THE IMPACT OF SEVEN YEARS OF WAR ON BRITISH EMPIRE
November 24, 2015
The seven years’ war, also known as the French and Indian War officially began when England decided to wage war against France. However, fights between England and France had been in the American colony many years before the seven-year war started. This fresh world conflict signified a new page in the lengthy “imperial struggle” pitting Britain against France. In the early years of the 1750s, France’s expansion into the “Ohio River valley” time and again brought them into armed combats with the English colonies. The series of battles led the British to declare war officially on the French in 1756. During the first year of the war, the British suffered defeats from the French and their Native American friends. However, the next year, William Pitt, the future Prime Minister of Britain, boosted the armies’ finances by funding most of their activities. William Pitt had realized the great benefits that Britain could rip from the Imperial expansion and borrowed massively to finance the war. He funded the struggle of Prussia against the French and reimbursed the colonies for the armies they had raised in North America.
By 1760, the French had been completely banished from Canada and by 1763; all the French allies in Europe had either been defeated or made separate peace pacts with Prussia. A peace conference was held in that very year, and the British officially took control of Canada and Florida from the French and Spaniards respectively. All the Spanish efforts to help France failed as the Americans defeated them again in India. The successful conquests and Canada and Florida and the signing of the treaty in 1763 further strengthened the American colonies. It helped them get rid of their European rivals to the south and north and opened the Mississippi Valley to expansion towards the west. These victories asserted Britain’s naval and colonial supremacy around the globe. About a decade and a half later, the bitterness that the French had from losing most of their empires motivated them to intervene in the American Revolution. They decided to help the Patriots defeat the colonists and obtain their sovereignty. This paper discusses the impacts that the seven years’ war had on the people that actively or inactively participated in it.
The Political Impacts of the War
The seven years’ war had very significant political effects for the world in general and the European powers in particular. For some European powers like France and Spain, the huge investments they made in this war ended up undermining their capacities. However, for others who came out victorious, the levels of prestige were increased. The eventual winners like Russia and Prussia emerged as powerful and influential nations in the military and political affairs of Europe. The war also brought about alterations on the world map and the mutual areas of influence of the colonial powers. The Great Britain came out of the war with the largest share of colonies. The political impacts of the war are discussed in detail in the following paragraphs of this section.
By now, it is clear that Britain was the biggest victory in the seven years’ war. It came out of the war with the biggest colonial territory in the world. By the time the war was ending, Britain had stretched her territory across three continents namely: Africa, Asia, and North America. France had no choice but to surrender almost all of her colonial empires in North America to Great Britain. Besides North America, the defeat of France in India meant that Great Britain was the only colonial power in the sub-continent of India. The British they progressively started to extend their control in this part if the world at the expense of the Indian princes who ruled the region. By the close of the 19th century, Britain had gained full control of India. In Africa, the then super power acquired specific French colonies along the Senegal River. This gave the British a firm footing for further expansions within the African continent. On top of these accomplishments, the nation got recognized as having the most powerful navy in the whole world. The lonely island in the Atlantic Ocean where the British navy camped was changed from a tiny kingdom to a “global empire where the sun never set.”
Despite the large strides attained by the British after the war, their financial problems, more so their war debts, led to poor relations between them and their colonies in North America. These spoilt relations finally led to the American Revolution that took place between 1775 and 1784. After the war, most British colonies in the United States of America had attained their independence. Nonetheless, if Britain was the biggest victor of the war, France was most certainly the chief loser. This is true because it had relinquished most of its empires in Africa and North America completely lost its influence and prestige in India. Therefore, the end of the seven years’ war also spelled the end of the first French colonial territory. As the French lost their military superiority following all the defeats they suffered, they also suffered a demoralizing effect on the political life of their nation. The wars of Louis XIV created an advantage for the French Monarch back in Europe. However, the rule of the next king, Louis XV, saw this supremacy degrade significantly. During this war, French suffered major defeats, and they could not recover their lost glory within the next decade. On top of that, the war opened the eyes of the French people to the fact that they were being governed by corrupt autocrats who were privileged to be living at their expense.
The French Monarch went bankrupt after the war because of the constant borrowing it had to do to sustain its military during the seven years’ war as well as the American Revolution. Several attempts were made to reduce simplify the administrative systems of the kingdom and decrease the Kings power, but the monarch shot down all such attempts. Louis XVI was ultimately forced to put together the “Estates-General” in May 1789. This act was the final spark needed to start the French Revolution. This revolution was an important historic event since it marked a huge turning point in the transformation of the political systems in France and across Europe as a whole.
Prussia, for its part, had outlived the seven years’ war and even succeeded in keeping Silesia in spite of the enormous challenges it encountered. Fredrick II became a famous hero and Prussia confirmed its status as a big military power as well as one of the most important countries in Europe. After the war, it could even afford to compete with Austria for power at the Holy Roman Empire’s Diet. However, from a territorial point of view, Austria, Russia, and France were still bigger kingdoms than Prussia. It still needed to expand its territory to be able to compete favorably against such powers. Fredrick II embarked on a mission to expand Prussia’s territory by taking over part of Poland, one of the biggest European kingdoms at the time. Poland experienced several episodes of political instability,, especially during elections. During one such episode, King Augustus III was assassinated, and the unrest attracted the intervention of other European powers like Prussia, Austria and Russia. King Fredrick II then proposed that Poland is divided amongst Prussia, Russia, and Austria. His plan was implemented two years later, and it came to be known as the first partition of Poland. King Fredrick II managed to annex the largest part of Poland. The annexed territories were later combined and collectively named West Prussia. By the end of the war, Austria had to cede all its claims on Silesia despite the huge sums of money and thousands of lives lost in its quest to recover the colony. Following the war, Austria gradually lost its political influence in the Holy Roman Empire.
Russia had partly been isolated from the rest of Europe before the seven years’ war. They were technically trailing behind other countries in Europe. The war provided the country with an opportunity to interact closely with other European countries and incorporate more Western traits into its political system. Russia’s government introduced numerous reforms to try and modernize the country. The country’s army also successfully proved its worth by repeatedly defeating Prussia’s army. When the seven years’ war ended, Russia changed its focus to Possessions of Ottoman in Balkans. Courtesy of the reforms they introduced to their army during the war, they were able to defeat the Ottomans successfully. This victory propelled them to a very significant position amongst European powers. Ever since then, Russia has continued to play a pivotal role in major political and military dealings in Europe.
The Socio-economic Impacts of the War
During the eighteenth century, the majority of the globe was under the British rule. The wealthiest of all of Britain’s colonies then were the thirteen colonies situated on the North American Atlantic Coast. The colonies were filled with European settlers and operated independently from the crown. Nonetheless, the colonists were excessively aggressive in their quest to increase their territory and land. The French, on the other hand, had an empire that stretched from Louisiana to Hudson Bay covering Canada and some parts west of the Appalachian Mountains. The French majorly traded in fur and maintained trade relations with the Native Americans. The Appalachian Mountains served as a boundary between the French and the English, but the English kept pushing the boundary. The push created a crisis that eventually led to the war. During the war, money was a key factor in the success of either side. The armies needed to be financed, and the local communities needed fiscal appeasement. In this section of the paper, I discuss the consequences that spending money on the war had on both the French and the British.
A former CIA counterterrorism agent, Michael Scheuer, once said that Osama Bin Laden did not have to win the war; he would just bleed the Americans to death. While stating this, the agent was referring to the heavy investments that have been made in the war on terror. Scheuer’s statement holds water for nearly every other War around the globe. Money is the main engine driving Wars, without it, no country can win a war. Having this in mind, it is important to appreciate the fact that money is not always available for nations whenever they want it. The governments, therefore, have to borrow from elsewhere to help them sustain the war. Slightly more than 250 years ago, Phillip Stanhope, the then secretary of state for the Southern Department led by George II echoed similar sentiments. He wrote a letter to his friend, William Pitt, telling him how the costs of the war extremely increase the nation’s debt level. The figures were shockingly high, and the secretary of state was concerned.
The need for more public spending came about when North America was included in the war as a major battle zone. The development challenged the ability of the British Government to shoulder the elevated war costs effectively. William Pitt, therefore, decided to seek for loans from elsewhere to ensure that the soldiers have all they needed to win the war. They also needed the money to help them get the local communities to their side. Part of this money was raised from the North American colonies with a pledge of reimbursement. After the war, the realities of the enormous debts started to dawn on the British. They had to think of ways to quickly settle the debt. One of the ways was to increase the taxation of the North American colonies greatly. The increased taxes put a lot of pressure on the colonies, and they decided to revolt. The high rates of taxation to cater for the post-war debts were one of the biggest causes of the American Revolution. The French revolution, as mentioned before, also came about due to economic exploitation of the French citizens. The revolution had a great influence on France’s as well as the rest of Europe’s social and economic structure.
From the paper, it is evident that wars have far-reaching consequences; this goes for the winners and losers alike. For the losers like France and Spain, it meant the loss of political power over most of their colonies. With fewer colonies to control, it meant that they had less manpower hence less productivity in their economic undertakings. For the victors, the end of the war meant more power. They then had more land and more human resource under their control. This put them in a better position of attracting funds and support from others in case of wars as compared to their fallen counterparts. However, the victory did not come at an easy cost, especially for Britain. The nation had to borrow heavily to help it fund its operations. The heavy borrowing then resulted in doubling of their debts. To settle these debts, the British resorted to increasing taxation for the North American colonies. This led to the American Revolution, which saw the British lose control of these colonies. This goes to show one how dynamic wars are; one very simple mistake might attract a very severe punishment.
“Political Consequences of the Seven Years War.” – Project Seven Years War. Accessed November 25, 2015. http://www.kronoskaf.com/syw/index.php?title=Political_Consequences_of_the_Seven_Years_War.
Land, Jeremy. May 1, 2010. Accessed November 25, 2015. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.456.8272&rep=rep1&type=pdf.
Fatal Land: War, Empire, and the Highland Soldier in British America, 1756-1783. University of Edinburgh, 2013.
Danley, Mark H. “The British Political Press and Military Thought during the Seven Years’ War.” The Seven Years’ War, 2012, 359-97.
Fatal Land: War, Empire, and the Highland Soldier in British America, 1756-1783. University of Edinburgh, 2013.
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