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The origins of the French and Indian War

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Fred Anderson, in Crucible of War, summarizes the causes of the French and Indian War as follows:

In fact, events had reached a stage at the beginning of 1755 that made war between Britain and France all but inevitable.  The origins of that war lay in a skein of developments so tangled that neither Newcastle nor any other diplomatist in Europe could fully have unraveled, let alone controlled, them.  The decay of the Iroquois Confederacy’s netrality policy and the rising independence of the Indians of the upper Ohio Valley; the surge of Anglo-American traders and land speculators into the region; the fears of the French for the loss of contact by way of the Ohio between the growth of French influence both in the interior of America and on the European Continent; the personalities of Dinwiddie, Duquesne, Newcastle, Cumberland, and even such obscure figures as Washington, Croghan, and Tanaghrisson: in the interaction of all these lay the beginnings of a conflagration that in fact already smoldered on the eastern fringe of the Ohio Valley.  The realignment of the European alliance system, the posting of British and French troops to America, and the dominance of aggressive British politicians would take such comparatively minor episodes and Jumonville’s death and the Battle of Fort Necessity and make of them something much larger, much more dangerous, then even Newcastle at his most pessimistic could have foreseen.  How the clash of tiny numbers of men in a frontier conflict would grow into a world war, how that war would redraw the map of Europe’s empires, and how it would transform the relationship between England and her American colonies—such a chain of events would have defied the most exuberant imagining.  But in a very real sense, as Braddock’s force sailed for Virginia in the first days of 1755, everything had already come to depend upon what it would accomplish, or fail to accomplish, in the depths of the American wilderness.

Written by uncudh

April 8, 2009 at 10:13 pm