‘Whenever this war ceases,’ wrote the English pamphleteer Charles Davenant in 1695, ‘it will not be for want of mutual hatred in the opposite parties, nor for want of men to fight the quarrel, but that side must first give out where money is first failing.’ This was an opinion from which few statesmen, generals, administrators or contractors on either side during the wars of 1688–1714 would have dissented. At this time financial capacity, not economic capacity, was, in the last resort, the limiting factor which decided the length, and modified the intensity, of war. Because a bankrupt government, unable to coax or force its citizens' wealth into its exchequer, or to make financial innovations with speed and skill, would be compelled to make peace, the rival powers tended to count each others' losses from bad coin, internal revolt, unfilled loans, unfavourable exchanges, the flight or bankruptcy of important financial agents, and so on, rather than losses in lives or war materials. As Richard Hill, the English envoy at Turin, wrote to Lord Treasurer Godolphin in 1705:
The French King's treasury begins to fail him. He is already bankrupt for 25 millions… Do you continue, my Lord, to beat Mons. Chamillard [the Controller General] a year or two more, as you have done, and leave the rest to the Duke of Marlborough.
Yet the financial side of war, so pressing to contemporaries, has been relatively neglected by historians. There are great difficulties in reconstructing it, partly because of the complexity and obscurity of surviving records, partly because their volume and utility vary considerably from one country to another. Only for England are the financial statistics reasonably certain. For other States the edges of the picture are blurred.