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THE SCRATCH OF A PEN by Colin G. Calloway


1763 and the Transformation of North America

by Colin G. Calloway

Pub Date: April 29th, 2006
ISBN: 0-19-530071-8
Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Lucid, brief survey of the aftereffects of the French and Indian War in America.

As Calloway (History/Dartmouth; One Vast Winter Count, 2003, etc.) writes, the Seven Years War lasted nine years in America, and it had the result of ending the half-century-long competition between France and Britain for control of Canada and the trans-Appalachian West. Britain fared badly at the beginning of the war, but its fate turned for the better with William Pitt’s becoming de facto prime minister. Pitt articulated a simple strategy to “reduce France from an imperial power to a continental power by stripping away its colonies.” In doing so, the British suffered great losses at the hands of Captain Donald Campbell, a born leader who helped suppress Pontiac’s War, which broke out soon after the Europeans made peace, and as the result of diseases, brought back from fighting French and Spanish forces in the tropics, that destroyed whole units; of more than 2,000 Highlanders who served in the Caribbean, Calloway writes, “only 245 remained fit for active duty in late August 1763.” The unintended consequences of British victory were many. For one, Calloway observes, with the removal of the French threat on the frontier, American colonists spilled over the mountains to claim the fertile lands of Ohio and Kentucky, which, of course, were already occupied. Much bloodshed ensued as Indians fought settlers, who had come to believe that the British forces were actually protecting their enemies. Though weakened, the British formed a standing army of 10,000 troops in North America, which the colonists saw as a police force arrayed against them—a perception that helped touch off revolution a decade later. Calloway concludes: “Peace brought little peace and much turmoil to North America.”

A welcome contribution to the history of America before the War of Independence, joining such fine recent books as Fred Anderson’s The War That Made America (2005).