If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

The Seven Years' War: battles and legacy

The Seven Year's War, the first global conflict, decided the world's dominant empire. England and France, with their Native American allies, battled for North American territory. Despite early failures, England eventually triumphed, gaining vast territories and leaving a significant impact on Native Americans and colonial Americans.

Want to join the conversation?

Video transcript

- [Narrator] So we've been discussing the Seven Year's War in North America. Also commonly called the French and Indian War but, as I mentioned in the last video I think Seven Year's War is a better name for this conflict because it was the first global war that happened more than 150 years before World War I. And this global war was at its heart, about who would be the dominant empire in the world. Would it be England? Or would it be France? Now in the North American theater of this war, England, France, their Native American allies on both sides were vying for territory and particularly territory along the Appalachian mountain range in upstate New York, Canada. This kind of western territory that was the border between the English settlement and Indian country to the west. In this video, let's talk about how the war actually progressed and what it's consequences were for North America and later, the United States. All right, so we've got the English, the French, and a number of Native American tribes all kind of jostling for position in North America. Now what stresses the British out the most is the presence of the French in the Ohio River Valley. Both, the British and the French have laid claim to this territory. And they're both eager to strengthen their territorial claims, by building forts, and otherwise having a show of possession of the area. They argue over who had a presence there first. So to establish the English presence in the Ohio River Valley the English send a young officer named George Washington to build a fort. George Washington is only 22 years old at the time. And he and his men go out to this area and they run into some French with their Native American allies at Fort Duquesne which is where the Alaganee, Monhongahela, and Ohio rivers come together. Which is today, Pittsburgh. So George Washington and his allies get the jump on the French. But, that doesn't last very long. They're overpowered and they fall back and establish Fort Necessity. On account of it was necessary. And they managed to hold out for a little while but eventually the French, the Canadians, and their Native America allies forced Washington to surrender. And he goes back to Virginia. So that's 1754. And we'll call that Fail number one. All right, so then a year later 1755, the British try to displace the French from Fort Duquesne once again. And they send Major General Edward Braddock with George Washington, once again, now he's 23. Back to Fort Duquesne and it's a complete disaster. This time, the French and their Indian allies get the drop on the English, and with a much smaller force, completely desinate the English troops. And Braddock is killed. And George Washington has to take command of the retreat. So that's Fail number two. In general, this war does not go terribly well for the British at the beginning, except in one area, Acadia, where the British manage to attain control and they kick out the French settlers, the Acadians, who are transported down to the French settlement of New Orleans. In Louisiana. Where eventually, their name becomes garbled and they're known as the Cajuns. Not the Acadians, but the Cajuns. In 1756 England finally gets around to actually declaring war on France. But it's really not for another year that the war starts to actually go well in 1757. And the reason that the war starts going well for the English, finally, is that the Prime Minister, William Pitt, decides that he is going to pour money into this endeavor. So he thinks that the English have just not had enough men, materials, money, Indian allies, up until this point. So he is really going to commit the British empire to exiling the French from this area of North America. So between 1757 and 1760, things really start looking up for the British. They finally capture Fort Duquesne. And they capture the Ohio Valley. Nova Scotia. Upstate New York. And, Quebec. So, by 1760 pretty much all the fighting is done in North America. The English have more or less forced the French out of the eastern seaboard and Canada. And in 1763, the English and the French sit down to hammer out the Treaty of Paris. So the Treaty of Paris, in 1763, and I apologize, I cannot help the fact that there are like a million treaties of Paris. There's also the Treaty of Paris that ended the Revolutionary War. There's the Treaty of Paris that ended the Spanish American War. Paris was the place where you made treaties and they're all called the Treaty of Paris. But this is the one that happened in 1763. In general, this was a big victory. For the English. The English not only got most of France's possessions in the New World. They got New France, AKA Canada. They got Spanish Florida. Spain was fighting on the side of France. So they lose that. They got a bunch of Sugar Islands. In the Caribbean. And they pretty much got recognized as the premiere power in Europe. And the premiere imperial power. So, the largest and most powerful empire in the world. And let's not forget that the colonial Americans citizens of Massachusetts, and New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, they were on the winning side here. They fought alongside the British regulars. They repelled the French and their Native American allies. This was actually a pretty big confidence boost for young America. But there were some other consequences of this war. On the not so good side, the Seven Year's War was not particularly good for Native Americans, in general. Both those who had allied with the British. And those who had allied with the French. They no longer had two imperial powers vying against each other in North America that they could play off of each other. Now, Native Americans were only dealing with the British. Who certainly were not giving them a fair seat at the table. Not long after the Seven Year's War, they will institute what's called the Proclamation of 1763. Which was basically a boundary line along the Appalachian mountains saying that that was going to be the end of white settlement. That they would reserve all the lands west of the Appalachians for Native Americans. Well, you can imagine how much the American white settlers respected that. Which is to say, they completely ignored this boundary line. So, the Native Americans will continue to be pushed farther west. And to develop more of what we call a race consciousness. The idea that they were all in one big group together who had to combine forces to repel English settlement. The other major outcome of the Seven Year's War was taxation. Remember that William Pitt won the Seven Year's War by pouring money into it. At the end of the Seven Year's War England is in a lot of debt. And, they have just gone to a lot of trouble to protect their North American interests. Now, as they are looking for ways to make revenue to make up the deficit, the Seven Year's War has placed on them, they look at their North American colonists and say, "You should pay your way." And, the American colonists, who have been used to more than century of called salutary, or benign neglect, are shocked and outraged that the British empire is now clamping down on them. And the colonists reaction to those new taxes will propel the colonies into revolution.