1561-1641 1795-1848






Courland 1641-1795



In 1641, JACOB KETTLER inherited the Duchy of Courland. He was a very energetic man, built up a navy of 61 ships and pursued a colonial policy; Courlanders built FORT JAKOB on the Gambia river in West Africa (1651) and another colony on TOBAGO in 1652, attempting to get a share in the African slave trade.
In 1658 Duke Jacob was taken prisoner by the Swedes, released only after the Peace of Oliva (1660).
Courland's disadvantage was that their communication with the colonies easily could be disconnected by a blockade of the Øresound, which was controlled by Denmark. Courland, which at that time had a population of an estimated 200,000, could not hold on to it's colonies; the colony on Tobago was taken by the Dutch in 1658, Fort Jakob on the Gambia river in 1663 by the English. Although the Dutch returned Tobago in 1680, Courland's colonial policy had failed (Tobago soon was lost to the French). Yet, at least for a short period of time, Courland had owned one of the world's largest merchant marines. Between 1660 and 1681 the Jakobskanal (Jacob's Canal) connecting Mitau with the Dvina, was dug.
Under Jakob's successor Friedrich Kasimir, the court spent excessively and the Duchy was indebted.
Between 1701 and 1708, Courland was battleground in the GREAT NORTHERN WAR; the Swedes were victorious over combined Russo-Lithuanian forces at Saladen (1703) and Jacobsrad (1704); the Swedes under Lewenhaupt established themselves in Courland.
In 1711 the young Duke married Russian Princess Anna Iwanowna; he died soon after.
Until 1721, Courland had to take care not to offend Sweden (Livonia with Riga was a Swedish province; in 1700/1701, the Nordic War was fought on Courland soil); after 1721, Russia was not to be offended. In 1726 the Courland diet elected Maurice of Saxony, son of August the Strong, King of Poland, duke. The Polish diet (planning the annexion of Courland) declared the election null and void; Russian troops invaded; Maurice fled in 1727.
In 1730, Duchess Anna Iwanowna of Courland became Czarina of Russia. When the Duchy was vacant after the death of Duke Ferdinand, Tsarina Anna pressed the nobles of Courland to elect her favourite, Ernst Johann Biron, Duke in 1737; he stayed in St. Petersburg. In 1740 he was deposed and sent as a prisoner to Siberia; a Ducal Council ruled until 1758, then Karl von Sachsen until 1763, when Ernst Johann Biron was reinstated.
His son Peter had palaces built, founded the Academia Petrina in Mitau (1775). In 1790, revolutionary spirit also reached Courland; anomymous pamphlets criticized the hold the Ritterschaft (estate of the nobles) held over the country. The burghers (the cities were not represented in the Courland diet) formed the Bürgerliche Union in 1790. With unrest in Warsaw, Duke Peter in 1795 asked for Russian protection. In the same year, in the process of the 3rd Polish Partition, Courland was incorporated into Russia.



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EXTERNAL
LINKS
Courland, from Timetable of Latvian History, by Karlis R. Zikmanis
Courland, Livonia and Estonia. Confidential Handbooks No.57, 1919, from the British Foreign Office, posted on the Web by jewishgen.org
The Duchy of Courland, by Ray A. Ceaser
Duke James Kettler, from oceanpoint.com or from Karin Lemanis
Genealogy of the Princes Biron, from Gotha
Bibliography of Courland's Colonial Policy, by Marco Ramerini
Coinage of the Baltic Countries : Duchy of Courland, 1561-1795
Homepage of the Courland Research Group, links
Jelgava Palace, from Latvia University of Agriculture
The Rundale Palace , summer residence of Ernst Johann Biron, Duke of Courland, built 1736-1768
Military Orders of Kurland, from Orders of the World
Biography of Anna Ivanovna, Duchess of Kurland, from Russian Dynasties
Courland and the Courlandic Knightage, from Baltische Ritterschaften
Kurland, from Meyers Konversationslexikon 1888-1890 edition, in German
DOCUMENTS Historical Flags of Courland, from FOTW
Map featuring Europe in 1648, from Labberton 1884, posted by The Crown and the Cross; map shown Courland as part of Poland; 452 K
Maps 1757 : Map of NW Courland, of the Dvina Estuary, of Courland's west coast from Atlas of the Baltic Sea by Aleksei Nagaev, 1757, posted by Helsinki Univ.
Map of Courland, posted by Baltische Ritterschaften (Blaeu)
Website of the Latvia State Historical Archive
Downloadable documents from Charles Jenkinson: [A] collection of all the treaties of peace, alliance and commerce between Great Britain and other powers : from the treaty signed at Munster in 1648, to the treaties signed at Paris in 1783 (London 1785): vol. 1
1664 Treaty between England and Courland relating to Tobago, pp.183ff
Map : Tabula Ducatuum Livoniae et Curlandiae, by G. Valck c.1673-1686, SuUB Bremen, Historische Karten, click Kurland under 'Schlagworte'
Entry Curland, in Zedlers Universallexikon 1732, click Index, Index, C, Cu, Curland; also articles Curland, das Geschlecht; Curlaendisches Bier-Brauen
Report by Caleb de Frumerie on the expedition to Lithuania in 1703 and the battle of Saladen, from Svensk Krigshistoria, in Old Swedish
Report on the battle of Jacobstadt, 1704, from Svensk Krigshistoria, in Old Swedish
REFERENCE David G. Kirby, The Baltic World 1772-1993, London : Longman 1995, pp.27-30
Reinhard Wittram, Baltische Geschichte. Die Ostseelande Livland, Estland und Kurland 1180-1918 (Baltic History. The Baltic Lands of Livonia, Estonia and Courland, 1180-1918), Darmstadt : Wissenschaftliche Buchgemeinschaft (1954) 1973, in German


This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on November 11th 2004

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