Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The First of the World Wars

This year marks the 100th year anniversary of the start of World War I, but we could easily call the war between France and Britain in the 18th century (1754 to 1763) a World War. Here in America and in English speaking Canada, we refer to it as the French and Indian War.  It spanned most of the continents of the world: Europe, North and South America, Asia and Africa. The belligerents were mainly France and England but their empires spanned much of the globe at the time. In French Canada they call it La Guerre de la ConquĂȘte (the War of Conquest). The French name has a lot of meaning for them in that it marks when France was removed from the North American mainland and French Canada (New France) was taken over by the British. We now know this land as Quebec just a few miles north of me. They still grapple with maintaining their French identity in an English nation.

Europeans call this war, The Seven Year War, which is odd because it lasted nine years. The name Nine Year War was already taken, The seven years refers to the most active years of the war, '56 through '63. The Swedes and Prussians referred to it as the Pomeranian War which describes the region that they were fighting over. This theatre ended in a stalemate. In India it is referred to as The Third Carnatic War which was basically French and British troops battling over the India. Britain's victory left them as the dominant colonial power on the Indian sub-continent.

This all started on the border of Pennsylvania and Ohio when a 22 year old Colonel in the British Army, named George Washington, left Fort Pitt (aka Pittsburgh) to inform some French settlers that they were encroaching on British land.  The French refused and continued to build Fort Duquesne. Washington returned with an army to remove them and war began. The British were allied with the Iroquois Confederacy (which was huge) while the French were allied with the Abenaki, the Algonquin and the Shawnee among many other native people that I never heard of.

France cared more about gains in Europe and maintaining possessions in the Caribbean. Canada was a money loser for France and didn't care if they lost it that much. The sugar crop from the Caribbean Islands were too important to their economy. While Britain decided to concentrate on North America. By 1759, Britain controlled Quebec and by 1760 Montreal surrendered.  Britain attacked many of the places that were vital to French economy (the slave, sugar and gum trade) in Senegal, Martinique and the Caribbean. In the Treaty of Paris, Louisiana goes to Spain and Canada goes to Britain while France ends up keeping their major Caribbean Islands.

It was this war that put Britain in debt.  If not for the huge war debt accumulated during this war, American independence may not have ever happened just a few years later. Britain raised taxes on the colonies to pay off the debt sand rebellion ensued in responses to over-taxation. The American Revolution may have lasted longer if Britain could afford it and the US would never exist.  George Washington started the war that indirectly lead to our country being created. He really is the father of our country.

1 comment:

Olga Hebert said...

This all sounds slightly familiar. I must have paid some attention in those history classes I suffered through. And I really did suffer through my college U.S. history course--giant lecture hall, we had alphabetical seating assignments. The boy next to me dumped a bottle of English Leather on himself each morning (it was one of those dreaded 8 a.m. classes besides) and I overcome with nausea half way through the lecture. my stomach lurches at the memory.