Reading for the Weekend – The French and Indian War

French Indian War BookLet’s stick to the topic of Seven Years War. Previously I was a bit disappointed to Tomahawk and Musket so I looked around for more comprehensive volume about the topic and found The French and Indian War by Walter R. Borneman (ISBN#  9780060761844).

Author has rather unique style, as far as the recent books of historical subjects are concerned. Unlike any I’ve recently came by, he tells a story of people who go through the events, instead of the events that occurred at some obscure time and place. I don’t only find it very readable and enjoyable, but in my subjective world, I would like to see more of that.

He starts from the beginning, explaining in very good detail the situation that was building up in Europe, that eventually lead to a conflict in both old continent and in the colonies. Scope of the book is interesting and most enlightening. As we know now, Seven Years War was not a local struggle of powers in Europe, albeit many during the period perhaps insisted on thinking so. It was effectively a global war – first fully understood and capitalized by Pitt. Quite good chunk of the events in the book do not occur in the few acres of snow, but far distant corners such as Caribbean, India, European mainland additional to the ministries of London. Many of the events had  direct impact to the affair of British attempting to seize the French oversea colony for good and all of them played key roles to explain why certain things did happen.

Author does make (perhaps unwittingly) a point that if one is to judge French performance in the war from the perspective of military plunders and inability to support her colonies, it is far too easy to put blame on ineptitude of command. However, first one ever to understand fully the extend and nature of the conflict was not French king, nor his mistress. They too, were too much preoccupied with local European affairs and when the reality finally struck home, it was far too late. French were not alone in this though. Spain joined the conflict only to become severely mauled. When Pitt was pushed aside, winds changed in Britain again.

It was curiously a quest falling to Pitt, the great commoner to find a way to save England and English colony in Americas, and he did – but in carving the British Empire he also lost the war he so much promoted. In a way, French Indian War sparked a flame that would eventually engulf whole of the British possessions in the continent.

If this book has a fault, it would be about the subject of Indians. Considering the focus of European and some colonial personalities, perhaps Indian activities should have a bit more elaborate treatment. That said, it is not that Indians are completely ignored, far from it, but at times when European and colonial motives are well brought up, Indians appear to be at times only either ally, trade partner or nuisance. Later part of the book does however remedy that somewhat for what comes to Pontiac and his drive to stop colonial encroachments.

What comes to Washington’s role in the book as one figure amongst many, while important personality in future conflicts, his part in Seven Year War was not something future deeds could be anticipated from.

Overall The French Indian War is very good and comprehensive book, written in a way of narrative that engulfs the life of people involved in the conflict. In my opinion, it is, by far the best way to relate historical events to their proper place. There is also sufficient deviations from the key topic of the book and it makes the book much, much more relevant than others that strictly focus a narrow topic. So, I would really recommend the book for anyone interested in the topic.

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