Britain and France remained leading powers in Western Europe as Spain and the United Netherlands declined because these two countries gained so much power and economic strength. France possessed the largest European population during this time. It also had wiser political leadership, economic recovery and consolidation, and a less ambitious foreign policy. France’s army at mid-century was still the largest and strongest military force on the continent. Its colonies produced wealth and spurred domestic industries while its cities grew and prospered.
England also enjoyed a period of success during this time. When Robert Walpole, who had always been active in the House of Commons, took over the helm of the government, Great Britain enjoyed a stability it had not seen for a century. Walpole did little to raise the level of British political morality. Nonetheless, foreign trade grew, agriculture became more productive, the navy became stronger, and economic enterprise prospered.