Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The French and Indian War by Walter R. Borneman


The French & Indian War: Deciding the Fate of North America by Walter R. Borneman
HarperCollins, 2006

In the middle of the 18th century, trouble was once again disturbing the balance of powers in Europe. Long time rivals, England and France, were battling among themselves and cultivating alliances with other countries, and each country had one goal: domination.

The French & Indian War, Walter R. Borneman's compelling narrative history, explores the people and policies involved in that rivalry between England and France, especially as it was played out in North America.

In 1758, William Pitt in England was positioned 'to accelerate his global strategy,', and central to his global strategy for British dominance was the problem of North America, a most bothersome focal point in the strategy. The French had dominated Canada and North America's major Midwestern river valleys, and the English had dominated the thirteen coastal colonies; each was now cultivating alliances with Native American tribes in efforts to control all rivers and regions west of the Appalachian Mountains. For years, bloody battles had been marring the promise of peace and prosperity associated with North American westward expansion.

Pennsylvanian Benjamin Franklin had noted that 'it was useless to hope for a permanent peace in the western regions of the colonies so long as the French were masters of Canada.' As if reinforcing Franklin's observation, Pitt had acknowledged that the key to his global strategy was his firm conviction that '"Canada was to be attacked from all sides and exhausted."'

And so it was that England followed through on Franklin's and Pitt's beliefs. North America became the bloody chessboard on which the British and French - with the alliances formed, broken, and reformed among Native Americans - played out their brutal game for European dominance. When all the bloodshed and battles were over, the British were victorious in the so-called French and Indian War (also known as the Seven Years' War). In fact, the 'French and Indian War created the British Empire ... and had decided the fate of the North American continent; moreover, the war decisively expelled France from North America, although descendents of the French and French culture flourish to this day in the province of Quebec.'

Author Walter R. Borneman tells the fascinating story of the French and Indian War with diligence and enthusiasm. Borneman's book features all the main personalities: Jeffrey Amherst, Edward Braddock, Thomas Gage, the Marquis de Montcalm, William Pitt, Robert Rogers, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Horatio Gates, Francis Marion, the Marquis de Vaudreuil, James Wolfe, Lord Howe, and others.

Through a detailed chronological narrative, Borneman tells the complete story, and he finishes his readable presentation with a number of interesting what if questions which focus on some of the most controversial issues in the conflict. Fresh and exciting throughout, The French & Indian War is highly recommended.

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Postscript: I have long been interested in this too often overlooked chapter in American history because I grew up a few miles away from Fort Necessity in western Pennsylvania; it had been the scene of George Washington's disastrous confrontation with  a small group of French soldiers, a "murderous" incident that "caused" the French and Indian War in colonial America. Read more about the incident and much more in Borneman's superb book, and you will be surprised about what you did not but should know.  Comments? Questions? 



9 comments:

  1. This is most definitely one of those lesser-known wars that still had real significance, Tim. I'm glad you're highlighting it today. I've read one or two novels that take place during this era; it's fascinating.

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    1. Margot, I will have to search for such novels. Thanks for the catalyst!

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    2. Daniel Smith's The Constable's Tale takes place during those years, Tim. It is crime fiction, but it's also historical. Just sayin'...

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    3. Thanks, Margot. I'll look for it.

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  2. the mrs. and i visited Fort Necessity once on a business trip... we were surprised at how small it was... at least i think that's the one we saw... it was east of pittsburg...

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    1. Yes, Mudpuddle, the reconstruction seems so puny compared to what my youthful imagination conjured up when I learned about Washington's misadventures there. Washington -- ill-suited to the task by age and experience -- was sent to size up the French encroachment in what is now Pittsburgh; he encountered a small French unit close to what is now Fort Necessity, and he (with his military and Indian cohorts) "massacred" the French officer Jumonville and other French soldiers; the French later retaliated, cornering Washington at Fort Necessity, and all went to hell in handbasket in short order. Well, that's the thumbnail sketch of the incident, but the bottom line is this: Washington almost single-handedly started the French and Indian War in the colonies.

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    2. that's one of those little known facts one doesn't hear too much about... Mrs. M read two bios of Washington in a row once: why we stopped there and almost missed the plane as a result... very interesting, tho...

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  3. Very good to read posts on history, thanks

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    1. Mel u, I hope to do more posts on history, but I don't know from one day to the next where my Swiss cheese brain will lead me.

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