The Seven Years War

Perhaps the first actual world war, the Seven Years' War (1756 to 1763) drew every significant European great power of the period except the Ottoman Empire into a struggle between an Anglo-Prussian alliance and a French-led coalition looking to curtail Britain and Prussia's rising power. Much of the fighting took place in Europe as France, Russia and Sweden attacked Prussia from all sides. However, the conflict spanned five continents, affecting the Americas, West Africa, India, and the Philippines. 

In a prequel, the British attacked disputed French possessions in North America. They seized hundreds of French merchant ships (1754–1756) in the lead-up to what became known as the French and Indian War (in the United States), the War of the Conquest (in French-speaking Canada) or the Seven Years' War (English-speaking Canada).

Prussia and Austria struggled to dominate the Holy Roman Empire. The rest of central Europe and France tried to ensure the Prussians would not become a significant force in western Europe.

Meanwhile, Britain acted elsewhere. 

French Canada, Spanish Florida, some Caribbean islands, Senegal on the West African coast, and French outposts in India were incorporated into a growing empire.

The war ended with the Peace of Paris, signed in February 1763.

While Prussia emerged from the war as a significant European power, Austria lost ground. So did Portugal, Spain and Sweden. 

France lost many colonies and acquired heavy war debts. An inefficient financial system struggled to handle them. 

Spain lost Florida, gained Louisiana from the French and regained control of Havana and Manila when the British withdrew from the two cities at the war's end.

In India, the outbreak of war in Europe renewed the conflict between the French and British trading companies. The fighting spread beyond Southern India into Bengal, where British forces under Robert Clive recaptured Calcutta from a French ally after the Battle of Plassey and captured the French settlement at Chandernagar. In the south, although the French captured Cuddalore, their siege of Madras failed, while the British overran Pondicherry. 

In the complex series of land exchanges under the Treaty of Paris, while the French regained their trading ports, their fortifications were destroyed. Once they were rendered worthless as military bases, French influence in India effectively came to an end.

© Ian Hughes 2017