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1807: Napoleon tries to cut off Russian hemp trade with Britain

Napoleon in TillsitIn July 1807 Napoleon I of France and Csar Alexander I of Russia signed the Treaties of Tilsit in the town of Tilsit.  
The treaty ended war between Imperial Russia and the French Empire and began an alliance between the two empires that rendered the rest of continental Europe almost powerless.

The two countries secretly agreed to aid each other in disputes. The treaty created an alliance between Russia, France, Prussia, Denmark, and others forcing them to break all ties, mainly trade and commerce, with England in an attempt to isolate England from Russia [1,2]

Russia was one of the international main exporters, they dominated the international hemp trade and hemp was England’s most vital commodity [1]. One of the prime concerns of England was the supply of naval stores. They were especially concerned about their access to hemp, for which there was no satisfactory alternative source to Russia; Russia at the supplied well over 90 percent of the navy's requirements. England was the top international importer of hemp.

The flourishing Russian economy and stable hemp trade between England and Russia was a very powerful imminent threat to Napoleons France. Through the Treaties of Tilsit Napoleon tried to gain control of the international hemp trade and market. [1] Although the treaty is signed by both parties, the Czar does not enforce the treaty. Russia couldn't keep his promise because most of their economy depended on the trade with Britain so clandestine trade with Britain flourished.


1.Murray, John T. May 1943.“Baltic Commerce and Power Politics in the Early Eighteenth Century.” Huntington Library Quarterly, Vol. 6, No. 3, pp. 293-312.
2. O’Rourke, Kevin H.2006. ”The Worldwide Economic Impact of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, 1793-1815.” Journal of Global History,. London School of Economic and Political Science 2006. pp.123-24.
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