The art historians’ term baroque is often applied to the segment of German history from 1648 to 1792, especially to the institutions, devotional practices, and ornate art forms associated with the declining Habsburg empire. The baroque age in Germany did not witness any dramatic changes in the social, political, or religious order. The period did see, however, the traditional rituals and prerogatives of the old regime increasingly challenged by such developments as the rising state of Prussia, the Enlightenment, neoclassicism, and naturalism. These forces would ultimately transform Germany.
The Treaty of Westphalia curbed but hardly ended the expansionist ambitions of German dynasties such as the Austrian Habsburgs. Scarcely had they recovered from the Thirty Years’ War when the princes and the emperor plunged into new dynastic struggles. In the west, German princes were involved in several wars as French king Louis XIV strove to extend his territory past the Rhine. In the War of the Devolution (1667-1668), Great Elector Frederick William of Brandenburg accepted a large sum of money from Louis in return for political support. In the Dutch War (1672-1678) Frederick William turned against Louis and the French, who were allied with Sweden. He fought off a Swedish invasion and conquered western Pomerania, but was forced to give up these conquests at the Peace of Saint-Germain-en-Laye in 1679.
He later benefited Brandenburg by offering refuge to Huguenots (French Calvinists), whom Louis had exiled. About 20,000 Huguenots migrated east, bringing French culture and skills such as weaving. Louis’s invasion of the Rhineland-Palatinate led to the war of the League of Augsburg (1688-1697), in which he won Strasbourg and Alsace.
The War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714) was fought over the right of Louis XIV’s grandson, Philip of Anjou (see Philip V), to inherit the Spanish throne. Bavaria sided with France, because Louis promised the Bavarian elector the crown of the Spanish Netherlands (roughly modern-day Belgium). Brandenburg supported the successive emperors Leopold I and Joseph I in return for imperial recognition of Prussia as a kingdom. Other European states also allied with the empire to block unification of France and Spain. Battles waged in Bavaria and western Germany brought havoc and ruin.
When both sides were exhausted, they accepted the Peace of Utrecht (1714), in which Austria gained the Spanish Netherlands, Naples, Milan, and Sardinia.
Meanwhile the German princes turned their own expansionist ambitions toward the north and east. In the First Northern War (1655-1660), the emperor and the elector of Brandenburg supported Poland and Denmark against Charles X Gustav of Sweden. In the Great Northern War (1700-1721), which paralleled the War of the Spanish Succession, Saxony, Poland, Brandenburg-Prussia, Hannover, Denmark, and Russia all joined forces against Sweden. At the war’s end, the treaties of Stockholm and Nystadt restored Poland to Augustus II, transferred Stettin and West Pomerania from Sweden to Brandenburg-Prussia, and gave Sweden’s eastern Baltic lands to Russia. "Germany" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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