Treaty of Amiens (1802): Overview, Agreement & Objections

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amy Troolin

Amy has MA degrees in History, English, and Theology. She has taught college English and religious education classes and currently works as a freelance writer.

In this lesson, we will study the events leading up to the 1802 Treaty of Amiens, which ended a long war between France and Great Britain. We will also examine the provisions and outcome of the treaty.

The First and Second Coalitions

The 1802 Treaty of Amiens ended a war between France and Great Britain that had been waged for nine years. Let's take a look at the events leading up to this treaty. It all began in 1793 when leaders of several European countries, including Britain, decided to combat the spread of the French Revolution and put an end to French aggression. The wars of the First Coalition ended in a shaky peace between France and Austria in 1797, but Britain remained at war.

That peace didn't last long anyway. France continued its drive for power and territory. Its army soon resumed a campaign in Italy and slipped into Egypt in 1798, hoping to disrupt Britain's trade and communications with its colonies to the east. In 1798 and 1799, Britain joined forces with Austria, Prussia, Russia, Turkey, Portugal and Naples to form the Second Coalition. These countries planned a three-pronged attack against France. Britain would strike through Holland, Austria through Italy and Russia through Switzerland. It seemed like a good strategy, but the Coalition didn't count on the power of France's favorite general and first consul, Napoleon Bonaparte.

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  • 0:02 The First and Second…
  • 1:25 The Coalition Falls
  • 2:36 France Vs. Britain, Kind Of
  • 3:46 Another Shaky Peace
  • 5:26 Lesson Summary
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The Coalition Falls

The Coalition met with some success at first, especially in Italy where the Austrians recovered some of the territory they had lost in the previous war. Then France began to push back, defeating the British in Holland in 1799. The tide turned against Austria, as well. On July 14, 1800, the French, led by Napoleon, routed the Austrian army in the Battle of Marengo despite the Austrians' superior numbers. The two countries formed a shaky truce.

Meanwhile, the Russians, under Tsar Paul I, were quickly losing confidence in the Coalition. The tsar rather admired Napoleon's aggressive leadership, and he soon left the Coalition and initiated friendly relations with France. Napoleon, living up to the tsar's estimation, began another push against Austria, marching toward Vienna and trouncing the Austrians at Hohenlinden on December 3, 1800. This time, Austria agreed to a new treaty in February of 1801, and once again, Britain stood alone against France.

France vs. Britain, Kind Of

Both countries had their advantages in the conflict. France had a larger population, but Britain maintained a decisive naval supremacy. The British decided to push their advantage and control the seas, preventing France from carrying on a thriving international trade. British ships were soon guarding ports all over Europe to block French ships from entering.

This soon became a problem for countries that were losing out economically from the blockade. In 1800, Russia, Sweden, Prussia and Denmark formed the League of Armed Neutrality with the goal of protecting their ports and reopening trade with France. Britain took this as an act of war, and on April 2, 1801, the British navy attacked Copenhagen, Denmark, destroying ships and damaging shoreline defenses. Denmark quickly surrendered, and the League fell apart.

Britain then turned its attention to Egypt, joining the Turks in a campaign to kick France out of the country. They were successful by the end of August 1801.

Another Shaky Peace

By this time, however, both sides were exhausted and ready to talk peace. Napoleon wanted to concentrate on matters at home, and the British wanted to focus on their own economic troubles and manufacturing. By October 1, 1801, French and British representatives had agreed on peace terms, which were made official by the Treaty of Amiens on March 25, 1802.

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