Seven Years' War

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The Seven Years' War lasted from 1756 to 1763 and involved most great European powers. The war started as a struggle between Prussia and her chief enemies, but was also fought with many different allies and enemies of Prussia in different places around the world: North and Central America, Europe, the West African coast, India and the Philippines. Some countries also name the war after the place where it was fought: French and Indian War (USA, 1754–1763), Pomeranian War (Sweden, 1757–1762), Third Carnatic War (India, 1757–1763) and Third Silesian War (Prussia and Austria, 1756–1763).

Colonialism was common at the time. In the war, the trade interests of the British Empire were opposed to that of the Bourbons (in France and Spain). The Hohenzollerns (in Prussia) and Habsburgs (Holy Roman Emperors and archdukes in Austria) confronted each other. There were also conflicts about who controlled what parts of Silesia. A "diplomatic revolution" established an Anglo-Prussian camp, allied with some smaller German states and later Portugal, as well as an Austro-French camp, allied with Sweden, Saxony and later Spain. The Russian Empire left its offensive alliance with the Habsburgs on the succession of Peter III, and like Sweden concluded a separate peace with Prussia in 1762. The war ended with the peace treaties of Paris (Bourbon France and Spain, Great Britain) and of Hubertusburg (Hohenzollerns, Habsburgs, Saxon elector) in 1763. The war was characterized 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.

Great Britain succeeded in the contested overseas territories, gaining the bulk of New France, Spanish Florida, some Caribbean islands, Senegal and superiority over the French outposts on the Indian subcontinent. The native American tribes were excluded from the peace settlement, and were unable to return to their former status after the resulting Pontiac's rebellion.

In Europe, Frederick II of Prussia failed to complete a preemptive strike against Austria, and his opponents repulsed and at Kunersdorf nearly annilihated his forces. Frederick however recovered, regained ground and managed to avoid any concessions in Hubertusburg, where the status quo ante bellum was restored. William Pitt's saying that "America was won in Germany" referred to the Prussian war effort, which enabled Great Britain to limit her continental commitments and focus on her "blue water policy," successfully establishing naval supremacy. While French and allied forces were able to occupy Prussian and Hanoveranian territories up to East Frisia, French ambitions to invade Britain and to continue with their guerre de course were thwarted by a British naval blockade, which also impaired French supply routes to the colonies.

The involvement of Portugal, Spain and Sweden did not return them to their former status as great powers. Spain's short intervention resulted in the loss of Florida, though she gained French Louisiana west of the Mississippi in exchange and Britain returned Cuba as well as the Philippines.

The Treaty of Paris (1763) ended the war for Britain and France.