The French and Indian War: Setting the Stage for the American Revolution

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The French and Indian War ensured the dominance of English-speaking peoples over North America and set the stage for the American Revolutionary War (1775–83). At the end of the war France lost all of her lands in present-day Canada to Britain. With the French threat in North America eliminated, Britain and its colonies could wrangle over the nature of the imperial relationship. In addition, many of the men who would later lead the Americans in their struggle against the British, George Washington, Philip Schuyler, and Benjamin Franklin among them, rose to prominence during that conflict. This war is known by a variety of names, reflecting three increasingly large dimensions of the conflict. As the French and Indian War, it began in 1754 in what is now western Pennsylvania. A Virginia force of some 400 troops under 22-year-old colonel George Washington was defeated and sent home by a French expedition about double its size. Both had arrived to secure the Ohio Valley, but instead of simply considering this one of many border incidents that had troubled colonial relations since the 17th century, the British government, alarmed that the French had constructed a chain of forts from Nova Scotia to the Gulf of Mexico since the end of King George's War in 1748, decided for the first time to begin a major war over a colonial dispute. In Europe the conflict is known as the Seven Years' War, because more general fighting broke out in 1756 that pitted Britain and Prussia against Russia (until 1762), France, Austria, and (beginning in 1762) Spain. Historian Lawrence Henry Gipson dubbed the conflict "The Great War for Empire" to call attention to the fact that the skirmish fought by Washington mushroomed into a world war fought on every inhabited continent then known, including Asia, Africa, and South America as well as Europe and North America. The war's first major combat occurred in western Pennsylvania. In 1755 an expedition of more than 2,000 Virginians and British...
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