Seven Years’ War: This little-known war took place in the mid-18th century, mainly in Europe, but also for the first time in European colonies around the world.
This is why it is sometimes considered the first world war.
Let’s retrace on a map a summary of the events and consequences of the Seven Years War.
We begin in 1740, when the Holy Roman Empire is divided into a multitude of territories ruled by prince-electors.
At the very top of the hierarchy is the title of Emperor, which has been shared for almost 300 years by the powerful Habsburg House.
But this year, Emperor Charles VI, who is also Archduke of Austria, King of Bohemia and King of Hungary – dies without a male
His eldest daughter Marie-Thérèse cannot be Emperor, but nevertheless inherits the territories of her father.
For some competitors, this is a golden opportunity to challenge Austrian domination.
Thus the young King of Prussia Frederick II – without a declaration of war – invades the rich region of Silesia.
France, Austria’s traditional enemy, takes advantage of the situation to join forces with Prussia.
Britain meanwhile backs Austria, fearing an imbalance of power in favor of the French Empire.
After five years of war, Prussia abandons its French ally by signing a peace treaty with Austria.
Prussia holds onto the territory of Silesia but recognizes Maria Theresa as the Archduchess of Austria.
Her husband, Francis of Lorraine, obtains the title of Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.
France finds itself alone against the coalition and still manages to seize the Austrian Netherlands.
A peace treaty was signed in 1748 and against all odds, the King of France Louis XV returns the territories to Austria.
After the war, a strong rivalry develops between Prussia and Austria, which hopes to one day recover Silesia.
Moreover, the French and British Empires increasingly compete for their colonies in the world primarily in North America, where New France surrounds British colonies.
With boundaries not clearly defined, the two powers compete for the Ohio Valley.
The first clashes taking place there are mostly dominated by the French side.
From a military point of view, Britain dominates the seas and oceans with its powerful Royal Navy while the French army is deemed stronger.
George II, King of Great Britain and the prince-elector of Hanover, fears lose the German state in case of war.
He approaches Prussia for protection and signs an alliance, upsetting the traditional balance of power in the region.
After centuries of competition, France and Austria join forces, and are joined most notably by Russia.
European powers meanwhile prepare for war.
France attacks first and sends its army to the British island of Menorca.
In India, Britain prepared for war by fortifying Calcutta without the agreement of the Prince of Bengal.
The latter responds by driving them out of the city.
Britain counter attacks, recovers Calcutta, dethrones the prince, and moves to attack the French colonies.
In North America, the British Empire prepares to send large military reinforcements.
In the European theater, France prepares a ground offensive in Hanover.
Prussia – which finds itself surrounded – launches the first strike on Saxony, a rich, poorly protected region.
The offensive is a success despite an Austrian counter-attack.
Prussia continues its offensive by attacking Bohemia.
But this time the intervention of the Austrian army prevents the capture of Prague and pushes the Prussians back to Silesia.
In the West, the French offensive in Hanover is a success.
The French army now advances to Prussia which finds itself besieged.
To the east, the Russian army captures its first territories, and in the south, the Austrian army advances towards Silesia.
Britain attempts to distract France from Hanover by initiating military raids on its Atlantic ports.
A first military expedition is sent to Rochefort but is countered by the French army.
Frederick II of Prussia sets out with his army to face the French.
A fine strategist, he wins despite having a much smaller army.
He then moves to face off against the Austrian army, and once again wins due to his strategy, despite having fewer soldiers.
In North America, Britain stations ships at the mouth of the St. Lawrence River to blockade and isolate the French colony.
On the European side, King George II refuses to recognize the surrender of his son in Hanover.
He raises a new army that repels the French.
In parallel, new raids are organized.
After another failure on Saint-Malo, an offensive on the city of Cherbourg is a success, and the city is looted.
This time Britain mounts a bigger offensive by sending 42,000 men to Saint-Malo.
But they suffer a serious setback faced against 7,000 French soldiers.
This failure marks the end of the raids in France.
Britain now concentrates on Hanover and the colonies.
In Africa, after the capture of St. Louis, Britain seizes the island of Goree.
In the East, while Prussia repulses the Russian army, this time it suffers a heavy defeat against Austria, which forces it to retreat for the winter.
France plans to invade Great Britain.
To do this, an army of 100,000 men would be escorted by the military fleets of Toulon and Brest.
In parallel, a new army is sent to Hanover, but the latter fails to take hold.
Meanwhile, Britain intensifies attacks against French colonies.
It captures Caribbean islands and lays siege to Quebec city.
To the east, Russia manages to join the Austrian army.
Together they overcome the army of Frederick II, which opens the way to Berlin, which is not protected.
But following disagreements, both armies stop there.
For France the situation is complicated.
With their military fleets of Toulon and Brest defeated by the Royal Navy, the invasion of Great Britain is abandoned.
Without military fleets, France can no longer support its colonies.
In North America, New France is in disarray.
After the capture of Quebec, Britain seizes Montreal.
The island of Dominica in the Caribbean and Pondicherry in India fall in quick succession.
In Europe, despite several attempts, France can no longer impose itself on Hanover.
On the other hand, severely weakened and facing defeat, the king of Prussia regroups his last remaining forces into a single army.
In January 1762, the war takes a new turn with the death of Elizabeth, the Tsarina of Russia.
Her successor Peter III of Russia is an admirer of Prussia and does not want to engage in war.
He quickly signs a peace treaty.
In the West, the Spanish Empire takes a negative view of British domination.
Spain then goes to war with France.
An army is sent to Portugal, the Iberian ally of Great Britain, forcing the latter to send reinforcements.
But in parallel, Britain takes advantage of an opportunity to seize Cuba and Manila in the Philippines.
In Prussia, the king’s army succeeds in defeating the Austrian army.
Exhausted by years of war, European powers begin peace negotiations.
Two peace treaties are signed separately.
A first in Paris between France, Great Britain, and Spain.
France loses almost all its colonies.
The country retains some territories in America, the island of Goree in Africa, and 5 posts in India, provided they do not fortify or
send armies there.
Spain recovers Cuba, Manila and gets Louisiana in exchange for Florida and peace with Portugal.
On the other hand, the Treaty of Hubertusburg is signed between Prussia and Austria.
Prussia liberates Saxony, in exchange for which it retains Silesia.
The human toll of war is heavy with 1.3 million people dead.
More than half of them are civilians.
European powers are weakened by war and forced to increase taxes to repay their debts.
The first colonial empire of France is dismantled.
The country invests in its military industry, mainly its naval fleet to catch with Britain.
Austria is forced to abandon Silesia but saves face by liberating Saxony.
Prussia, although greatly weakened, is now respected and even feared.
Finally, Britain becomes the major world power.
But its empire is also indebted by war.
It intends to take advantage of its colonies to repay debts through new taxes, causing great discontent.
On the other hand, Native American tribes unite to demand the departure of the British from the former French colony and demand an independent state.
The government tries to calm the situation by creating in a rush an Indian reservation.
But this again prevents British colonists from expanding their territories in the West, increasing frustrations.
This sows the seeds of separation between the British government and its colonists.
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