched their luck, but much more found their death, but the European political landscape has been changed dramatically. The origin of the conflict is complicated but this is not new in history at all. And it was not new at all in Spain, that Charles the II would remain childless. And Spain even if the Siglo d’Oro was already gone, remained a powerful factor in the hegemonic structures of Europe. And both the Austrian Emperor and Louis XIV claimed the Spanish throne for themselves. The death of Charles II in 1700 showed that the conflict lines were much broader and had wider dimensions as dynastic ones. The Sea Powers got engaged as well as a lot of many small German states. Brandenburg-Prussia and Hanover took sides for Leopold, whereas Bavaria, Maximilian II. who was also vicegerent of the Netherlands stood with France. This was the beginning of a war, which may be justifiably called a „World War.“ Beside the continental powers, the Netherlands, England as well as France acted as colonial powers. England and the Netherlands claimed to support Spain, to prohibit a supremacy of France. In the beginnings the fightings concentrated on the regions of upper Italy and Southern Germany. And it is John Churchill, first Duke of Marlborough who offers an example for international warfare with his victory at Höchstädt in 1704. Different focal points occurred in overall Europe. Fightings took place in Spain, the Southern Netherlands where Prince Eugene of Savoy was able to nearly beat the French several times but he never was able to beat them finally. But the winter of 1709 and the financial disasters which are omnipresent in any war did their very best to sped up the process for a peace treaty. France and England enabled a separate peace treaty and in Utrecht in January 1712 and in July 1713 peace treaties between France and Spain and their particular enemies were signed. Austria got the so called „Austrian Netherlands“, the dukedom Milan, the kingdom of Naples and Sardinia. Savoy achieved Sicily but it is the British Empire, which really wins this war, not only because it receives the island Menorca, stayed in the occupied Gibraltar and receives Newfoundland from France as well as the Hudson Bay and takes over trade advantages in the colonies from Spain. But it is the British Empire which establishes itself as a dominant power within Europe. And for the first time the dukedom of sand and potatoes, Brandenburg-Prussia appears still far away from the covered table but is coming closer and comes with appetite.
From 1714 on, things went better, in 1715 finally and for the relief of all Louis XIV passed away. Pope Clement XI in Rome tried to restrict the very worldly interests and searched for god, he was a man science and not in favor at all of the persecution of heretics. He was not in favor of Jansenism but no one in France really cared, which maybe was not good for the pope, but for the times, much better. Paris was busy of finding out who this young man Voltaire might be, who wrote these bold satirical poems . He was in any someone who always chose irony instead of war and liked love a lot. Alain- René Lesage created with his Gil Blas a novel where the situation of France plays in Spain and it might be flimsy literature but it would have never been passing any military censorship. Of course 1714 remained the year of a great economic depression and it was Bernard Mandeville who with his deridingly Fable of the Bees a book which any politic should get at his inauguration ceremony. Sarajevo was turkish in these days, which caused Europe no problems at all but consumer goods who made the women more beautiful and the men smoking better cigarettes arrived faster and in better quality. The operas are great fun. The castles look much more colorful. China came into mind, India was a possibility not fully elaborated but all the same it came. The women had no foreheads which seemed low at all, but this is of course nothing new to you. The women always knew and the men hopefully in 2014 know better.
The Library of Liberty offers a great start with Voltaire’s work. Rilke does much good with his The Book of Hours but let go his summer of 1914, better spent an afternoon with Bernard de Mandeville and Gil Blas. ( if you don’t only want to read good books, but do things better, please buy at your local and trusted bookstore.)
The soundtrack of the year should include Arcangelo Corelli who died in 1713.
1714 in many ways, is year that should be well remembered.