In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section The Seven Years' War

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Textbooks and Surveys
  • Journals
  • Eastern North America
  • Britons and British Colonists
  • The Seven Years’ War and the American Revolution
  • The French and Their Colonists
  • Native Americans
  • The Caribbean and Latin America
  • Global Dimensions
  • Europe
  • The War in Art and Literature

Atlantic History The Seven Years' War
Geoffrey Plank
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 April 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199730414-0059


The Seven Years’ War began in 1754 in the upper Ohio River Valley in what is now western Pennsylvania. British and French regular forces, colonial militiamen, and Native American warriors engaged in combat from that time until 1763, even though Britain and France did not formally declare war on each other until 1756. Before the conflict ended, it had expanded to engulf much of Europe, as well as parts of Africa, Asia, South America, and islands in the Atlantic, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and the Pacific; literally dozens of competing military forces participated. At the end of the war, Spanish Florida and French Canada were annexed to the British Empire. Britain also became the indisputable leading European imperial power in India. There was no consensus on how Britain should govern its newly expanded empire, and several controversies erupted over issues related to imperial governance. The arguments escalated into the imperial crisis that preceded the American Revolution. Despite the war’s global reach, North America has received more attention from scholars than the other theaters of combat because of the long-term implications of the conflict on that continent for the future of the British Empire and the United States.

General Overviews

The two most ambitious general histories of the war, Gipson 1958–1970 and Anderson 2000, share a narrative structure based on the interplay between wartime events and British ministerial politics. Both historians divide the war into stages, and in broad terms they divide the war into three periods: 1754 to 1757, which Gipson describes as the “years of defeat”; Britain’s “victorious years” from 1758 to 1760; and the later years, during which controversies over the administration of the empire intensified, apparently foreshadowing the troubles leading to the American Revolution. The British Empire collapsed as Gipson was writing, and his work reflects a sorrowful, stubborn imperial patriotism. Anderson, writing decades after Gipson, is more even-handed. Unlike Gipson, he pays close attention to the concerns of Native Americans and French Canadians. Anderson 2000 covers less ground, but his single-volume history is much more manageable than Gipson’s multivolume work.

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

    An accessible, detailed narrative of the war, recounting developments in North America from 1754 through the resolution of the Stamp Act Crisis. Although his focus is North America, he analyzes the war in an Atlantic context, both in military terms, emphasizing the importance of navies, and in political terms, especially in his discussion of the war’s political consequences.

  • Gipson, Lawrence Henry. The British Empire Before the American Revolution. 15 vols. New York: Knopf, 1958–1970.

    Only volumes 6, 7, and 8 deal directly with the events of the Seven Years’ War, but all fifteen volumes advance Gipson’s argument for the war’s importance as a turning point in British imperial history. Unequaled as a global history of the war, this work remains useful even though it is dated, and its assertions should be verified by reference to more recent scholarship.

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