In the first partition of Poland in 1772 substantial areas of Polish territory had been annexed by Austria, Russia and Prussia, changing the balance of power in Central Europe. In 1789 the eruption of the French Revolution began a further wave of fundamental change within the traditional social hierarchy across the continent. France’s neighbours quickly saw the potential for revolution to spread and threaten their own established order. The territory to the east of France was dominated by numerous small states and larger kingdoms, which formed a complex web of alliances and lines of succession. The Holy Roman Empire made up the largest overarching political entity, ruled by the House of Habsburg-Lorraine. Through the accumulation of claims to various thrones across Europe, the Habsburgs had gained enormous power; however, the French Revolution began the transition away from the monarchical political structure of Europe that had allowed such large supranational systems of rule to evolve.
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