The Seven Years War may well have been the first world war in that it was fought simulataneously in Europe, North America, and India.
King Louis XV concluded an alliance with Austria in 1756, and the two went to war with Great Britain and Prussia in the fateful Seven Years' War (1756-63), one of the most disatrous in French history. The War was actually precipitated with a young colonel in the Virginia militia, George Washington, chanced accross a French military force in the disputed territory west of the Apalachens. Louis' commitments to the Austrians prevented him from concentrating on the colonial struggle with Britain. The fighting in North America is commonly called the French and Indian War and the fighting began in North America when a Virginia militia unit commanded by none other than George Washington ventured into French territory. The fighting in India determined who was going to dominate the sun-continent and emerge as Europe's primary colonial power. The fighting in Europe was on a much larger scale and centered on control of Silesia an area of Poland involved in the partitions of that country and coveted by both Prussia and Austria. In the end Prussia was almost destroyed, but rescuced at the last minute by the death of Tsarina Elizabeth. While Prussian miraculously emerged in a strong position from the War, France did not. France by 1763, France had lost to Britain almost all her colonial possessions in North America and India. Later, the failure of his secret diplomacy resulted in the near elimination of French influence in central Europe. The French defeat was so crushing that it stirred a desire for revenge, a major factor in Louis XV's grandson, Louis XVI's decission to support the colonists in the American Revolution.
The Seven Years War (1756-63) was the third and longest war over control of Silesia a contesyed area of Poland involved in the 18th century partitions erasing Poland from the European map. The War was, However, turned into a much larger conflict involving all of the major European powers, except Britain, against Prussia. The British played a minor role in the European battles, but did distract the French from fulling their full weight against Prussia by engagements in North America and India. The fighting in Europe was on a much larger scale and centered on control of Silesia an area of Poland involved in the partitions of that country and coveted by both Prussia and Austria. In the end Prussia was almost destroyed, but rescuced at the last minute by the death of Tsarina Elizabeth. Emperess Maria Theresa of Austria had earlier been involved in other matters to seriiusly resist Frederick the Great's seizure of Silesia. By the mid-1750s she began to seriously address the recovery of Silesia. Frederick was prepared for the Austrians and made a premtive attack in Saxony, seizing Dresden (October 1756). He was defeated at Kolin (June 1757), but later defeated the French at Rossbach. He scired a great victory a numerically superior Austrian force at Leuthen (December 1757). The fighting swayed back and forth in 1758, but by the end of the year Prussian controlled both Silesia and Saxony. Figting in the fourth year of the conflict went disterously wrong for Prussia when the Russians and Austrias were able to join forces against him (1759). Fredericj in the fifth year of campaigning swas able to regain Saxony (1760). In the sixth years the French were decisively beaten by Duke Ferdinand at Villinghausen (July 1761). The combined forces of Austria, Russia, and the other allies after several years of fighting began to serious reduce Prussia's military power. It looked like Prussia and Frederick would be totally defeated. The death od Tsarina Elizabeth rescued Frederick (January 1762). Elizabeth was replaced by Peter III. Peter was a Danish princling who had been adopted by Elizabeth. He hated Russia which he considered barabaric. He had idealized Frederick and Prussia from childhood. He withdrew Russia from the coalition that was about to defeat Prussia and induced Sweden ti withdraw as well. Frederick was then able to concentrate his forces against Austria. The Prussians took the Austrian stronghold at Burkensdorf and then defeated Daun Reichenbach (August 1762). He then recovered Silesia by taking Schweidnitz (October 1762).
The fighting in North America is commonly called the French and Indian War and the fighting began in North America when a Virginia militia unit commanded by none other than George Washington ventured into French territory. The French and India War can be seen as part of the Seven Years War, but they are major differences. The Seven Years War was essentially a combined European War to limit the aggressions of Prussia's Frederick the Great. The French and Indian War was a war over colonial control of North America. They are related in that France was deeply involved in both wars and they occurred at roughly the same time. the French and India War was fought by Britain and its North American colonies against France and its Indian (Algonquian) allies. France's North American colonies had evolved differently than the British colonies. The more limited French emmigration and differing attitudes toward Native Americans enduced the Algonquians to fight on their side against the British.
There were also important engagements in the Caribbean. Sugar made the Caribbean islands very valuable at the time. Possession of a small island could generate more income that large trascts of North America. Here the Royal Navy proved decisive.
The fighting in India determined who was going to dominate the sun-continent and emerged as Europe's primary colonial power.
After the Russians and Swedes withdrew from the War in 1762, Prussian victories induced France to retire from the conflict, signing peace treaties with both Prussia and Britain. Losing her allies also forced Emperess Maria Theresa to make peace with Frederick. The treaty between Prussia and Austria was the peace of Hubertsberg which recognized Prussian control of Silesia (February 1763). The treaty between Britain and France was the treaty of Paris which included important provisions concerning overseas possessioins, primarily Canada and India (February 1763). The Treaty of Paris recognized British control of Canada (including Cape Breton, Acadia, and Louisana east of the Mississippi, except New Orleans. The French retained fishing rights off New Foundland and to facilitate that were provided theislands of St. Pierre and Miquelon. Britain returned to France several Caribbean island seized during the War (Marinique, Guadeloupe, Maria Galante, Belle Isles, and St. Lucia). At the time these islands were much more important than today. They were sugar islands generating very substantial income. Britain returned Havana to Spain. In return, Spain ceded Florida to Britain. Under the terms of an earlier treaty between France and Spain, the island of Orleans and French North American territory west of the Mississppi, what was then called Louisiana was ceded to Spain (November 1762). The French were willing to do this, calculating that the British would demand Louisiana as part of a peace treaty.
There were extensive consequences from the Seven Years War for all combatant nations.
In North America the issue of who would domiante the continent was resolved. North America would be an English-speaking extension of Europe. This was in the 20th century to have profound consequences for Europe in the 20th century. (Ironocally France would be resucued by English-speaking North America in two great world wars.) The British were also affected in that the War changed the relationship with their colonies, at the time the primary overseas colonies. The expulsion of France from North America had the unintended impact of making the English colonists feel, less dependent on the Britain for security. In addition the struggle had shown many colonists the inadequacies of British colonial administration, the effectivness of colonial militias, and the need for cooperation among colonies. The colonies cooperated to some extent in dealing with the Native American tribes. The links established would be useful as the indepndence movement began to grow. The British failed to understand these developments, feeling that the colonists should be gratful that they had been saved from the French. The War had been costly and the British began to devise was of taxing the Americans to support the cost of the colonial administration. These taxes established without any consent by the Americans helped to fuel anti-British feeling. The American Revolution was to break out a little more than 10 years after the signing of the Peace of Paris. Ironically the only part of North America to remain loyal was still largely French Canada.
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