Thursday, 5 July 2012

The "Seven Years War" as the First World War

After being approached by a student to help study for the AP  (Advanced Placement) exam, I was set on a study course reviewing the "Seven Years War" and realised, that it was truly the First World War. I state this, in no way meaning any disrespect for the Great War, now commonly known as the First World War, but in a revisionist way to prove that the "Seven Years War" was a world war.

 The Defeat of the French Fireships attacking the British Fleet at Anchor before Quebec, 28 June 1759 The Canadian War Museum  
Militarily speaking, the Seven Years War was truly a World War. Just look at the basics of the conflict. It took part between 1756 and 1763, and included almost every great power of the time, and battles raged in Europe, North America, Central America, West Africa, India and in the Philippines. Just the geographic locations of the Seven Years, by definition make the conflict a World War.

If you have never heard of the Seven Years War, it may be because historiography in every country involved has given the conflict a number of alternative names based on the theatres of combat.
  • Known as the French-Indian War (1754-63) in North America (France, Britain, and the Iroquois)
  • Known as the Pomeranian War (1757-63) in Sweden and Prussia
  • Known as the Third Carnatic War (1757-63) on the Indian subcontinent
  • Known as the Third Selesian War (1756-63) in Prussia (yes, they have two names for one war) and Austria.
  • Known as the Spanish-Portuguese War (1761-63) in Spain and Portugal
  • Known as the Anglo-Spanish War (1761-63) in Britain, in their war against Spain.
  • and; known as the War of the Conquest (1754-63) in French Canada (Quebec)
If you are scratching your head because the math does not work out, 1754 to 1763 is 9 years, and not 7, your math is correct. The name, The Seven Years War was selected because The Nine Years War was already taken for a war between Louis XIV of France and a European Coalition (1688-1697).

The war began with the divide between Great Britain (The Hanover's) and France and Spain (The Bourbons), as well as the divide between the Prissian's (The Hozenzollerns) and Austria (The Habsburgs). These divides, as well as numerous alliance systems would divide the world and their colonies against each other.

First Alliance:
  • Kingdom of Prussia
  • Kingdom of Great Britain
  • Electorate of Hanover
  • Brunswick-Wolfenbuttle
  • Iroquois Confederacy
  • Kingdom of Portugal
  • Landgraviate of Hesse-Kessel
  • and; Schaumburg-Lippe
Second Alliance:
  • Kingdom of France
  • Habsburg Monarchy
  • Russian Empire
  • Kingdom of Spain
  • Kingdom of Sweden
  • Electorate of Saxony
  • Mughal Empire
File:SevenYearsWar.png
A Map of the Alliance System during the Seven Years War (CC BY 3.0)
Without going into great detail on the War, because you can read a book on that, my intent is just to showcase the global affects of the Seven Years War, thus proving that it was technically the First World War.

UPDATE: There are some that believe that The Seven Years War cannot be considered a World War because it did not include what has become known as "Total War" where the entire societal apparatus is used to further the war effort. I disagree that this is a requirement for a World War. When I use the term, World War, I am discussion geographic combat, and in that sense, the Seven Years War, was a World War.
The War ended with four treaties:

  1. The Treaty of Saint Petersburg (1762) - Which ended the Seven Years War between Prussia and Russia. It was a mutual agreement in the simplest terms to end the war with each other, so they could better fight their other enemies.
  2. The Treaty of Paris (1763) - Which ended the Seven Years war for Great Britain, Prussia, Portugal and their allies against France, Spain, Austria, Russia and their allies.
  3. The Treaty of Hubertusburg (1763) - Which ended the Seven Years war between Prussia, Austria, and Saxony. It was a side treaty of the Treaty of Paris (1763).
  4. The Treaty of Hamburg (1762) - Which ended the Seven Years War between Sweden and Prussia.
The war ended as most do, with territorial changes around the world. Much of Europe returned to its pre-war boundaries and conditions. It was the colonies that could change hands between Britain, France and Spain.
  • Great Britain would annexes (what would be) Canada (Then New France), Begal and Florida.
  • France would transfer Louisiana to Spain.
For more information on the Seven Years War, please read any of the following:
  • Northern Armageddon: The Battle of the Plains of Abraham by D. Peter MacLeod (2008)
  • The Seven Years War in Europe: 1756-1763 by Franz A.J. Szabo (2000)
  • Crucible of War: The Seven Years War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766 by Fred Anderson (2001)
  • The Global Seven Years War 1754-1763: Britain and France in a Great Power Contest by D.A. Baugh (2011)
  • Plus the many more great history books
The Seven Years War - Remembering History