Seven Years War

In the XVIII, century the wars in Europe considerably influenced the succession of events around the world. France and Great Britain got started a fight for colonial possession, which later decided destinies of the whole continents having become a colonial war. The Seven Years' War was the third war for Silesia between Prussia and England on the one hand, and Austria, Saxony, Russia, France and Sweden, on the other hand. Frederick II is commonly recognized as an attacking party. However, the Austrian historians have come to a conclusion that the imminent agreement between Austria, Russia and Saxony had forced Frederick II to warn allies and start the war for the sake of own defense.

The colonial contradictions developed into a large conflict – The Seven Years’ War, in which Britain and Prussia resisted the alliance of France, Austria and Russia. The first shots of this war were distributed long before its official announcement. However, the first confrontations, although generally called a European conflict, did not start in Europe but over the ocean. In 1754 — 1755, the Anglo-French colonial rivalry in North America led to boundary skirmishes between English and French colonists. In 1755, collision developed into an open armed conflict, in which both Indian allies and regular military units were participating. In 1756, Great Britain officially declared war on France.


This interstate conflict broke the system of the military-political unions developed in Europe and caused the foreign policy reorientation of a number of the European powers known as "a turning of alliances". Traditional rivalry between Austria and France for hegemony on the continent was weakened by the emergence of the third force. Prussia started to pretend for the leading role on the European political arena. Having won Silesian wars, Friedrich II (the King of Prussia) took away Silesia, one of the richest Austrian provinces, from Austria and increased the territory of Prussia from 118 thousand to 194 thousand square kilometers. It is clear that Austria could not reconcile to loss of Silesia.

In January, 1756 Great Britain signed the allied contract with Prussia to secure itself against the threat of the French attack on Hanover, a hereditary possession of the English king on the continent. Friedrich II, who considered that war with Austria was inevitable and understood the approaching limitation of the resources, decided to rely on "English gold" and traditional influence of Great Britain on Russia. He wanted to keep Russia from participating in the forthcoming war and to avoid, thereby, a two-front war. Having overestimated the influence of Great Britain on Russia, he, at the same time, had obviously underestimated the indignation caused by his contract with British in France. As a result, Friedrich should have been at war with the coalition of three strongest continental powers and their allies - the union of three women (Maria II Theresa, Elizabeth, and Madam Pompadour). The conclusion of the Anglo-Prussian union pushed Austria, which was eager for revenge, to go for rapprochement with the old enemy — France, for which Prussia had become the enemy. Thus, France and Austria signed the defensive alliance that in 1756 was joined by Russia.

In Russia, strengthening of Prussia was perceived as a real threat to its western borders and interests in Baltic and the north of Europe. Close connections with Austria and the allied contract, which was signed in 1746, also influenced the definition of the Russian position in the European conflict. Russia had traditionally close connections with England. It is curious that in spite of the fact that Russia broke off diplomatic relations with Prussia, it did not break off diplomatic relations with England.

Members of the coalition were not interested in elimination of Prussia, expecting to exploit it in the future; however, all of them were interested in weakening of Prussia and its return to the borders that existed before the Silesian wars. Thus, war was waged by the   participants of the coalition for the restoration of the old system of the political relations on the continent broken by the results of War for the Austrian inheritance. Having united against the general enemy, participants of the anti-Prussian coalition did not think to forget about the traditional disagreements. The disagreement in the opponent's camp, caused by inconsistent interests, was a result of one of the main reasons that allowed Prussia to resist in the antagonism. 

Up to the end of 1757, anti-Prussian coalition created a club of its admirers in Germany and beyond its limits as the majority of Europeans considered Frederick as an impudent upstart. In order to deal with him, allies exposed a huge army against Prussia. At the same time, Frederick II had only 200 000 soldiers plus 50 000 defenders of Hanover who were employed for English money at his disposal.

The war began in May, 1755 when France, in response to numerous attacks of England, declared war on the unfriendly neighbor. However, the geographical scale of military operations was extraordinarily wide. Battles were conducted in America, Asia, Africa and Europe. The English king George II, being at the same time the Elector of Hannover, saw the natural ally in Frederick II. Moreover, Frederick II was Sofia-Diarrhea’s son, the sister of the English king George II. As a result of negotiations between Prussian and English kings, Westminster convention was signed on January 16, 1756. The second point of this convention stated that if any foreign power would undertake invasion into Germany, the two contracting parties will combine their efforts to punish these violators and preserve tranquility in Germany. On May 1, 1756 France made a diplomatic answer to receive support from Austria and signed the contract of neutrality and defense. Later, Saxony joined this coalition, and promises to join the coalition came from Russia. From all German states, Prussia was supported by Hanover, Hessen-Kassel and the Principality of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. However, trusting in the forces, the Prussian king decided to anticipate the opponents, and on August 29, 1756 attacked Saxony and declared that France and England were the main aggressors. As a result of this attack, the war that later received the name of Seven Year Old was launched. In January, 1757 Russia officially joined the anti-Prussian coalition.

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In the beginning, British suffered a defeat everywhere, except India, where Robert Clive crushed French and their allies at Plassey, having undermined their positions on the subcontinent. The same year, the British government was headed by the eminent state and military person William Pitt Sr. who had developed a very effective strategy. In Europe, Britain financed the Prussian king Friedrich II and contained the German army defending the western flank. The frequent armed sorties on the French coast promoted intimidation of the opponent; however, the main events were developed at the seas and in colonies. In 1758, British took Louisburg and Fort Duquesne. The latter was renamed into the Fort Pitt (nowadays it is Pittsburgh). In 1759, the French fleet was crushed in the gulf Quiberon. Thus British took the Caribbean Region under control, and the storm of Quebec opened a way to conquest Canada. Britain became the leading sea and trade power and took control of North America and India and strengthened its positions in the Caribbean Region and Western Africa. Even loss of thirteen colonies after the American Revolution was only a temporary retreat on the way of a steady growth of the British Empire.

To sum up, The Seven Years War scarred on an external and domestic situation of all powers that took part in it. It strengthened the domination of Anglo-Saxon race in the North America. America and the East Indies gave an impetus for a protest of the public opinion against an oligarchical system of the lower house of the 18th century and a control system of George III. This war undermined sea and colonial power of France, found the military and political powerlessness of Louis XV that was caused by the cons of old regime and promoted a desperate situation of the French financial system which led to the crisis. It also awakened consciousness of own force and ability to compete with other European powers in Russia, which had established a skilled army and talented fighting generals in terms of military science. However, at the same time, the outcome of the war had created mistrust in the Russian statesmen regarding possible intervention into internal affairs by the German empire and gave an impetus towards the new purposes. The war put forward Protestant Prussia of Frederick II and caused the general raising of the national German spirit, which was for the first time reflected in Lessing's comedy “Minna von Barnhelm” and promoting a release of the German literature from the narrow influence of France and England.

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