The Seven Years’ War



The Diplomatic Revolution

The diplomatic revolution of 1756 was the reversal of longstanding alliances in Europe between the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years’ War, when Austria went from an ally of Britain to an ally of France and Prussia became an ally of Britain.

Learning Objectives

Recall the parties involved in the Diplomatic Revolution and what changed between them as a result of this event

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The War of the Austrian Succession had seen belligerence align on a time-honored basis. France’s traditional enemies, Great Britain and Austria, had coalesced. Prussia, the leading anti-Austrian state in Germany, had been supported by France. Neither group, however, found much reason to be satisfied with its partnership.
  • The collapse of that system and the aligning of France with Austria and of Great Britain with Prussia constituted what is known as the “ diplomatic revolution ” or the “reversal of alliances.” This change in European alliances was a prelude to the Seven Years’ War, triggered by a separation of interests between Austria, Britain, and France.
  • The War of Austrian Succession made it clear that Britain no longer viewed Austria as powerful enough to check French power but was content to build up other states like Prussia. Therefore Britain and Prussia, in the Westminster Convention of 1756, agreed that Britain would not aid Austria in a renewed conflict for Silesia if Prussia agreed to protect Hanover from France.
  • In response to the Westminster Convention, Louis XV’s ministers and Count Wenzel Anton von Kaunitz of Austria concluded the First Treaty of Versailles (1756). Both sides agreed to remain neutral and provide 24,000 troops if either got into conflict with a third party.
  • Austria’s actions alerted Frederick, who decided to strike first by invading Saxony, commencing the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763). By invading Saxony, Frederick inflamed his enemies. France and Austria signed a new offensive alliance, the Second Treaty of Versailles (1757).
  • In 1758, the Anglo-Prussian Convention between Great Britain and the Kingdom of Prussia formalized the alliance between the two powers. However, the alliance proved to be short-lived.

Key Terms

  • War of Austrian Succession: A war (1740–1748) that involved most of the powers of Europe over the question of Maria Theresa’s succession to the realms of the House of Habsburg. The war included King George’s War in North America, the War of Jenkins’ Ear (which formally began in October 1739), the First Carnatic War in India, the Jacobite rising of 1745 in Scotland, and the First and Second Silesian Wars.
  • personal union: The combination of two or more states that have the same monarch while their boundaries, laws, and interests remain distinct. It differs from a federation in that each constituent state has an independent government, whereas a unitary state is united by a central government. The ruler does not need to be a hereditary monarch.
  • diplomatic revolution: The reversal of longstanding alliances in Europe between the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years’ War. Austria went from an ally of Britain to an ally of France. Prussia became an ally of Britain. The most influential diplomat involved was Prince Kaunitz of Austria.
  • the Seven Years’ War: A world war fought between 1754 and 1763, the main conflict occurring in the seven-year period from 1756 to 1763. It involved every European great power of the time except the Ottoman Empire, spanning five continents and affecting Europe, the Americas, West Africa, India, and the Philippines. The conflict split Europe into two coalitions, led by Great Britain on one side and France on the other.
  • the Westminster Convention of 1756: A 1756 military alliance between Great Britain and Prussia in which the two state agreed that Britain would not aid Austria in a renewed conflict for Silesia if Prussia agreed to protect Hanover from France.
  • the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle: A 1748 treaty sometimes called the Treaty of Aachen that ended the War of the  Austrian Succession. It was signed in 1748 by Great Britain, France, and the Dutch Republic. Two implementation treaties were signed at Nice in 1748 and 1749 by Austria, Spain, Sardinia, Modena, and Genoa.

The Diplomatic Revolution

In the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748), Frederick the Great of Prussia seized the prosperous province of Silesia from Austria. Maria Theresa of Austria signed the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748 in order to gain time to rebuild her military forces and forge new alliances. The War of the Austrian Succession had seen the belligerence align on a time-honored basis. France’s traditional enemies, Great Britain and Austria, had coalesced. Prussia, the leading anti-Austrian state in Germany, had been supported by France. Neither group, however, found much reason to be satisfied with its partnership: British subsidies to Austria produced nothing of much help to the British, while the British military effort had not saved Silesia for Austria. Prussia, having secured Silesia, came to terms with Austria in disregard of French interests. Even so, France concluded a defensive alliance with Prussia in 1747 and the maintenance of the Anglo-Austrian alignment after 1748 was deemed essential by some British politicians.

The collapse of that system and the aligning of France with Austria and of Great Britain with Prussia constituted what is known as the “diplomatic revolution” or the “reversal of alliances.” This change in European alliances was a prelude to the Seven Years’ War.

Background

The diplomatic change was triggered by a separation of interests between Austria, Britain, and France. The 1748 Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, after the War of the Austrian Succession, left Austria aware of the high price it paid for having Britain as an ally. Maria Theresa of Austria defended her claim to the Habsburg throne and had her husband, Francis Stephen, crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 1745. However, she had been forced to relinquish valuable territories in the process. Under British diplomatic pressure, Maria Theresa ceded Parma to Spain and, more importantly, the valuable state of Silesia to Prussia. The acquisition of Silesia further advanced Prussia as a great European power, which now posed an increasing threat to Austria’s German lands and to Central Europe as a whole. The growth of Prussia, dangerous to Austria, was welcomed by the British, who saw it as a means of balancing French power.

British-Prussian Alliance vs. Austrian-French Alliance

The results of the War of Austrian Succession made it clear that Britain no longer viewed Austria as powerful enough to check French power but was content to build up other states like Prussia. Therefore Britain and Prussia, in the Westminster Convention of 1756, agreed that Britain would not aid Austria in a renewed conflict for Silesia if Prussia agreed to protect Hanover (which remained in personal union with Britain) from France. Britain felt that with Prussia’s growing strength, it would be more apt to defend Hanover than Austria. Meanwhile, Austria was determined to reclaim Silesia, so the two allies found themselves with conflicting interests. Maria Theresa, recognizing the futility of renewed alliance with Britain, knew that without a powerful ally (such as France), she could never hope to reclaim Silesia from Frederick the Great.

Maria Theresa sent her foreign policy minister, Count Wenzel Anton von Kaunitz, to France to secure an alliance to enable Austria to reclaim Silesia. Louis XV proved reluctant to agree to any treaty presented by Kaunitz. Only with renewed aggression between France and Britain was Louis convinced to align with Austria. Furthermore, Austria no longer surrounded France, so France no longer saw Austria as an immediate threat. Consequently, it entered into a defensive alliance with Austria. In response to the Westminster Convention, Louis XV’s ministers and Kaunitz concluded the First Treaty of Versailles (1756). Both sides agreed to remain neutral and provide 24,000 troops if either got into conflict with a third party.

Maria Theresa’s diplomats, after securing French neutrality, actively began to establish an anti-Prussian coalition. Austria’s actions alerted Frederick, who decided to strike first by invading Saxony, commencing the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763). Frederick’s actions were meant to scare Russia out of supporting Austria (the two countries had previously entered into a defensive alliance in 1746). However, by invading Saxony, Frederick had inflamed his enemies. Russia, under the direction of Empress Elizabeth, sent an additional 80,000 troops to Austria. A year after the signing of the First Treaty of Versailles, France and Austria signed a new offensive alliance, the Second Treaty of Versailles (1757).

In 1758, the Anglo-Prussian Convention between Great Britain and the Kingdom of Prussia formalized the alliance between the two powers. However, the alliance proved to be short-lived largely because Britain withdrew financial and military support for Prussia in 1762. The dissolution of the alliance and the pre-eminent rise of Britain left it with no allies by the time the American Revolutionary War broke out.

Events of the Seven Years’ War

The Seven Years’ War was fought between 1756 and 1763. It involved every European great power of the time except the Ottoman Empire, spanned five continents, and affected Europe, the Americas, West Africa, India, and the Philippines.

Learning Objectives

Outline the progression of the Seven Years’ War

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The Seven Years’ War was a world war fought between 1754 and 1763, the main conflict occurring in the seven-year period from 1756 to 1763. It involved every European great power of the time except the Ottoman Empire, spanning five continents and affecting Europe, the Americas, West Africa, India, and the Philippines.
  • Realizing that war was imminent, Prussia preemptively struck Saxony in 1756 and quickly overran it. The result caused uproar across Europe. Because of Prussia’s alliance with Britain, Austria formed an alliance with France. Reluctantly, most of the states of the empire joined Austria’s cause. The Anglo-Prussian alliance was joined by smaller German states (especially Hanover, which remained in a personal union with Britain).
  • After a series of victories and failures on both sides, by 1763, forces were depleted and the war in central Europe was essentially a stalemate. Frederick the Great had retaken most of Silesia and Saxony but not the latter’s capital, Dresden; Catherine the Great ended Russia’s alliance with Prussia and withdrew from the war; and Austria was facing a severe financial crisis. A peace settlement was reached at the Treaty of
    Hubertusburg, ending the war in central Europe.
  • In North America, the French and Indian War (1754–1763) pitted the colonies of British America against those of New France, with both sides supported by military units from their parent countries of Great Britain and France as well as by American Indian allies.
  • In the Fantastic War (1762-63) in South America, Spanish forces conquered the Portuguese territories of Colonia do Sacramento and Rio Grande de São Pedro and forced the Portuguese to surrender and retreat. In India, the British eventually eliminated French power. In West Africa, the British captured Senegal, the island of Gorée, and the French trading post on the Gambia. The loss of these valuable colonies further weakened the French economy.
  • Over the course of the war in colonies, Great Britain gained enormous areas of land and influence. They captured the French sugar colonies of Guadeloupe in 1759 and Martinique in 1762 as well as the cities of Havana in Cuba and Manila in the Philippines, both prominent Spanish colonial cities.

Key Terms

  • Treaty of Hubertusburg: A 1763 treaty signed by Prussia, Austria, and Saxony. Together with the Treaty of Paris, it marked the end of the Seven Years’ War. The treaty ended the continental conflict with no significant changes in prewar borders. Silesia remained Prussian and Prussia clearly stood among the ranks of the great powers.
  • French and Indian War: A 1754–1763 war that comprised the North American theater of the worldwide Seven Years’ War of 1756-1763. The war pitted the colonies of British America against those of New France, with both sides supported by military units from their parent countries of Great Britain and France as well as by American Indian allies.
  • diplomatic revolution: The reversal of longstanding alliances in Europe between the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years’ War. Austria went from an ally of Britain to an ally of France. Prussia became an ally of Britain. It was part of efforts to preserve or upset the European balance of power and a prelude to the Seven Years’ War.
  • Second Miracle of the House of Brandenburg: Events that led to Russia’s sudden change of alliance during the Seven Years’ War: in January 1762, the Empress Elizabeth of Russia died. Her nephew Peter, a strong admirer of Frederick the Great of Prussia, succeeded her and reversed Elizabeth’s anti-Prussian policy. He negotiated peace with Prussia and signed both an armistice and a treaty of peace and friendship.
  • Fantastic War: The Spanish–Portuguese War between 1762 and 1763 fought as part of the Seven Years’ War. The name refers to the fact that no major battles were fought, even though there were numerous movements of troops and huge losses among the invaders—utterly defeated in the end.
  • The Seven Years’ War: A world war fought between 1754 and 1763, the main conflict occurring in the seven-year period from 1756 to 1763. It involved every European great power of the time except the Ottoman Empire, spanning five continents and affecting Europe, the Americas, West Africa, India, and the Philippines. The conflict split Europe into two coalitions, led by Great Britain on one side and France on the other.
  • Treaty of Paris: A 1763 treaty signed by the kingdoms of Great Britain, France, and Spain with Portugal in agreement after Great Britain’s victory over France and Spain during the Seven Years’ War. The signing of the treaty formally ended the Seven Years’ War, known as the French and Indian War in the North American theater, and marked the beginning of an era of British dominance outside Europe. Great Britain and France each returned much of the territory that they had captured during the war, but Great Britain gained much of France’s possessions in North America. Additionally, Great Britain agreed to protect Roman Catholicism in the New World. The treaty did not involve Prussia and Austria as they signed a separate agreement, the Treaty of Hubertusburg.

Seven Years’ War

The Seven Years’ War was fought between 1754 and 1763, the main conflict occurring in the seven-year period from 1756 to 1763. It involved every European great power of the time except the Ottoman Empire, spanning five continents and affecting Europe, the Americas, West Africa, India, and the Philippines. The conflict split Europe into two coalitions, led by Great Britain on one side and France on the other. For the first time, aiming to curtail Britain and Prussia’s ever-growing might, France formed a grand coalition of its own, which ended as Britain rose as the world’s predominant power, altering the European balance of power. Conflict between Great Britain and France broke out in 1754–1756 when the British attacked disputed French positions in North America and seized hundreds of French merchant ships. Meanwhile, rising power Prussia was struggling with Austria for dominance within and outside the Holy Roman Empire in Central Europe. In 1756, the major powers shifted their alliances and Prussia allied with Britain while France allied with Austria, a change known as the diplomatic revolution.

In the historiography of some countries, the war is named after combatants in its respective theaters, e.g. the French and Indian War in the United States. In French-speaking Canada, it is known as the War of the Conquest, while it is called the Seven Years’ War in English-speaking Canada (North America, 1754–1763), Pomeranian War (with Sweden and Prussia, 1757–1762), Third Carnatic War (on the Indian subcontinent, 1757–1763), and Third Silesian War (with Prussia and Austria, 1756–1763).

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All the participants of the Seven Years’ War: [blue] Great Britain, Prussia, Portugal, with allies; [green] France, Spain, Austria, Russia, Sweden with allies. 

The Seven Years’ War is sometimes considered the first true world war. It restructured not only the European political order, but also affected events all around the world, paving the way for the beginning of later British world supremacy in the 19th century, the rise of Prussia in Germany, the beginning of tensions in British North America, as well as a clear sign of France’s eventual turmoil.

Europe

Realizing that war was imminent, Prussia preemptively struck Saxony in 1756 and quickly overran it. The result caused uproar across Europe. Because of Prussia’s alliance with Britain, Austria formed an alliance with France, seeing an opportunity to recapture Silesia (lost in the War of the Austrian Succession). Reluctantly, by following the imperial diet, most of the states of the empire joined Austria’s cause. The Anglo-Prussian alliance was joined by smaller German states (especially Hanover, which remained in a personal union with Britain). Sweden, fearing Prussia’s expansionist tendencies, went to war in 1757 to protect its Baltic dominions. Spain intervened on behalf of France and together they launched an unsuccessful invasion of Portugal in 1762. The Russian Empire was originally aligned with Austria, fearing Prussia’s ambition on the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, but switched sides upon the succession of Tsar Peter III in 1762.

Despite the huge disparity in numbers, 1756 was successful for the Prussian-led forces on the continent. In 1757, Frederick the Great marched into the Kingdom of Bohemia. Although he won the bloody Battle of Prague and laid siege to the city, he lost the Battle of Kolin, which forced him to lift the siege and withdraw from Bohemia altogether. Things were looking grim for Prussia now, with the Austrians mobilizing to attack Prussian-controlled soil and a combined French and Reichsarmee (German states) army approaching from the west. However, at the end of 1757, the whole situation in Germany was reversed. After winning the battles of Rossbach and Leuthen, Frederick once again established himself as Europe’s premier general, but the Prussians were now facing the prospect of four major powers attacking on four fronts (France from the west, Austria from the south, Russia from the east, and Sweden from the north).

In 1758, following a failed invasion of Moravia, Frederick ceased his attempts to launch a major invasion of Austrian territory. The Russians invaded East Prussia, where they would remain until 1762. The years 1759 and 1760 saw several Prussian defeats, partly because of the Prussian misjudgment of the Russians and partly as a result of good cooperation between the Russian and Austrian forces. The French planned to invade the British Isles during 1759 but were prevented by two sea defeats. By 1761, forces on both sides were seriously depleted. In 1762, the Russian Empress Elizabeth died and her successor, Peter III, recalled Russian armies from Berlin and mediated Frederick’s truce with Sweden. He also placed a corps of his own troops under Frederick’s command. This turn of events has become known as “the Second Miracle of the House of Brandenburg.” Frederick was then able to muster a larger army and concentrate it against Austria.

1762 brought two new countries into the war. Britain declared war against Spain and Portugal then joined the conflict on Britain’s side. Spain, aided by the French, launched an invasion of Portugal and succeeded in capturing Almeida. Eventually the Anglo-Portuguese army chased the greatly reduced Franco-Spanish army back to Spain, recovering almost all the lost towns. By 1763, the war in central Europe was essentially a stalemate. Frederick had retaken most of Silesia and Saxony but not the latter’s capital, Dresden. The Russian emperor was overthrown by his wife, Catherine, who ended Russia’s alliance with Prussia and withdrew from the war. Austria was facing a severe financial crisis and had to decrease the size of its army, which greatly affected its offensive power. In 1763, a peace settlement was reached at the Treaty of Hubertusburg, ending the war in central Europe.

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Battle of Leuthen by Carl Röchling, date unknown.

Frederick the Great routed a vastly superior Austrian force at the Battle of Leuthen on December 5, 1757. Frederick always called Leuthen his greatest victory, an assessment shared by many as the Austrian Army was considered a highly professional force.

The French and Indian War

In North America, the French and Indian War (1754–1763) pitted the colonies of British America against those of New France, with both sides supported by military units from their parent countries of Great Britain and France as well as by American Indian allies. Fighting took place primarily along the frontiers between New France and the British colonies, from Virginia in the south to Newfoundland in the north. British operations in 1755, 1756 and 1757 in the frontier areas of Pennsylvania and New York all failed, due to a combination of poor management, internal divisions, effective Canadian scouts, French regular forces, and Indian warrior allies. In 1755, the British captured Fort Beauséjour on the border separating Nova Scotia from Acadia. The Acadians were expelled and American Indians driven off their land to make way for settlers from New England. Between 1758 and 1760, the British military launched a campaign to capture the Colony of Canada. They succeeded in capturing territory in surrounding colonies and ultimately the city of Quebec (1759). Though the British later lost the Battle of Sainte-Foy west of Quebec (1760), the French ceded Canada in accordance with the Treaty of Paris (1763).

Other Colonies

In the Fantastic War (1762-63) in South America, Spanish forces conquered the Portuguese territories of Colonia do Sacramento and Rio Grande de São Pedro and forced the Portuguese to surrender and retreat. Under the Treaty of Paris (1763), Spain had to return the colony of Sacramento to Portugal, while the vast and rich territory of the so-called “Continent of S. Peter” (the present-day Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul) would be retaken from the Spanish army during the undeclared Hispano-Portuguese war of 1763–1777.

In India, the outbreak of the war in Europe renewed the long-running conflict between the French and the British trading companies for influence. The war spread beyond Southern India and into Bengal and eventually eliminated French power in India.

In West Africa in 1758, the British captured Senegal and brought home large amounts of captured goods. This success convinced the British to launch two further expeditions to take the island of Gorée and the French trading post on the Gambia. The loss of these valuable colonies further weakened the French economy.

Over the course of the war in colonies, Great Britain gained enormous areas of land and influence. They lost Minorca in the Mediterranean to the French in 1756 but captured, additionally to territories in Africa and North America, the French sugar colonies of Guadeloupe in 1759 and Martinique in 1762 as well as the Spanish cities of Havana in Cuba and Manila in the Philippines, both prominent Spanish colonial cities. However, expansion into the hinterlands of both cities met with stiff resistance. In the Philippines, the British were confined to Manila until their agreed-upon withdrawal at the war’s end.

A Global War

Although the question of whether the Seven Years’ War was the first world war remains ambiguous, it  marked a shift in the European balance of power that shaped the world far beyond Europe.

Learning Objectives

Assess the claim that the Seven Years’ War was the first world war

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Because of its span and global impact, some historians have argued that the Seven Years’ War was the first world war, almost 160 years before World War I. However, this label has also been given to various earlier and later conflicts. Regardless, the war restructured not only the European political order, but also events all around the world.
  • Although Frederick the Great’s preemptive invasion of Saxony in 1756 marks the conventional beginning of the Seven Years’ War, key developments in the colonial rivalry between Britain and France in North America preceded the outbreak of the war in
    Europe.
  • The war preceded by events in North America and formally started in Europe soon turned into a war for colonies outside of North America: the British-French conflict over trading influences reignited in India and in West Africa and the British captured several French colonies. The triple Franco-Spanish invasion of Portugal in Europe was followed by a Spanish invasion of Portuguese territories in South America. Over the course of the war in colonies, Great Britain gained enormous areas of land and influence.
  • While the question of whether the Seven Years’ War was indeed the first world war remains ambiguous, the conflict certainly had global impact and marked a shift in the European balance of power. And as European empires continued their efforts to colonize territories on other continents, the impact reached far beyond Europe.
  • Although the war did not result in major territorial changes in Europe, a new political order emerged. With Britain becoming the main colonial power, Prussia confirming its position as a military, economic, and political European power, and Austria and Russia proving their growing military potential, France lost its influence in Europe.
  • The war also ended the old system of alliances in Europe. In the years after the war, European states now saw Britain as a greater threat than France and thus did not rejoin old alliances.

Key Terms

  • Treaty of Hubertusburg: A 1763 treaty signed by Prussia, Austria, and Saxony. Together with the Treaty of Paris, it marked the end of the Seven Years’ War. The treaty ended the continental conflict with no significant changes in prewar borders. Silesia remained Prussian and Prussia clearly stood among the ranks of the great powers.
  • The Seven Years’ War: A world war fought between 1754 and 1763, the main conflict occurring in the seven-year period from 1756 to 1763. It involved every European great power of the time except the Ottoman Empire, spanning five continents and affecting Europe, the Americas, West Africa, India, and the Philippines. The conflict split Europe into two coalitions, led by Great Britain on one side and France on the other.
  • Second Hundred Years’ War: A periodization or historical era term used by some historians to describe the series of military conflicts between Great Britain and France that occurred from about 1689 (or some say 1714) to 1815. It is named after the Hundred Years’ War when the England-France rivalry began in the 14th century. The term appears to have been coined by J. R. Seeley in his influential work The Expansion of England: Two Courses of Lectures (1883).
  • diplomatic revolution: The reversal of longstanding alliances in Europe between the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years’ War. Austria went from an ally of Britain to an ally of France. Prussia became an ally of Britain. It was part of efforts to preserve or upset the European balance of power and a prelude to the Seven Years’ War.

Seven Years’ War: The First World War?

The Seven Years’ War was fought between 1754 and 1763, the main conflict occurring in the seven-year period from 1756 to 1763. It involved every European great power of the time except the Ottoman Empire, spanning five continents and affecting Europe, the Americas, West Africa, India, and the Philippines. The conflict split Europe into two coalitions, led by Great Britain on one side and France on the other. For the first time, aiming to curtail Britain and Prussia’s ever-growing might, France formed a grand coalition of its own, which ended in failure as Britain rose as the world’s predominant power, altering the European balance of alliances.

Because of its span and global impact, some historians have argued that the Seven Years’ War was the first world war (almost 160 years before World War I). However, this label has also been given to various earlier conflicts, including the Eighty Years’ War, the Thirty Years’ War, the War of the Spanish Succession and the War of the Austrian Succession, and to later conflicts including the Napoleonic Wars. The term “Second Hundred Years’ War” has been used in order to describe the almost continuous level of worldwide conflict during the entire 18th century, reminiscent of the more famous and compact struggle of the 14th century. The Seven Years’ War influenced many major events around the globe. The war restructured not only the European political order, but also paved the way for the beginning of later British world supremacy in the 19th century, the rise of Prussia in Germany, the beginning of tensions in British North America, and France’s eventual turmoil.

A Global War

Although Frederick the Great’s preemptive invasion of Saxony in 1756 marks the conventional beginning of the Seven Years’ War, key developments in North America preceded the outbreak of the conflict in Europe. The boundary between British and French possessions in North America was largely undefined in the 1750s. France had long claimed the entire Mississippi River basin, which was disputed by Britain. In the early 1750s, the French began constructing a chain of forts in the Ohio River Valley to assert their claim and shield the American Indian population from increasing British influence. The most important French fort planned was intended to occupy a position at “the Forks” where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers meet to form the Ohio River (present day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania). British colonial militia from Virginia were sent to drive them out. Led by George Washington, they ambushed a small French force at Jumonville Glen in 1754. The French retaliated by attacking Washington’s army at Fort Necessity, forcing them to surrender.

News of these events arrived in Europe, where Britain and France unsuccessfully attempted to negotiate a solution. The two nations eventually dispatched regular troops to North America to enforce their claims and engaged in military actions in 1755. Defeated France prepared to attack Hanover, whose prince-elector was also the King of Great Britain and Minorca. Britain concluded a treaty whereby Prussia agreed to protect Hanover. In response, France concluded an alliance with its long-time enemy Austria, an event known as the diplomatic revolution.

The war preceded by events in North America and formally started in Europe soon also turned into a war for colonies outside of North America. In 1757, the British-French conflict over trading influences reignited in India. By 1761, the British effectively eliminated French power in India. In 1758 in West Africa, the British captured Senegal and brought home large amounts of captured goods. This success convinced them to launch two further expeditions to take the island of Gorée and the French trading post on the Gambia. The loss of these valuable colonies further weakened the French economy.

When the Seven Years’ War between France and Great Britain started in 1756, Spain and Portugal remained neutral, but everything changed when Ferdinand VI died in 1759 and was succeeded by his younger half-brother Charles III of Spain. One of the main objects of Charles’s policy was the survival of Spain as a colonial power and thus as a power to be reckoned with in Europe. The triple Franco-Spanish invasion of Portugal in Europe (main theater of the war, which absorbed the lion’s share of the Spanish war effort) in 1762 was followed by a Spanish invasion of Portuguese territories in South America (a secondary theater of the war). While the first ended in humiliating defeat, the second represented a stalemate: Portuguese victory in Northern and Western Brazil, Spanish victory in Southern Brazil and Uruguay.

Over the course of the war in colonies, Great Britain gained enormous areas of land and influence. They lost Minorca in the Mediterranean to the French in 1756 but captured territories in West Africa and North America, the French sugar colonies of Guadeloupe in 1759 and Martinique in 1762 as well as Havana in Cuba and Manila in the Philippines, both prominent Spanish colonial cities.

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All the participants of the Seven Years’ War: [blue] Great Britain, Prussia, Portugal, with allies; [green] France, Spain, Austria, Russia, Sweden with allies: Many middle and small states in Europe, unlike in previous wars, tried to steer clear away from the escalating conflict, even though they had interests in the conflict or with the belligerents, like Denmark-Norway. The Dutch Republic, a long-time British ally, kept its neutrality intact. Naples, Sicily, and Savoy sided with the Franco-Spanish alliance. Like Sweden, Russia concluded a separate peace with Prussia before the war formally ended.

Global Impact

While the question of whether the Seven Years’ War was indeed the first world war remains ambiguous, the war had certainly global impact and marked a shift in the European balance of power. And as European empires continued their efforts to colonize territories on other continents, the impact reached far beyond Europe. Faced with the choice of retrieving either New France or its Caribbean island colonies of Guadeloupe and Martinique, France chose the latter to retain these lucrative sources of sugar. France also returned Minorca to the British. Spain lost control of Florida to Great Britain, but it received from the French the Île d’Orléans and all of the former French holdings west of the Mississippi River. In India, the British retained the Northern Circars, but returned all the French trading ports.

When later France went to war with Great Britain during the American Revolution, the British found no support among the European powers. Furthermore, France’s defeat in the Seven Years’ War caused the French to embark upon major military reforms with particular attention being paid to the artillery. The origins of the famed French artillery that played a prominent role in the wars of the French Revolutionary wars and beyond can be traced to military reforms that started in 1763.

The Treaty of Hubertusburg between Austria, Prussia, and Saxony simply restored the status quo of 1748, with Silesia and Glatz reverting to Frederick and Saxony to its own elector. The only concession that Prussia made to Austria was to consent to the election of Archduke Joseph as Holy Roman Emperor. However, Austria’s military performance restored its prestige and the empire secured its position as a major player in the European system. Prussia emerged from the war as a great power whose importance could no longer be challenged. Frederick the Great’s personal reputation was enormously enhanced and after the Seven Years’ War, Prussia become one of the most imitated powers in Europe.

Russia, on the other hand, made one great invisible gain from the war: the elimination of French influence in Poland. Although the war ended in a draw, the performance of the Imperial Russian Army against Prussia improved Russia’s reputation as a factor in European politics, as many had not expected the Russians to hold their own against the Prussians in campaigns fought on Prussian soil.

The war also ended the old system of alliances in Europe. In the years after the war, European states such as Austria, The Dutch Republic, Sweden, Denmark-Norway, Ottoman Empire, and Russia now saw Britain as a greater threat than France and did not revert to previous alliances, while the Prussians were angered by what they considered a British betrayal in 1762. Consequently, when the American War of Independence turned into a global war between 1778–83, Britain found itself opposed by a strong coalition of European powers and lacking any substantial ally.

The Treaty of Paris (1763)

The Treaty of Paris of 1763 between Great Britain, France, and Spain, with Portugal in agreement, formally ended the Seven Years’ War and marked the beginning of an era of British dominance outside Europe.

Learning Objectives

Identify the provisions of the Treaty of Paris (1763)

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The Treaty of Paris of 1763 between Great Britain, France, and Spain, with Portugal in agreement, formally ended the Seven Years’ War and marked the beginning of an era of British dominance outside Europe.
  • During the war, Great Britain conquered a number French colonies in North America and the Caribbean, French trading posts in India, and French-controlled territories in West Africa. It also captured the Spanish colonies of Manila and Havana. France captured Minorca and British trading posts in Sumatra, while Spain captured the border fortress of Almeida in Portugal and Colonia del Sacramento in South America.
  • In the treaty, most of these territories were restored to their original owners, although Britain made considerable gains.
  • The Treaty of Paris is sometimes noted as the point at which France gave Louisiana to Spain. The transfer, however, occurred with the Treaty of Fontainebleau (1762) but was not publicly announced until 1764. The Treaty of Paris gave Britain the east side of the Mississippi, with New Orleans remaining in French hands.
  • The Treaty of Hubertusburg was signed five days later by Prussia, Austria, and Saxony. Together with the Treaty of Paris, it marked the end of the Seven Years’ War. The treaty ended the continental conflict with no significant changes in prewar borders.

Key Terms

  • Treaty of Fontainebleau: A secret agreement of 1762 in which France ceded Louisiana to Spain. The treaty followed the last battle in the French and Indian War in North America, the Battle of Signal Hill in September 1762. Having lost Canada, King Louis XV of France proposed to King Charles III of Spain that France should give Spain “the country known as Louisiana, as well as New Orleans and the island in which the city is situated.” Charles accepted in November 1762.
  • Treaty of Hubertusburg: A 1763 treaty signed by Prussia, Austria and Saxony. Together with the Treaty of Paris, it marked the end of the Seven Years’ War. The treaty ended the continental conflict with no significant changes in prewar borders. Silesia remained Prussian and Prussia clearly stood among the ranks of the great powers.
  • The Treaty of Paris: Also known as the Treaty of 1763, signed by the kingdoms of Great Britain, France, and Spain with Portugal in agreement after Great Britain’s victory over France and Spain during the Seven Years’ War. The signing of the treaty formally ended the Seven Years’ War and marked the beginning of an era of British dominance outside Europe.

The Treaty of Paris

The Treaty of Paris, also known as the Treaty of 1763, was signed on February 10, 1763 by the kingdoms of Great Britain, France, and Spain with Portugal in agreement after Great Britain’s victory over France and Spain during the Seven Years’ War. The signing of the treaty formally ended the Seven Years’ War, known as the French and Indian War in the North American theater, and marked the beginning of an era of British dominance outside Europe. The treaty did not involve Prussia and Austria as they signed a separate agreement, the Treaty of Hubertusburg, five days later.

Exchange of Territories

During the war, Great Britain conquered the French colonies of Canada, Guadeloupe, Saint Lucia, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Tobago, the French trading posts in India, the slave-trading station at Gorée, the Sénégal River and its settlements, and the Spanish colonies of Manila in the Philippines and Havana in Cuba. France captured Minorca and British trading posts in Sumatra, while Spain captured the border fortress of Almeida in Portugal and Colonia del Sacramento in South America.

In the treaty, most of these territories were restored to their original owners, although Britain made considerable gains. France and Spain restored all their conquests to Britain and Portugal. Britain restored Manila and Havana to Spain, and Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint Lucia, Gorée, and the Indian trading posts to France. In return, France ceded Canada, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Tobago to Britain. France also ceded the eastern half of French Louisiana to Britain (the area from the Mississippi River to the Appalachian Mountains). In addition, while France regained its trading posts in India, France recognized British clients as the rulers of key Indian native states and pledged not to send troops to Bengal. Britain agreed to demolish its fortifications in British Honduras (now Belize), but retained a logwood-cutting colony there. Although the Protestant British feared Roman Catholics, Great Britain did not want to antagonize France through expulsion or forced conversion. Also, it did not want French settlers to leave Canada to strengthen other French settlements in North America. Consequently, Great Britain decided to protect Roman Catholics living in Canada.

The Treaty of Paris is sometimes noted as the point at which France gave Louisiana to Spain. The transfer, however, occurred with the Treaty of Fontainebleau (1762) but was not publicly announced until 1764. The Treaty of Paris was to give Britain the east side of the Mississippi (including Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which was to be part of the British territory of West Florida) – except for the Île d’Orléans (historic name for the New Orleans area), which was granted to Spain, along with the territory to the west – the larger portion of Louisiana. The Mississippi River corridor in modern-day Louisiana was to be reunited following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and the Adams-Onís Treaty in 1819.

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“A new map of North America,” produced following the Treaty of Paris (1763).

The Anglo-French hostilities ended in 1763 with Treaty of Paris, which involved a complex series of land exchanges, the most important being France’s cession to Spain of Louisiana, and to Great Britain the rest of New France except for the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon. Faced with the choice of retrieving either New France or its Caribbean island colonies of Guadeloupe and Martinique, France chose the latter to retain these lucrative sources of sugar, writing off New France as an unproductive, costly territory.

The Treaty of Hubertusburg

The Treaty of Hubertusburg was signed on February 15, 1763 by Prussia, Austria, and Saxony. Together with the Treaty of Paris, it marked the end of the Seven Years’ War. The treaty ended the continental conflict with no significant changes in prewar borders. Most notably, Silesia remained Prussian. The Treaty, although it restored the prewar status quo, marked the ascendancy of Prussia as a leading European power. Through the Treaty of Paris, Great Britain emerged as the world’s chief colonial empire, which was its primary goal in the war, and France lost most of its overseas possessions. The phrase “Hubertsburg Peace” is sometimes used as a description for any Treaty which restores the situation that existed before conflict broke out.