Seven Years’ War

The Seven Years’ War took place between 1754 and 1763 with the main conflict being in the seven-year period 1756–1763. It involved most of the great powers of the time and affected Europe, North America, Central America, the West African coast, India, and the Philippines. In the historiography of some countries, the war is alternatively named after combatants in the respective theatres: the French and Indian War as it is known in the United States as well as among many English-speaking Canadians, or the War of the Conquest as it is known in French-speaking Canada, while it is called the Seven Years’ War by others in English-speaking Canada (North America, 1754–1763), Pomeranian War (with Sweden and Prussia, 1757–1762), Third Carnatic War (on the Indian subcontinent, 1757–1763), and Third Silesian War (with Prussia and Austria, 1756–1763). Conflict between Great Britain and France broke out in 1754–1755 when the British attacked disputed French positions in North America and seized hundreds of French merchant ships. Meanwhile rising power Prussia was struggling with Austria for dominance within and outside the Holy Roman Empire in central Europe. In 1756, the major powers “switched partners”; Prussia established an alliance with Britain while traditional enemies France and Austria formed an alliance of their own. The Anglo-Prussian alliance was joined by smaller German states (especially Hanover) and later Portugal. The Austro-French alliance included Sweden, Saxony and later Spain. The Russian Empire was originally aligned with Austria, but switched sides upon the succession of Tsar Peter III in 1762 and, like Sweden, concluded a separate peace with Prussia. The war ended with the Treaty of Paris among France, Spain and Great Britain and the Treaty of Hubertusburg among Saxony, Austria and Prussia, in 1763. The war was characterized in Europe by sieges and arson of towns as well as open battles involving extremely heavy losses; overall, some 900,000 to 1,400,000 people died. The war was a success for Great Britain, which gained the bulk of New France in North America, Spanish Florida, some individual Caribbean islands in the West Indies, the colony of Senegal on the West African coast and superiority over the French trading outposts on the Indian subcontinent. The native American tribes were excluded from the peace settlement; however, as allies of France, it is unlikely that being a party to the treaty would have been beneficial to them. A subsequent conflict, known as Pontiac’s War, was also unsuccessful in assisting them to return to their pre-war status. In Europe the war began disastrously for Prussia but a combination of good luck and successful strategy saw King Frederick the Great manage to retrieve the Prussian position and maintain the status quo ante bellum by the end of the war. The involvement of Portugal, Spain and Sweden did not return them to their former status as great powers. While France was deprived of many of its colonies and saddled with a heavy war debt, Spain lost Florida but gained French Louisiana and regained control of its colonies such as Cuba and the Philippines that had been captured by the British during the war.

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