The French and Indian War (The Seven Years' War)

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How did the Seven Years’ War change the balance of power in North America and throughout the world?

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The result of the Seven Years' War was an enormous increase in the power of Great Britain, especially with regard to its chief adversary, France. The British took over Canada, decisively defeating the French at Quebec in 1759. The French were expelled from America entirely with the exception of their...

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The result of the Seven Years' War was an enormous increase in the power of Great Britain, especially with regard to its chief adversary, France. The British took over Canada, decisively defeating the French at Quebec in 1759. The French were expelled from America entirely with the exception of their colonies in the West Indies. Prior to 1756, the French had claimed possession of not only Canada but the interior of the North American continent west of the Appalachians and north of Mexico. In 1763, the portion of this territory west of the Mississippi was turned over to Spain, while the British took possession of the entire region extending from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi, including Florida, which had previously been part of New Spain. In other words, some Spanish territory was in effect traded to Britain in exchange for a larger (as yet unexplored by Europeans) region in the interior of North America.

During the same period, the British secured control over much of India, defeating the Bengalese and the French at the Battle of Plassey in 1757. At this point the territory gained on the Subcontinent was placed under the control of the East India Company rather than direct control by the Crown. On the European Continent, Prussia gained territory from Austria, beginning its rise as the leading power among the German states. In all, these separate developments showed that the Seven Years' War was actually the first truly international conflict, a World War occurring on multiple continents.

The outcome in America led directly to the American Revolution for two reasons. First, the taxation schemes that caused resentment in the colonies were an effort by the Crown to make the Americans, who supposedly had benefited from the war, recompense the Crown for its expenditures. Second, the Proclamation of 1763, which was intended to prohibit white settlement west of the Alleghenies, angered the colonists because now that the territory had been secured by the British, the colonists believed it was their right to extend their settlements to it. In addition, the American Indians were placed in a more vulnerable position than ever given the defeat of their de facto allies, the French. The war had far-reaching consequences.

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The Seven Years' War effectively put an end to France's status as a great world power. To be sure, France was still the dominant power in Europe, on land, at any rate. But her ambitions to be a major player on the international stage were thwarted by the Seven Years' War, and would not be revived until the rise of Napoleon.

In North America, Britain was now the sole power. Having defeated the French, she was in complete control over what is now Canada and the United States. Although these vast landholdings incurred considerable costs, both in terms of men and materiel, their unchallenged possession decisively tilted the international balance of power firmly towards the British. Indeed, in the aftermath of the Seven Years' War, Great Britain could now be said to be the only truly international power worthy of the name.

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The Seven Years’ War managed to tilt European regional power to favor Britain over France. France and Austria formed a coalition against Britain and Prussia. Austria agreed to the convenient alliance in order to improve their chances of recovering Silesia from Prussia. The alliance between Britain and Prussia proved superior compared to the France-Austria coalition. However, it should be noted that before the defeat of the French-Austria coalition, the French had successfully supported the Mughal Empire in their war against Britain. French support for the Mughal Empire was retaliation for British attacks on French territories in North America.

The Treaty of Paris was favorable to the British Empire after it managed to not only give the British French territories in North America but also led to the acquisition of some Spanish territories in America. Globally, British influence and authority surged as French influence declined. A similar situation occurred in North America, which saw growing British dominance in the region. The American Revolution gave France and Spain an opportunity to revisit the results of the Seven Years’ War by supporting the colonists against the British.

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The Seven Years War had a big impact on the balance of power in North America and the world. The North American portion of the war was called the French and Indian War. France and most Native American tribes fought the British for control of land and trade. When Great Britain won this war, things changed dramatically in North America. France gave up all of its lands in North America. Great Britain got France’s land east of the Mississippi except for New Orleans. Great Britain also got French lands in Canada. Spain got France’s land west of the Mississippi River plus New Orleans. Spain also gave Florida to Great Britain. Thus, Great Britain and Spain now controlled much of North America. The British colonies were now safe from attack by France.

Throughout the world, Great Britain’s reputation as a world power was enhanced. Great Britain not only gained land in North America, but they also gained land in India. Great Britain benefited greatly from its victory in the Seven Years War.

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