In 1700 the armies of the Russian Tsar Peter the Great and Charles XII of Sweden met at Narva to fight the first battle of what was to be known as the Great Northern War. Although this first engagement was to result in a humiliating defeat for Peter, it marked the start of a struggle that twenty years later would see Russia emerge as a major power and radically alter the balance of power in Europe. This work examines the changes in the balance of power in Europe in the early eighteenth century as a result of the Great Northern War and the War of the Spanish Succession through the writings and career of Charles Whitworth, the first British Ambassador to Russia, and Minister in The Hague, Berlin, Ratisbon and Cambrai. Whitworth was an acute, witty and indefatigable writer.
His long and detailed dispatches and reports comment on Russian, Prussian, Austrian and Dutch domestic and foreign policy, on trading and commercial matters, on leading personalities and events, and on the diplomacy of the Great Northern War and the War of Spanish Succession. He was in Russia from 1705 to 1712 and witnessed the growing military, naval and commercial power of the state and was acutely aware of the potential threat of Russia to British interests. The period of Whitworth's diplomatic career, from 1702-1725, witnessed a dramatic shift in the balance of power in the North, and the nature, and timing, of Whitworth's postings made him uniquely qualified to chart and analyse this development. Drawing on a wide variety of manuscript sources, Dr Hartley has produced a compelling account both of Whitworth and the momentous events taking place in Europe at the beginning of the eighteenth century.