In This Article The Seven Years' War in North America

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • African Americans
  • Women
  • French Army and Naval Forces
  • The American Revolution

Military History The Seven Years' War in North America
by
Thomas Agostini
  • LAST REVIEWED: 07 November 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 September 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0144

Introduction

The Seven Years’ War represents the first world war in human history, but it remains the only global conflict that began in America. As the last, and greatest, of the colonial wars in North America, it stands, along with the American Revolution, as one of two key events in US history during the 18th century, and the defining event in the history of Canada. The conflict decisively shaped the societies of many Native peoples who lived on lands east of the Mississippi River, precipitating the uprising that Pontiac and his allies later launched against the triumphant British Empire. The war also famously resulted in France’s expulsion from most of North America, while Great Britain effectively doubled its national debt, setting the stage for political conflict between the world’s greatest imperial power and most of its colonies across the Atlantic. Fortunately for students of this momentous era, the existing literature on the Seven Years’ War not only offers a variety of wide-ranging approaches, it also includes a number of especially engaging works that rank among the best works in all of Native American, Canadian, and American history.

General Overviews

The Seven Years’ War, as a historical subject, appears to lend itself to epic narratives of events. Among these, Parkman 1884 deserves attention as an exemplary work of historical literature, despite its evident bias. In the mid-20th century, Gipson completed his Pulitzer prize–winning history of the “the Great War for Empire,” as he famously dubbed the conflict. Researched and composed during the era of World War II, Gipson 1958 presents a largely favorable view of the transatlantic British-American alliance that won the Seven Years’ War. More recent works such as Frégault 1969 and Jennings 1988 counter Gipson’s largely sympathetic portrayal of the British Empire. The best modern overview of the conflict remains Anderson 2000, which will serve as an excellent starting point for readers.

  • Anderson, Fred. Crucible of War: The Seven Years’ War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754–1766. New York: Knopf, 2000.

    E-mail Citation »

    An ambitious study in the tradition of epic works by Parkman and Gipson, Crucible of War presents the argument that the war was “the most important event to occur in eighteenth-century North America” (p. xv). While Anderson’s synthesis focuses on the conflict in North America, it also devotes considerable attention to developments in Asia, Europe, and Africa, enabling the reader to understand how external forces shaped events in America.

  • Baugh, Daniel. The Global Seven Years War, 1754–1763: Britain and France in a Great Power Contest. Harlow, UK: Longman, 2011.

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    Baugh views the Seven Years’ War as a part of a “great-power confrontation” between the two dominant imperial states of the day: France and Great Britain (p. 1). In taking a global view of the conflict, the book not only fills a critical gap in the historiography, it presents a comprehensive, absorbing, and masterful narrative that deserves a wide readership.

  • Frégault, Guy. Canada: The War of the Conquest. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1969.

    E-mail Citation »

    In a somewhat dated, though badly needed history by a Québécois historian, Frégault wryly observes that Gipson’s view of the conflict as the “Great War for Empire” was an “admirable choice,” though only from a British perspective. The author also argues that the conflict was the “most important event in Canadian history” and adds that the Seven Years’ War marked an essential precondition of the American Revolution.

  • Gipson, Lawrence Henry. The British Empire before the American Revolution. 15 vols. New York: Knopf, 1958.

    E-mail Citation »

    In his papers preserved at Lehigh University, Lawrence Henry Gipson once referred to the fifteen volumes in this magnum opus as “his children.” The sixth, seventh, and eighth books address the conflict directly and offer an authoritative, and well-documented, narrative of events. Modern scholars should not overlook the final volume in the collection, which presents a thorough, and often highly detailed, guide to manuscripts located around the world.

  • Hinderaker, Eric. Elusive Empires: Constructing Colonialism in the Ohio Valley, 1673–1800. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511528651E-mail Citation »

    Elusive Empires places the contest for dominance of the strategic Ohio Valley in a wider imperial perspective by showing how competing French, British, and Native interests vied for control of the region. Hinderaker also shows that the need to ensure that the benefits of control of this territory extended back to Europe both guided and constrained the policies of imperial administrators in Britain and France.

  • Jennings, Francis. Empire of Fortune: Crowns, Colonies, and Tribes in the Seven Years War in America. New York: Norton, 1988.

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    A sharply critical revision of Gipson, Jennings’s work presents a harsh indictment of the British Empire.

  • Parkman, Francis. Montcalm and Wolfe. 2 vols. Boston: Little, Brown, 1884.

    E-mail Citation »

    The seventh book in his monumental multivolume epic, France and England in North America, Parkman’s study of the Seven Years’ War in America remains a literary classic. Though historians such as Francis Jennings and W. J. Eccles criticized his approach for its evident bias, Parkman produced an enduring grand narrative of the conflict despite serious health concerns that made it difficult for him to walk and virtually blinded him.

  • Schumann, Matt, and Karl Schweizer. The Seven Years War: A Transatlantic History. New York: Routledge, 2008.

    E-mail Citation »

    The authors view the Seven Years’ War through the lens of Atlantic studies, arguing that operations in North America, as well as on the Atlantic, allowed the British and the Prussians to defeat France and its allies in Europe.

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