Seven Years War ended on August 1st 1763
The Seven Years War was a global conflict fought between 1756 and 1763. It involved every European great power of the time and spanned five continents, affecting Europe, the Americas, West Africa, India, and the Philippines. (Seven Years War)
The conflict split Europe into two coalitions, led by the Kingdom of Great Britain “including Prussia, Portugal, Hanover, and other small German states” on one side and the Kingdom of France “including the Austrian-led Holy Roman Empire, the Russian Empire, Bourbon Spain, and Sweden” on the other.
Meanwhile, in India, some regional polities within the increasingly fragmented Mughal Empire, with the support of the French, tried to crush a British attempt to conquer Bengal.
The war’s extent has led some historians to describe it as “World War Zero” similar in scale to other world wars.
Summary of the Seven Year War
Conflict between Great Britain and France broke out in 1754–1756 when the British attacked disputed French positions in North America, starting with a British ambush of a small French force at the Battle of Jumonville Glen on 28 May 1754, and extended across the colonial boundaries and the seizure of hundreds of French merchant ships at sea.
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”.
Realizing that war was imminent, Prussia pre-emptively struck Saxony and quickly overran it. The result caused uproar across Europe.
Because of Austria’s alliance with France to recapture Silesia, which had been lost in the War of the Austrian Succession, Prussia formed an alliance with Britain.
Reluctantly, by following the imperial diet, which declared war on Prussia on 17 January 1757, most of the states of the empire joined Austria’s cause.
The Anglo-Prussian alliance was joined by smaller German states especially the Electorate of Hanover. (Seven Years War)
Sweden, seeking to re-gain Pomerania “most of which had been lost to Prussia in previous wars” joined the coalition, seeing its chance when virtually all of Europe opposed Prussia.
Spain, bound by the Pact de Faille, intervened on behalf of France and together they launched an utterly unsuccessful invasion of Portugal in 1762.
The Russian Empire was originally aligned with Austria, fearing Prussia’s ambition on the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, but switched sides upon the succession of Tsar Peter III in 1762.
In the historiography of some countries, the war is named after combatants in its respective theatres. In the present-day United States at the time, the southern English-speaking British colonies in North America — the conflict is known as the French and Indian War 1754–1763. (Seven Years War)
In English-speaking Canada the balance of Britain’s former North American colonies — it is called the Seven Years’ War 1756–1763. In French-speaking Canada, it is known as La guerre de la Conquête the War of the Conquest.
Swedish historiography uses the name Pommerska kriget Pomeranian War, as the Sweden–Prussian involvement in 1757–1762 was limited to Pomerania in northern central Germany.
The Third Silesian War involved Prussia and Austria 1756–1763. On the Indian subcontinent, the conflict is called the Third Carnatic War 1757–1763.
Background of Seven Year War
In the War of the Austrian Succession, which lasted from 1740 to 1748, King Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great, seized the prosperous province of Silesia from Austria.
Empress Maria Theresa of Austria had signed the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748 in order to gain time to rebuild her military forces and forge new alliances.
The War of the Austrian Succession had seen the belligerents aligned on a time-honoured basis. France’s traditional enemies, Great Britain and Austria, had coalesced just as they had done against Louis XIV. Prussia, the leading anti-Austrian state in Germany, had been supported by France.
Neither group, however, found much reason to be satisfied with its partnership: British subsidies to Austria produced nothing of much help to the British, while the British military effort had not saved Silesia for Austria.
Prussia, having secured Silesia, came to terms with Austria in disregard of French interests. (Seven Years War)
Even so, France concluded a defensive alliance with Prussia in 1747, and the maintenance of the Anglo-Austrian alignment after 1748 was deemed essential by the Duke of Newcastle, British secretary of state in the ministry of his brother Henry Pelham.
The collapse of that system and the aligning of France with Austria and of Great Britain with Prussia constituted what is known as the “diplomatic revolution” or the “reversal of alliances.”
The Hanoverian king George II of Great Britain was passionately devoted to his family’s continental holdings, but his commitments in Germany were counterbalanced by the demands of the British colonies overseas.
If war against France for colonial expansion was to be resumed, then Hanover had to be secured against Franco-Prussian attack.
France in Seven Years War
France was very much interested in colonial expansion and was willing to exploit the vulnerability of Hanover in war against Great Britain, but it had no desire to divert forces to central Europe for Prussia’s interest.
The carefully coded word in the agreement proved no less catalytic for the other European powers. The results were absolute chaos. (Seven Years War)
Empress Elizabeth of Russia was outraged at the duplicity of Britain’s position. Not only that, but France was enraged, and terrified, by the sudden betrayal of its only ally.
Austria, particularly Kaunitz, used this situation to their utmost advantage. Now-isolated France was forced to accede to the Austro-Russian alliance or face ruin.
Thereafter, on 1 May 1756, the First Treaty of Versailles was signed, in which both nations pledged 24,000 troops to defend each other in the case of an attack.
This diplomatic revolution proved to be an important cause of the war; although both treaties were self-defensive in nature, the actions of both coalitions made the war virtually inevitable.
Seven Years War in North America
The boundary between British and French possessions in North America was largely undefined in the 1750s. France had long claimed the entire Mississippi River basin. This was disputed by Britain. (Seven Years War)
In the early 1750s the French began constructing a chain of forts in the Ohio River Valley to assert their claim and shield the Native American population from increasing British influence.
The British settlers along the coast were upset that French troops would now be close to the western borders of their colonies. They felt the French would encourage their tribal allies among the North American natives to attack them.
Also, the British settlers wanted access to the fertile land of the Ohio River Valley for the new settlers that were flooding into the British colonies seeking farm land.
The British also harassed French shipping beginning in August 1755, seizing hundreds of ships and capturing thousands of merchant seamen while the two nations were nominally at peace.
Incensed, France prepared to attack Hanover, whose prince-elector was also the King of Great Britain and Menorca.
Britain concluded a treaty whereby Prussia agreed to protect Hanover. In response France concluded an alliance with its long-time enemy Austria, an event known as the Diplomatic Revolution.
Strategies of Seven Years War
For much of the eighteenth century, France approached its wars in the same way. It would let colonies defend themselves or would offer only minimal help, anticipating that fights for the colonies would most likely be lost anyway.
This strategy was to a degree forced upon France: geography, coupled with the superiority of the British navy, (Seven Years War) made it difficult for the French navy to provide significant supplies and support to overseas colonies.
Similarly, several long land borders made an effective domestic army imperative for any French ruler.
Given these military necessities, the French government, unsurprisingly, based its strategy overwhelmingly on the army in Europe: it would keep most of its army on the continent, hoping for victories closer to home.
The plan was to fight to the end of hostilities and then, in treaty negotiations, to trade territorial acquisitions in Europe to regain lost overseas possessions.
This approach did not serve France well in the war, as the colonies were indeed lost, but although much of the European war went well, by its end France had few counterbalancing European successes.
Europe History in Seven Years War
William Pitt the Elder, who entered the cabinet in 1756, had a grand vision for the war that made it entirely different from previous wars with France. (Seven Years War)
As prime minister, Pitt committed Britain to a grand strategy of seizing the entire French Empire, especially its possessions in North America and India.
Britain’s main weapon was the Royal Navy, which could control the seas and bring as many invasion troops as were needed.
He also planned to use colonial forces from the thirteen American colonies, working under the command of British regulars, to invade New France.
In order to tie the French army down he subsidized his European allies. Pitt was head of the government from 1756 to 1761, and even after that the British continued his strategy.
It proved completely successful. Pitt had a clear appreciation of the enormous value of imperial possessions, and realized the vulnerability of the French Empire.
History of India in Seven Years War
In India, the outbreak of the Seven Years’ War in Europe renewed the long running conflict between the French and the British trading companies for influence on the subcontinent.
The French allied themselves with the Mughal Empire to resist British expansion. (Seven Years War)
The war began in Southern India but spread into Bengal, where British forces under Robert Clive recaptured Calcutta from the Nawab Siraj ud-Daulah, a French ally, and ousted him from his throne at the Battle of Plassey in 1757. In the same year, the British also captured Chandernagar, the French settlement in Bengal.
In the south, although the French captured Cuddalore, their siege of Madras failed, while the British commander Sir Eyre Cootedecisively defeated the Comte de Lally at the Battle of Wandiwash in 1760 and overran the French territory of the Northern Circars.
French power in India
The French capital in India, Pondicherry, fell to the British in 1761 together with the fall of the lesser French settlements of Karikal and Mahéthis effectively eliminated French power in India.
In the India, the British retained the Northern Circars, but returned all the French trading ports. The treaty, however, required that the fortifications of these settlements be destroyed and never rebuilt, while only minimal garrisons could be maintained there, thus rendering them worthless as military bases.
Combined with the loss of France’s ally in Bengal and the defection of Hyderabad to the British as a result of the war, this effectively brought French power in India to an end, making way for British hegemony and eventual control of the subcontinent. (Seven Years War)
France’s navy was crippled by the war. Only after an ambitious rebuilding program in combination with Spain was France again able to challenge Britain’s command of the sea.
Bute’s settlement with France was mild compared with what Pitt’s would have been. He had hoped for a lasting peace with France, and he was afraid that if he took too much, the whole of Europe would unite in envious hostility against Great Britain.
France went to war with Great Britain during the American Revolution
Choiseul, however, had no intention of making a permanent peace, and, when France went to war with Great Britain during the American Revolution, the British found no support among the European powers.
France’s defeat caused the French to embark upon major military reforms, with particular attention being paid to the artillery. (Seven Years War)
The origins of the famed French artillery that played a prominent role in the wars of the French Revolution and beyond can to be traced to military reforms that started in 1763.
The war also brought to an end the “Old System” of alliances in Europe, In the years after the war, under the direction of Lord Sandwich, the British attempted to re-establish this system.
But after her surprising grand success against a coalition of great powers, European states such as Austria, The Dutch Republic, Sweden, Denmark-Norway, Ottoman Empire, and Russia now saw Britain as a greater threat than France and did not join them, while the Prussians were angered by what they considered a British betrayal in 1762.
Consequently, when the American War of Independence turned into a global war between 1778 – 83, Britain found itself opposed by a strong coalition of European powers, and lacking any substantial ally. Finally Seven Years War Ended.