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

  • Introduction
  • Reference Works
  • Contemporary Works (to 1800)
  • Origins/Diplomatic Revolution
  • War in India
  • Naval and Maritime
  • Peacemaking and Diplomacy
  • Economic Concerns/Aftermath
  • Sociocultural Perspectives

Military History Seven Years' War
Patrick Speelman
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 November 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0055


The Seven Years’ War was a vast conflict and its voluminous historiography reflects its multi-theater nature. Traditionally, works focused on the operations and military campaigns of such great captains as Frederick the Great, General Wolfe, or Lord Clive, to name a few. This old-fashioned “drum and trumpet” history often overemphasized the great battles at the expense of lesser known engagements and theaters, and it was essentially Eurocentric. Lost in the fog of war were the context of military operations and often any appreciation of the non-European participants and combatants. Recently, newer literature has brought into focus the context in which the war was fought (diplomatic, economic, social, etc.), with the result that we now have a more scholarly and nuanced portrait of the conflict. Most of the literature can be divided among the main theaters of war: Europe, North America, and India. But the global nature and maritime operations evident in the conflict suggest that the historiography should grow in other directions, as fighting occurred on every continent except Antarctica. A new appreciation for the economic importance of the 18th century in general and of the Seven Years’ War in particular, as the progenitor of the fiscal-military state, also drives current scholarship. Finally, over the past decade an appreciation of the war by sociocultural historians has taken root, and some of the most thought-provoking scholarship has emerged from this school. Overall, the trend toward both understanding the conflict as a global phenomenon that bled over into other areas and recognizing that the war entailed regional conflicts around the world should be the emphasis for future studies of the conflict.

Reference Works

There is a dearth of scholarly reference works devoted to the war. For a detailed timeline of events see Dobson 1763. The most useful printed reference is the forty-eight-volume The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence (Walpole 1937–1983). It is a “gateway” to bibliography, primary sources, and biographical and general information on the Seven Years’ War, much of which is found in the annotations and multivolume index. In particular, the correspondence with Henry Seymour Conway, his cousin and deputy to Lord Granby of the British expeditionary force in Germany, is valuable and is available online for free. The chief online resource for contemporary literature, pamphlets, etc., is Gale’s Eighteenth-Century Collections Online (ECCO), a full-text database of all books printed in Great Britain during the 18th century. The English Short Title Catalog (ESTC) provides bibliographic information while both Eighteenth-Century Resources and the Center for Eighteenth-Century Studies provide links to documents on the web. For the Annual Register, the Internet Library of Early Journals is a free resource. A good encyclopedic site that addresses statistics of specific battles, sieges, and campaigns (though geared toward buffs) is the Seven Years’ War Project. Overall, what is needed is a full-scale reference encyclopedia for the war.

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