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    France and Britain are often still referred to as “historic rivals” or with emphasis on the perceived ever-lasting competition that still opposes the two countries. French author José-Alain Fralon characterized the relationship between the countries by describing the British as “our most dear enemies”.

    With William’s death, his realms were parted between his two sons (England to William Rufus, Normandy to Robert Curthose) and the Norman-French border war concluded. Factional strains between the Norman barons, faced with a double loyalty to William’s two sons, created a brief civil war in which an attempt was made to force Rufus off the English throne. With the failure of the rebellion, England and Normandy were clearly divided for the first time since 1066.

    During the reign of the closely related Plantagenet dynasty, which was based in its Angevin Empire, and at the height of the size of the empire, 1/3 of France was under Angevin’s control as well as all of England. However, almost all of the Angevin empire was lost to Philip II of France under Richard the Lionheart, John, and Henry III of England. This finally gave the English a separate identity as an Anglo-Saxon people under a Francophone, but not a French, crown.

    The English monarchy increasingly integrated with its subjects and turned to the English language wholeheartedly during the Hundred Years’ War between 1337 and 1453. Though the war was in principle a mere dispute over territory, it drastically changed societies on both sides of the Channel. The English, although already politically united, for the first time found pride in their language and identity, while the French united politically.

    Partly out of fear of a continental intervention, an Act of Union was passed in 1707 creating the Kingdom of Great Britain, and formally merging the kingdoms of Scotland and England (the latter kingdom included Wales). While the new Britain grew increasingly parliamentarian, France continued its system of absolute monarchy.

    The newly united Britain fought France in the War of the Spanish Succession from 1702 to 1713, and the War of the Austrian Succession from 1740 to 1748, attempting to maintain the balance of power in Europe. The British had a massive navy but maintained a small land army, so Britain always acted on the continent in alliance with other states such as Prussia and Austria as they were unable to fight France alone. Equally, France, lacking a superior navy, was unable to launch a successful invasion of Britain

    France lent support to the Jacobite pretenders who claimed the British throne, hoping that a restored Jacobite monarchy would be inclined to be more pro-French. Despite this support, the Jacobites failed to overthrow the Hanoverian monarchs.

    From the 1650s, the New World increasingly became a battleground between the two powers. The Western Design of Oliver Cromwell intended to build up an increasing British presence in North America, beginning with the acquisition of Jamaica from the Spanish Empire in 1652. The first British settlement on continental North America was founded in 1607, and by the 1730s these had grown into thirteen separate colonies.

    The French had settled the province of Canada to the North and controlled Saint-Domingue in the Caribbean, the wealthiest colony in the world. Both countries, recognizing the potential of India, established trading posts there. Wars between the two states increasingly took place in these other continents, as well as Europe.
    The French and British fought each other and made treaties with Native American tribes to gain control of North America. Both nations coveted the Ohio Country and in 1753 a British expedition there led by George Washington clashed with a French force. Shortly afterward the French and Indian War broke out, initially taking place only in North America but in 1756 becoming part of the wider Seven Years’ War in which Britain and France were part of opposing coalitions.

    The war has been called the first “world war” because fighting took place on several different continents. In 1759 the British enjoyed victories over the French in Europe, Canada, and India, severely weakening the French position around the world. In 1762 the British captured the cities of Manila and Havana from Spain, France’s strongest ally, which led ultimately to a peace settlement the following year that saw a large number of territories come under British control.

    For a brief period after 1781, Britain’s naval superiority was threatened subdued by an alliance between France and Spain. However, the British recovered defeated the main French fleet in April 1782 and kept control of Gibraltar.[46] In 1783 the Treaty of Paris gave the new nation control over most of the region east of the Mississippi River; Spain gained Florida from Britain and retained control of the vast Louisiana Territory; France received little except a huge debt.

    The crippling debts incurred by France during the war, and the cost of rebuilding the French navy during the 1780s caused a financial crisis, helping contribute to the French Revolution of 1789

    During the French Revolution, the anti-monarchical ideals of France were regarded with alarm throughout Europe. While France was plunged into chaos, Britain took advantage of its temporary weakness to stir up the civil war occurring in France and build up its naval forces. The Revolution was initially popular with many Britons, both because it appeared to weaken France and was perceived to be based on British liberal ideals. This began to change as the Jacobin faction took over, and began the Reign of Terror.

    Following the execution of King Louis XVI of France in 1793, France declared war on Britain. This period of the French Revolutionary Wars was known as the War of the First Coalition. Except for a brief pause in 1802–03, the wars lasted continuously for 21 years.

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