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 Detailed Timeline of European History
Exploration (1505-1650) << Enlightenment (1650-1789) >> Napoleonic Wars (1789-1816)

Age of Enlightenment & Expansionism (1650 - 1789)
Insatiable Expansionism Precedes Democratic Ideals

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Europe 1785 AD

English Civil War (1642-51): Pitted King Charles against the English Parliament. Charles attempted to swing the balance of power back toward absolute rule of the king, undermining the democratic process, leading to civil war. Charles was defeated and executed. England was left without a monarch until the Glorious Revolution of 1688, and even then, the monarch would remain cautious in overstepping his/her bounds of power, as defined by the constitution, ever-mindful of the fate of King Charles.

(Timeline Continued Below)

Anglo-Dutch Wars Between Great Britain and Netherlands to Establish Naval Dominance (1652-1784): A series of four separate wars occurring between 1652 and 1784. Began as England attempted to surpass the Dutch (Netherlands) as a naval power and maritime commercial leader. Initially, the Dutch maintained naval supremacy over England. By the 1700s, the English had surpassed the Dutch in terms of fleet size, and imposed its superior force upon the Dutch in the final war spanning from 1780 to 1784. England (now Great Britain) was decisively victorious, displacing the Netherlands as the world's leading navy and maritime commercial power.

Russian-Polish War (1654–57): Russia gains control over Ukraine.

Jews allowed in England again (1655).

Russo-Swedish War (1656-58): Russia attempts to gain access to the Baltic Sea, but Sweden is still too powerful for the emerging Eastern European power, and temporarily captures Russian territory in Poland. The conflict ends in a stalemate, with no territorial changes

Scotland Independence From England (1660): Scotland asserts independence from England during the chaos after the English Civil War. It comes at a steep economic drawback, as they are prohibited from trading with England or any of its colonies, forcing them to join the England-dominated Great Britain in 1707.

In conflict with Spain, France gains territory from Spanish Netherlands (1668).

France finally establishes presence in India (1668).

Ottomans capture Crete from Venice (1669).

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FranceFrench North America (1682): France claims areas south of Great Lakes to Gulf of Mexico in modern U.S., naming it Louisiana (after Louis XIV).


 Further Understanding:
 Rise of France

Spain and Austria were the dominant European powers during the 16th century, supporting each other due to the Habsburg Dynasty connection, while France struggled to keep pace. They were sandwiched between these two great powers, which exerted military superiority over France. As religious conflicts between Catholics and Protestants sparked in the 16th century, all three powers were on the Catholicism side, as staunch defenders of their faith. During the 80 years and 30 years wars, the culmination of the European Wars of Religion, France switched sides, to join the Protestants which were gaining power. France’s flip-flop was the main factor in swinging the war toward the favor of the Protestants. In which case, France gained territory from Spain and Austria, as well as other concessions. This catalyzed a rise for France in the 17th century, along with the gradual decline of Spain and Austria.


Religious Restrictions Re-Introduced in France (1685): Staunch Catholic Louis XIV abolishes the Edict of Nantes, which ensured religious tolerance for Protestants, gained after French Wars of Religion.

Glorious Revolution in England (1688): William of Orange from Netherlands invited to invade England and to assume the crown. First, he is compelled to agree to increased Parliamentary powers, weakening the powers of the crown. The English Bill of Rights is enacted in 1689, guaranteeing certain rights for all individuals and increasing parliamentary power. Closest thing to true democracy in Europe.

War of Grand Alliance - Coalition Against France (1688–97): England cooperates with other continental powers to curb the dominance of France. Little is gained or lost but England weakens France by routing their navy at sea. France had become a major continental power, at the expense of Spain. Various German states, Netherlands, Holy Roman Empire, Spain and England unite to fight France, to diminish its dominant influence. France supports the Ottomans, who attack the Holy Roman Empire from the east. Battles are fought to a stalemate on land. HRE neither loses nor gains territory.

Austria Conquers Hungary From Ottoman Empire (1699): Austria takes full control over all of Hungary from the Ottoman Turks. This includes Slovakia, Transylvania, and Slovenia (eastern Croatia). Religious conflict ensues as Austria is staunchly Roman Catholic, while Hungary had largely become Protestant while under Ottoman control. Marks the beginning of stagnation and decline of the Ottoman Empire.

Austria

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Russian Victory Over Sweden in Northern War (1700-21): Battle for supremacy of the Baltic Sea. Pitted Sweden against an alliance of Denmark-Norway, Russia, Poland and Prussia. Sweden had been the dominant power in the north for about a century, but had been in a process of decline. Each of these countries had lost territory or trade to Sweden, and allied to reverse this. Sweden was unable to withstand the coalition against it, conceding its losses to end the war in 1721. Sweden lost continental Baltic territories (Latvia and Estonia), and Russia becoming the great power in the north. Poland had served as the battlefield, and was badly decimated, falling under Russian dominance due to its weakened state. Russia gained ports on the Gulf of Finland, giving Russia its first access to the sea, at ports which were not frozen the majority of the year. St. Petersburg (established during reign of Peter I the Great) was subsequently established (in 1703, during the early years of the war), giving Russia the ability to engage in maritime trade with the rest of Europe.

Kingdom of PrussiaKingdom of Prussia Formed (1701): Bradenburg-Prussia (part of eastern buffer territories from Germans expanding east into Slav & Balt lands) becomes a kingdom, keeping just the name “Prussia”. Would eventually become the dominant state among the German states, taking the lead in the creation of the modern nation of Germany. Jews are allowed to return.

War of Spanish Succession (1706-14): Grandson of Louis XIV of France inherits the throne of Spain. Louis XIV exerts control over Spanish foreign policy, causing England, Netherlands and Holy Roman Empire to initiate war, in order to prevent a Spanish-French union, which could dominate all of Europe. The English-led coalition wins, with England (Great Britain) capturing Gibraltar (which it still possesses to this day) and the Hudson Bay territories (in Canada) from France.

England Becomes Great Britain (1707): Great Britain formed when Scotland and Ireland are annexed into the new England-dominated kingdom, known as the Acts of the Union. Scotland had technically been part of England, but had operated independently for years. Scotland was facing financial ruin after its last attempt at independence, due to economic sanctions imposed by England. Therefore, being combined with England was a better alternative. From the perspective of England, it wanted to eliminate an enemy on its northern border.

Austria Gains Spanish Netherlands (1714): Gained from Spain in War of Spanish Succession.

Austria Gains Northern Italy From Spain (1714): Gained from Spain in War of Spanish Succession.

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Austria Gains Southern Italy & Sicily From Spain (1714): Gained by Austria from Spain during War of Spanish Succession.

Spain

Note: Spain & Austria Divide. When the grandson of Louis XIV of France became King of Spain, other nations objected, as France had already become the most powerful state in western/central Europe. They now threatened to control another major power. This sparked the War of Spanish Succession, and pitted Spain against Austria. Austria had a claim on the throne, and attempted to forcibly make good on it, with the help of the Dutch and Great Britain, which were mostly interested in avoiding a unified Spain and France. As a result of this war, Austria gained Spain’s Italian and Netherland possessions. This would end Spanish & Austrian cooperation, which had helped to make them the two most powerful European nations as a result of their Habsburg connection.

Serbian Independence From Ottoman Empire (1718): Austria-Ottoman War, Serbs persuaded to join fellow Christians from Austria in battle against Ottomans, freeing Northern Serbia from Ottoman rule.

Ottoman Empire

Russian Orthodox Church (1721): Placed under state control by Tsar Peter I. Authorized to collect taxes from peasants, which would be a reason why it was persecuted during communist takeover in 1917, as it was seen as an enemy of the people.

(Timeline Continued Below)

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Russia Gains Control Over Poland (1725): A weakened and disorganized Poland-Lithuania comes under Russian domination, serving as a client/buffer state.

War of the Polish Succession (1733): France and Spain want one candidate related to their respective monarchs, and Austria wants another, part of the Habsburg family. In war, Spain gains Naples and Sicily from Austria, but in the peace settlement Austria/Russia are pacified with a Russian-preferred Habsburg monarch.

ItalyAustria Gains Tuscany During Poland War of Succession (1733).

Southern Italy & Sicily Retaken by Spain from Austria during War of Polish Succession (1733).

Kingdom of Sardinia Formed (1733): Island of Sardinia is ceded to Savoy by Spain, resulting in the new Kingdom of Sardinia (Savoy + Sardinia).

Prussia Gains Territory From Austria in War of Austrian Succession (1740): Prussia invades Austrian Empire to claim throne after it comes into dispute. France and Bavaria join Prussia and invade Prague, but are driven out by the Austrians. Fighting in Italy and Germany largely ends in stalemate, except with Prussia retaining the Austrian region of Holy Roman EmpireSilesia, making them the clear victor in the conflict.

Note: Austria-Prussia Rivalry. Austria is no longer the undisputed leader of the Holy Roman Empire, as Prussia has now risen to challenge it as the dominant German state. Prussia eventually overtakes Austria decisively in the 19th century, becoming the basis for the modern nation of Germany, while leaving Austria to become a separate, less powerful state.

Beginning of French and Indian War (1754): Conflict between France and Great Britain over disputed lands west of British colonies in modern U.S. Would become incorporated in Seven Years War in Europe.

Seven Years War in Germany (1756-63): Incorporates French & Indian War, being waged in North America. Austria attempts to regain the region of Silesia, taken by Prussia in the War of Austrian Succession in 1740. Russia and France join Austria, while England joins Prussia. Battles would take place primarily in Germany. Great Britain and France also battle in India. Prussia is left to fight the land theater of the battle largely alone, against the three powers joined against it. The fact that it fights this opposition to a stalemate without losses or gains is a victory, establishing Prussia as the pre-eminent land-based power in Europe. France performs poorly, sending France into a downward spiral, which helps bring about the French Revolution.

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End of French & Indian War - Great Britain Thoroughly Defeats France (1763): Great Britain (GB) gains Florida from Spain. As compensation, Spain is given Louisiana (large tract of land covering much of the modern U.S. midwest), which was taken from France. Some Caribbean possessions are traded back and forth between GB and France. GB also gains Canada from France, ending French colonial presence in North America.


 Further Understanding:  France Decline

France falls from its dominant position among European powers, while Great Britain (GB) rises to top after the French & Indian War. This propelled England to the status as the dominant global power, gaining much of France’s possessions throughout Asia and the Americas. France still remains a continental power, due to its population, geopolitical position and cohesion. France also benefits from non-threatening states to each side, as Spain and the Holy Roman Empire are in a process of decline. GB is mostly a naval threat to the north (not a serious threat to conquer France, too large of a task for an army of lesser size). Due to mercantilistic mind set (all or nothing), France tries to thoroughly defeat GB in all theaters where they clash (western hemisphere, India), rather than attempt to co-exist. This proves to be a fatal mistake for their overseas empire, badly damaging their economy, prestige and collective psyche, helping to bring about the French Revolution.


France Purchases Corsica (1764): France purchases Corsica from Rep. of Genoa, part of France ever since.

RussiaOttoman Empire Loses Territory to Russia (1768–74): Russo-Turkish war, ended in Russian victory. Began with Ottomans declaring war on Russia. Russia gains Southern Ukraine, Northern Caucasus and Crimea, giving it access to the Black Sea, along with a large addition to its Turkish constituency.

First Partition of Poland (1772): Poland becomes a protectorate of Russia, but threatened by Prussia and Austria to the west. Prussia, Austria and Russia agree to divide Poland-Lithuania amongst themselves. Russia agrees, realizing it does not have the resources to control/defend the entire nation. The bulk of Poland-Lithuania remains intact, but largely under foreign domination. Russia gains eastern tract of land from Poland-Lithuania. Austria gains a portion of western Ukraine, and Prussia annexes territories spanning across the northern section of Poland.

American Revolutionary War (1775-83): American Revolutionary War with American colonists. Decentralized nature of colonists spread British troops thin, preventing them from maintaining captured cities and subduing the revolutionary activity. The involvement of the French made American victory possible. The Dutch and Spanish - French allies - also aided the revolutionaries. As the financial cost of the war mounted, and prospects of a decisive victory grew dim, Great Britain finally recognized American independence. Although British prestige took a hit, North America was the least profitable sector of its overseas empire. Even small, individual islands in the Caribbean were far more profitable than North America as a whole. Despite the loss, Great Britain would continue to grow in worldwide dominance through the wealth generated in the Caribbean, India, East Asia and Africa.

Note: Prussia Expansion. Continues to expand eastward into Slav lands, while also taking territory from a weakened Poland-Lithuania state. Begins to challenge Austria's dominance within the Holy Roman Empire, conquering the Silesian region from Austria.

Note: Holy Roman Empire Decline. After a few centuries of Catholic-Protestant division and warfare, the Germans of the HRE became fragmented. They are further wedged apart by the Prussia-Austria struggle for dominance.

Note: Austria. Conquers Hungary from the Ottoman Empire and annexes lands away from Poland. Also conquers Spanish Netherlands and Northern Italy from Spain. Remains the leading German state, but Prussia begins to rival its power and influence within the Holy Roman Empire.


Further Understanding of the Enlightenment:

The Age of Enlightenment:
The Age of Enlightenment was driven by advancements in western philosophy, scientific and academic understanding. After nearly constant warfare in the preceding centuries, Europeans (now more educated in general) began to question motivations and actions of state and church. They began to imagine a better way of life built on pragmatism, reasoning, fairness, individual rights (humanism), as opposed to the years of oppression, superstition, religious fanaticism, absolutism, tyranny, etc. As opposed to the traditional mode of thought, where the public was thought to be destined to serve authority (Kings, Priests, etc.), people began to reason that the state should exist to serve the individual, in order to ensure the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people. This was in opposition to the traditionally-held view of striving for the greatest amount of glory, power and wealth for the select few. This philosophy would contribute to the wave of revolutions throughout the Americas and Europe toward the end of the 18th century and into the 19th century. Monarchist governments that did survive the revolutions of the 1800s would generally be forced to share power with a democratically-elected parliaments.
The Enlightenment Leads to Capitalism: As Europe was transformed by a shift from monarchist to democratic governments, the average person became more enfranchised in the affairs of their respective governments. This enfranchisement of the individual also spread to the economic realm, resulting in systems that gave the individual a greater opportunity to share in the wealth. Under new Enlightenment ideals, it was no longer acceptable to force the general public to buy goods at inflated prices from government-protected monopolies, established among and between the elite. Fair competition was seen as a much more equitable approach, where anyone concievably had the opportunity to compete for business, which also gave consumers a choice, rewarding fair pricing, sufficient quality and efficiency. Thus, Mercantilism (protectionism, monopolistic, market manipulating, win-lose mentality) gave way to Capitalism (free competition, free markets, win-win mentality). It was argued that free markets would result in the greatest degree of efficiency, as the individual pursuit of self-interest would result in the collective good of the society. The labor class could also benefit, by essentially selling their services, and accepting the most attractive offer, which in turn could benefit the merchant (contrary to previous belief) by gaining a more skilled and productive work force (as workers had more motivation to improve themselves and work productively). Great Britain led the way in operating as a capitalistic economy by ending protectionism (monopolies, excessive tariffs, etc.), a trend that spread to other western European nations. Eastern Europe would remain behind Western Europe, as they were not able to compete in free markets on a level playing field. Therefore, Eastern Europe remained feudalistic. The U.S. also subscribed to the Free Market Economy, adding another significant trade partner for Great Britain and other Western European nations. However, it was not applied in all participating nations equally. France was a more elitist society than Great Britain, with a much less-educated middle/lower class. Elitist policies bred inefficiencies, contributing to economic collapse that helped bring about the French Revolution. Also, Great Britain did not always extend its capitalistic ideals to its colonies. Forcing American colonies to buy from government-backed monopolies helped cause the American Revolutionary War.
Industrial Revolution: Capitalism coincided with the rise of the Industrial Revolution as production became much more efficient, a natural development in a capitalistic system. The Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain in the late 1700s, and spread throughout the rest of Europe, U.S. and Japan from there. Great Britain had a well-educated middle/low class, access to generous coal deposits, and a dense population without room to expand (forcing innovation to sustain). Furthermore, Britain was less ravaged by the wars that severely inflicted continental Europe. It also had (by far) the most powerful navy and adept commercial fleet, enabling a competitive advantage in international trade, further fueling the Industrial Revolution. France would lag behind, since it had a top-caliber upper class, but an uneducated lower-class, and would be ravaged by war in its near abroad and on it own soil, as was also the case with much of the rest of continental Europe. France also lacked sufficient coal deposits. Germany would not experience the industrial revolution until late in the 1800s, as it was still fragmented, and tariffs existed between principalities, resulting in a more backward economy which was not conducive to sophisticated advancements. Italy would not be involved either, as it was still a divided, foreign-ruled nation. Up until this time, the Netherlands was the wealthiest nation, but upon being militarily devastated by both Great Britain and France, and not being able to keep up during the Industrial Revolution (lack of coal deposits), it fell behind.

Comments


Fervent Nationalism: Major powers developed insatiable appetites for expansion, gaining resources, wealth, military build up, and power. The mercantilistic mind set dictated that nations cannot exist harmoniously with one another in the same proximity. One must completely triumph over the other. Therefore, it was critical to gain at the expense of rivals, leading to conflict on the continent and abroad, which fed uninhibited colonial expansion. In the pre-capitalist, pre-democratic era, wealth was used to create war machines instead of promoting the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people, such as humanistic/social causes or economic development. Great Britain-French conflicts were a prime example. With vast amounts of land in America, they still fought each other (along with the natives) as though it were a zero-sum game (fight until somebody wins everything), rather than coexisting, with everyone prospering due to the vast amount of land and resources available for all. This culminated into first “global war” (French & Indian War which dovetailed into the War of the Grand Alliance). In this case, Great Brtain rose to become the world's greatest super power, while France was devastated, leading to the French Revolution at the end of the 1700s.


Great Britain's Rise to Dominance. France falls from its dominant position. England rises to supremacy after its overwhelming victory over France in the Seven Years War and French and Indian War. This propels Great Britain (GB) to the status as the dominant global power, after it gains much of France’s overseas possessions throughout Asia and the Western Hemisphere. GB became more advanced than France, moving toward democracy and capitalism, while France remained feudalistic and elitist. Financial irresponsibility was a natural consequence for France, placing it in economic ruin. Therefore, unlike GB, France was prevented from properly administering to its colonies and developing its navy, giving GB the upper hand in the race for world dominance.


Italy Remains Under Foreign Domination: Italy is largely subdivided, with its separate parts used as pawns by the super powers of Europe. Often neglected by its master kingdoms, Italy falls behind much of Europe. Savoy, Genoa and Venice remain independent, although in decline. The Papal States fiercely defend their sovereignty, despite rebellions from within. Foreign powers do not dare tamper with the Church dominated state, due to the political and religious ramifications involved.


Danish Colonial Empire. The peak of the Denmark-Norway Empire occurs during the 17th and 18th centuries. However, it is still very modest compared to those of its fellow European nations, such as Great Britain, France, Spain, Portugal and the Dutch.


Decline of Ottoman Empire: The decline of the Ottoman Empire was a long, gradual process. It began with naval defeats to the Europeans in Mediterranean Sea in the late 1500s, ending their naval dominance, a key to controlling surrounding nations as it had been for the Roman Empire. They were also weakened by the end of their stranglehold on Euro-Asian trade, as Europeans found naval routes to Asia. The Europeans became more advanced due to increased technologies and maritime expertise. Naval dominance was not taken seriously enough by the Ottomans, as they were able to remain dominant for so long without it. Western European powers innovated out of necessity, as it was their only way to overcome the Ottoman's stranglehold of the pass between Europe and Asia. Due to Western Europe’s decisive naval advantage, they became wealthier, while the Ottoman economy suffered from loss of trade control. The Ottoman empire was also becoming less centralized, as various provinces became essentially independent, loyal to Ottoman Empire in name only. As the Ottoman empire rose to dominance, it enjoyed a run of several gifted and aggressive sultans. During this era when the empire stagnated, it had a run of several ineffective sultans. During the rise, the empire cultivated learning institutions which combined the latest advances in science and other technological fields. During the stagnation, cutting edge learning was suppressed, as the regime became more conservative and regressive. Furthermore, the military brass was hesitant to update its battlefield strategies and tactics. Since the ascent of the Ottomans, the Janissary military order had played an important part. However, their tactics had become outdated, and fell behind the Europeans. This resulted in their disastrous defeat at the Battle of Vienna, where the Ottomans were pushed back by the Europeans, losing Hungary. Military regression was also evident in a series of defeats to the Russians, losing vast territories in the Caucuses (between Black/Caspian Seas).


Russia Domination in the East: When Peter the Great became Tsar in the late 17th century, he had a strong taste for all things Western. Plus, he felt that Russia needed Western allies in their conflicts with the Turks to the south. He toured Europe, and learned about Dutch shipbuilding, England commerce and industry, and Prussian military organization and battlefield strategies. Peter applied many of these lessons learned to his own empire, a vast kingdom in terms of land and population. Due to sheer size, Russia had a great deal of potential, but was still a backwards nation, something which Peter was determined to rectify. He also saw how France had successfully centralized its government, becoming much more powerful in doing so, and saw that this was needed in Russia to leverage its potential. He brutally submitted nobles and military to his new, more centralized form of rule, killing large numbers that revolted. He placed the Russian Orthodox Church under state control. The most glaring thing missing was the absence of a navy, which required access to ports at the Baltic and Black Seas. They were blocked by Sweden to Baltic access, and the Ottomans to Black Sea access. Peter used his new, forward-thinking reforms to gain an advantage over both rivals in the 18th century, achieving this objective of sea access through conquests of Swedish and Ottoman lands around the Baltic and Black Seas, respectively. Russia was aided by the decline of both Sweden (due to constant warfare in the north) and the Ottoman Empire. Poland was also easy pickings for Russia, as it was even more sparsely populated than Russia, especially in the east. It had no natural defenses (mountain ranges or difficult terrain), making logistics for the numerically superior (and now also organizationally superior) Russia. The fact that this could be done, and there was motivation in doing so (satisfying expansionist appetite), meant that it was inevitable.


Decline of the Dutch: The Netherlands became a dominant naval and maritime commerce power by the mid 1600s. Their expanding wealth and power attract the emerging English and French nations. In the late 1600s, the Dutch would be devastated in war with these two powers. After Dutch noble William of Orange became King of England during the Glorious Revolution in 1688, he caused the systematic detioriation of the Dutch navy. It soon became no match for the rising English/Great Britain navy, minimizing the Netherland's power overseas and in Europe.


Swedish Decline: Sweden had the best trained, most effective army in Northern Europe, pound for pound. But Sweden was not a densely populated nation, and could not effectively occupy territories it conquered, preventing it from extracting tribute from conquered areas. During this time period, Russia had become more consolidated, unifying the large numbers of Rus people (East Slavs) that had inhabited the vast lands of historic Russia for centuries. Sweden blocked Russia's access to the all-critical Baltic Sea, preventing it from competing and trading with other European nations at sea. By harnessing its large numbers, Sweden was powerless to stop Russia from achieving its critical objective of a warm-water port. Furthermore, most of the north joined Russia against Sweden in the Northern Wars, to avenge previous property losses to Sweden, and to make sure they were on the winning side, in hopes of gaining territories and other concessions at the end of the war. At the end of the war, Sweden lost its territories around the eastern end of the Baltic Sea, falling from its position as a major power. The weakening spiral would continue, as Sweden would also lose all of Finland to Russia by the 19th century.

Next: Napoleonic Wars (1789 - 1816)

Previous: Age of Exploration (1505 - 1650)

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Comments (7)

this site is not completly acurate. the ther main superpowers back then was england, frace, and spain
#1 - heeep - 10/14/2011 - 11:17
Coming to history for the first time at 77, I find this site extremely helpful in providing an overview of the main themes of change - even if some readers might disagree with some details . The maps are particularly useful.
#2 - Kenneth - 11/04/2012 - 13:11
This was very helpful. It was easy to read and concise. Thank you!
#3 - Katie - 11/18/2012 - 15:41
This website is better than my AP EUROPEAN HISTORY TEACHER.
#4 - LHS - 09/26/2013 - 23:56
You wrote in "Austria Conquers Hungary From Ottoman Empire (1699):" "This includes Slovakia, Transylvania, and Slovenia...". At that time there was no such thing as Slovakia or Slovenia. At least check Wikipedia for proper region names.
#5 - Corrector - 07/10/2014 - 06:13
this site was not helpful in any way to me.
#6 - jjromero - 09/15/2014 - 14:54
this site was not helpful in any way to me.AT ALL. THANK YOU FOR WASTING MY TIME.
#7 - jjromero - 09/15/2014 - 14:55
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