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The Seven Years War

Jacob Houston

The Seven Years War, known also as the French and Indian War, was fought from 1756 to 1763, and is known as one of the first truly global conflicts before the world wars of the 20th century, which spanned over five continents.

After the arrival of Europeans in the Western hemisphere following 1492, many European countries scrambled to found and fund colonies across North and South America. The Spanish and Portuguese made up the majority of the colony creation in South America, with the Spanish expanding as far North as present day northern Washington, United States. However, the indigenous inhabitants of these regions suffered mightily by the effects of European arrival through disease, war, and continued conquests.

In what is now the midwest and eastern United States, the British, French, and Dutch began their own colonies placed along major rivers and ports, but the indigenous inhabitants of the area continued to suffer greatly by the arrival of the Europeans who continuously caused conflict and disease spread.

In addition, with the beginning of the Transatlantic slave trade as far back as the 15th century, millions of enslaved Africans were cruelly shipped to the Americas where they were forced to work in harsh and inhumane conditions, many dying on the passage to the Americas. However, this period marked the beginning of the end for the Native Americans in the western hemisphere as greater numbers of Europeans arrived to the colonies, most notably with the British colonies in the eastern United States and the French colonies in the midwestern United States and southern Canada.

With all of these European colonies bundled closely together and with the continuous conflicts with Native Americans over land and fair treatment, war was inevitable. Specifically, these tensions culminated in the Upper Ohio River Valley, in which the British, French, and numerous Native American tribes were in constant conflict. The British sent young envoy George Washington, to warn the French that contention around the cities and colonies on the eastern seaboard of the United States would mean war. The French, however, refused, and the conflict known as the French and Indian War began, with Washington involving himself and his men in a skirmish with French forces not long after their meeting.

However, the war continued to bring about loss after loss for the British, with a large one at the Battle of Fort Necessity, where Washington gave his first and only surrender. Thus, with the continuous losses in North America, the war expanded globally. Conflicts opened up between British and French troops in Manila, Guadeloupe, Havana, India, Martinique, and West Africa, and eventually expanded to mainland Europe with Prussia and Russia beginning a conflict due to wounds inflicted by the War of the Austrian Succession in 1748, with Russia allying itself with France and Austria while Prussia allied itself with the British.

The war raged on forward, and in mainland Europe, the Russians and French arrived in Berlin, the capital of Prussia at the time, but were driven back by Prussian reinforcements, and a tug of war ensued, with both sides inflicting heavy losses.

Globally, the war continued, with the Spanish and Portuguese involving themselves, warring over colonial possessions in South America. In India, conflict ensued between British and French forces, with the French involving themselves with the Mughal Empire in trying to halt British expansion in India, beginning numerous battles, most notably the Battle of Pondicherry, the capital of French India, where the city fell to the British in 1761, which noted the end of French military involvement in India for the time. In West Africa, the British attempted to take over the French settlement in Saint-Louis, Senegal, in which the British were successful and launched campaigns into the island of Goree and the Gambia, which, with the French relying on their lucrative colonies in West Africa, took heavy blows with continuous losses in the region.

The war in North America pushed on, with the British finally winning victories at sea and on land, most notably in Montreal, Canada, in 1760, which put French forces in North America at a deficit as supplies and lucrative trading ships were being seized by the British, and then, in 1760, the Iroquois Confederacy resigned its position in the war on the side of the French and signed the Treaty of Kahnawake with the British. In 1762, The French attacked St. John’s, Newfoundland, and were victorious, but were defeated by British troops at the Battle of Signal Hill, marking the end of the conflict in North America.

The Treaty of Paris was signed in 1763, effectively ending the war between the British and French, with the French having to cede Loiusiana to the Spanish, New France to the British, Guadeloupe and Martinique were retained by the French, but the Spanish were forced to cede Florida to the British, but Spain was given all former French holdings west of the Mississippi River and Ile d’Orleans. In addition, the French returned the island of Menorca back to the British and the British returned the islands of Saint Perrie and Miquelon to the French. In India, the British returned French trading ports, but the French did not have a sufficient military presence to man the ports, with their navy being almost completely destroyed by the British.

The Treaty of Hubertusburg was signed in 1763 between Austria, Prussia, Russia, and Saxony, in which heated debates over land control resulted in most of the territories being reverted back to their pre-Seven Years War standings. Austria was deemed almost bankrupt after the war and did not make any sufficient gains while Prussia established itself as a force to be reckoned with, and Russia made a gain in successfully taking the French out of Poland.

The Seven Years War was a long, brutal conflict that resulted in many of the changes around the world that gave way to many future events during the later 18th century and 19th and 20th centuries. The French, defeated, were forced on a back foot, and did not reach sufficient military prowess until many years later. The British, though victorious, were faced with several issues. First, Britain was almost bankrupted by the war, and needed to be sufficiently refund itself, resulting in the Proclamation of 1763, which stopped British colonial expansion west of the Appalachian Mountains in a move to stop future war with the Native Americans, but as a result angered many American colonists in the British Thirteen colonies, of which, the proclamation and the growing British opposition to slavery in the British colonies contributed to the beginning of the American Revolution in 1775, which struck a stunning blow to the British. In addition, the war made the British a very large threat to the other European powers, resulting in Britain's inability to find suitable help during the future American Revolution, which had dire consequences, resulting in the loss of all of Britain's thirteen colonies and several possessions. This resulted in a renewed British focus on colonizing other regions of the world, including India and China, and setting its eyes on the continent of Africa for resources.


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