The Seven Years War

The seven years war was a string of conflicts that occurred between the years 1754 and 1763. The Seven years war was the first global war and it included all the dominant European powers at the time. The war had effects on many different countries and has influenced history afterwards. But the two main theatres of conflict were North America and Central Europe, both sometimes being given different names, although the same war. 

In Europe, the causes of the war can be traced back to 1740, when Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI of Austria died. When his daughter Maria Theresa succeeded him as Empress, she was met with opposition. Becoming the ruler of the Hapsburg dynasty meant that Maria would control the countries of Hungary, Bohemia, Croatia and Austria. King Frederick II of Prussia questioned Maria’s inheritance, trying to find a reason to dethrone her. In actual fact, Frederick was keen to add more territory to Prussia and was using this crucial moment of succession to try to accomplish his goals.

The arguing quickly led to the War for the Austrian Succession, lasting for 8 years, from 1740 to 1748. Other countries quickly became embroiled in the war, with Britain siding with Austria, while France and sided with Prussia. Although the final result was the successful succession of Maria Theresa over the Hapsburg Monarchy, Silesia, a northern part of Austria, was lost to the Prussians. The loss of Silesia hurt Austria deeply, especially Maria. It was evident that Maria would not rest until Silesia was again part of Austria.

In wake of the aftermath of the war for the Austrian succession, several changes took place in alliances. Maria Theresa was frustrated with the British for not being involved enough, so those respective powers distanced themselves. Meanwhile, Louis XIV of France’s alliance with Frederick had been torn, as Louis felt like he had been left out of the treaty that had ended the war, so he sided with Maria. Elizabeth of Russia who was a bitter enemy of Frederick, also sided with the Austrians

The war in Europe started in 1756 when Frederick broke the present tension by speedily attacking the neutral country of Saxony. He realised that somebody needed to act first, as the tension would not have lasted forever. Frederick’s invasion proved successful, as he quickly captured the capital of Saxony and attempted to invade Austrian bohemia. But Austria, France and Russia acted quickly, declaring war on Prussia, with the Austrians speedily checking the Prussian advance. France, interested mainly with fighting the British, attacked Hanover in 1757, a British electorate which had been put under Prussian protection as part of the British-Prussian alliance.

Meanwhile, Frederick was enjoying some stunning victories, despite being outnumbered by the combined Austrian and Russian forces. Two of these victories are The battle of Leuthen in late 1757 and the battle of Rossbach, also in 1757. These victories showed the Prussian military to be Europe’s best at the time. But due to the combined resources of Austria and Russia, they had almost an unlimited amount of troops, while Prussia’s resources could only go so far. Frederick began to feel the heat as his enemies attacked on two fronts, with Austria attacking Saxony and the Russians invading eastern Prussia. To make matters worse, the Silesian people decided to reunite with the Austrians, which started to put a noose over Prussia. 

At Kunersdorf, a mere 81 kilometres outside of the Prussian capital Berlin, The Austro-Russian alliance managed to defeat Frederick’s army in the battle of Kunersdorf in 1759. This loss was Frederick’s only major defeat and it shattered his carefully trained army which had helped him win so many times before. Frederick could not hope for British help, as George II was focusing all of his resources on fighting the French overseas (mainly in America). Meanwhile, the road to Berlin was now clear for the Austro-Russian alliance, giving the perfect opportunity to end the war. But for some reason, the Austro-Russian alliance failed to take advantage of the situation, instead they retreated, most probably to rebuild their forces.

But this mistake gave Frederick the opportunity to rebuild his forces and he was soon ready to fight again. Meanwhile, after French forces failed to make headway in Hanover, Louis decided to concentrate more in the European theatre and try to make up for Austria and Russia’s mistake. But as Louis had split his forces between fighting the British overseas and Europe, he did not have the resources to defeat Frederick and was in turn defeated by the latter. Over the next two years (1760-1762), the war in Europe slowed down, as neither side gained much headway.

In late 1762, in a remarkable turn of events for Frederick, Elizabeth of Russia died. Her successor, Peter III, was actually a fan of Frederick and wasted no time in organising the Treaty of St. Petersburg, which saw Russia withdraw from the war entirely. Frederick’s luck would not stop there though, as France, weakened from fighting in the two theatre’s, was almost crippled and could not effectively oppose the Prussian forces. This left only Austria as a major enemy and they were defeated in several battles, at the end of which they signed a treaty with the Prussians.

The war in Europe ended in 1763, with the Treaty of Paris, with victory for the Prussians and British. The post-war conditions in the treaty stated that all land gained in Europe would be returned, also known as status quo antebellum. The effects of the war took a toll on all the European nations. All the economies of the countries involved had been wrecked and it would take a while before everything went back to normal.

American theatre

In North America, the war was quite different. Aside from being in another continent, the war was mainly fought between the French and English, including their respective Native Indian allies. The 13 British colonies were right next to land claimed by the French, the number 1.  enemy of Britain. This war would later be called the French and Indian war. The conflicts were mainly fought in French Canada.

Conflicts began in 1754 with several skirmishes in north Canada, these being a result of the French invasion of Minorca, a British island in the Mediterranean. This invasion justified a British expedition in North America led by a young colonial officer, George Washington. This expedition was merely to make sure that the French weren’t building forts on English territory, but it quickly escalated into violence when the expedition was met by a French party. This resulted in a skirmish which was later called the Battle of Jumonville Glen. The French party were defeated, but this small skirmish quickly developed beyond just a small battle

Two years later, in 1756, war was officially declared by both England and France, tying in with the war in Europe that had started. But the French and British were not really interested in the war in Europe, being more concentrated on taking over each other’s colonies. Britain was heavily invested in this colonial battle, while the French divided their forces between Europe and their colonies. In the first stages of the French and Indian War, both France and Britain had not declared war on each other. 

Meanwhile, conflicts escalated as another British expedition was soundly defeated at the battle of Monongahela in 1755. The French continued to enjoy victories against the British and their Indian allies throughout 1755 and 1756. In 1756, the two countries finally declared war and The French and Indian War became more serious than ever. In 1757, Britain’s luck began to turn around as they started investing more and more resources in the war. They also took advantage of France’s decision to fight both the war in Europe and America, which split French resources. 

Two French forts quickly fell to the British in 1757, with 1758 and 1759 seeing even more victories. In 1760, the British, under general Wolfe, attacked and captured the French town of Quebec in Canada, marking an important turnaround for Britain. By 1763, France had lost both the war in Europe and in North America, ceding most of their American territories to the British in the treaty of Paris.

The aftermath of the war saw France fade out of the position of a world power, with Britain becoming a dominant world power. The results of the French and Indian war also led to the American Revolutionary War, due to the massive debts incurred by Britain.


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