May 17

The French and Indian War: Deciding the Fate of North America, by Walter Borneman ★★★★★

Like many topics that were taught in public schools, the French and Indian War was a war that was very poorly taught, and most Americans know little about when it occurred and the circumstances surrounding this conflict. Though the Europeans call this the 7-year war, it actually transpired over the span of about 9 years, from 1754-1763. The major players in this conflict were the British, the French, the native American Indians, and the American colonists. Spain was a minor player late in the war, becoming involved and losing Florida while gaining nothing. The French and Indian War was rightfully the very first world war, as it was fought throughout the world, on the high seas, in North America, in the Caribbean, in Europe, in the Mediterranean, in India, and in the Philippines. The war was essentially a struggle for world hegemony, a war to decide whether it would be France or Great Britain that would have world domination. Indeed, it was this war that turned Great Britain into the British Empire. At the beginning of the war, such details were not entirely clear. The British always maintained domination of the seas, and French ineptitude on the high seas cost it dearly. Yet, on land, the French mostly had the upper hand, having much better strategies and war delivery. The British suffered greatly under incompetent and weak generals, and when victory was won, such as at Ottawa, it was a weakly held victory that could have reversed hands quite easily. The French were not as interested in maintaining a North American colony as they were in maintaining military superiority on the European continent. The French lost North America due to their naval weakness, yet it was that French navy that decided the fate of the colonies in helping the British lose the colonies for good. History has its’ ironies. The Indians were another significant player in all of this. The Indians were used most effectively by the French. Indian favor was gained by giving them lots of gifts. When the British decided to cut off the free gifts, the Indians went on the rampage, where they remain to this day. It was partly the French and British attempts to manipulate the Indians that ultimately led to the issues that we currently see in forming a sensible Indian policy. British policy at the end of the war with colonists directly resulted in the revolt that led to the Revolutionary war. Those policies included forms of taxation to the colonists, as well as prohibition with the westward expansion of the colonies.

This is history worth knowing, and worth knowing well. Borneman is a master storyteller that keeps the reader interested. He writes well, and this book would be a very reasonable choice for those out there for learning about this most interesting war.

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