What is the Seven Years War about?

Seven Years War

A battle from the Seven Years' War is re-enacted here, namely the Battle of Warburg in Hesse.

The Seven Years War was a war in the 18th century. It began in 1756 and lasted seven years. In fact, there were several wars that were being waged at the same time. Because there was fighting in different parts of the world, some call it the "First World War" today. One could say the same about other wars, however.

In Europe it was mostly about Prussia, which was attacked by several other countries. In the end, Prussia had survived all of this and remained a powerful country alongside Austria.

In other parts of the world, Britain and France in particular fought against each other. There were also battles on the seas. Great Britain was able to conquer many important areas from France, including North America. This war led to the creation of the British Empire.

Why was there war in Europe?

At the Battle of Leuthen: Prussian soldiers attack a fortress. The village of Leuthen in Silesia is now in Poland, near Wroclaw.

In Germany, in the Holy Roman Empire, Austria was the most powerful state. But Prussia also wanted to be important. In 1740 there was a new Prussian king: Friedrich the Second. He immediately attacked Austria and captured the province of Silesia.

Austria tried several times to recapture Silesia. When Prussia conquered Saxony in 1756, Austria saw an opportunity to do so. Austria was gradually able to get other important countries to join in the fight.

It was mainly France and Russia. They attacked Prussia from several sides. Many of Friedrich's soldiers perished, so that Prussia no longer had a chance of winning the war. But suddenly, in January 1762, the Tsarina of Russia died. Their successors no longer wanted war.

The war ended with a lot of things remaining the same. Saxony persisted and France failed to conquer the part of the Netherlands that is now called Belgium. As France weakened, Austria continued to be a recognized power. Prussia was now seen as strong and powerful at the latest.

But many people had become poor because of the war. 180,000 Prussian soldiers were dead. In Austria there were about twice as many, similar to France. Nevertheless, new wars soon broke out in Europe.

Why did you fight elsewhere?

The story "The Last of the Mohicans" by James Fennimore Cooper is about this war.

Great Britain and France had already conquered large parts of the rest of the world. There were British and French colonies in North America. After heavy fighting, France was defeated in North America. Most of the French settlers stayed there. This is why today's Canada still has citizens who speak French instead of English.

Several other areas in America also received new rulers. France also lost colonies in India to Great Britain. The same is true for the west of Africa, where Gambia became a British colony.

However, the victory was not only beneficial for Great Britain. The country had also lost a lot of money to the war. The other powers became suspicious of Britain and saw it as a great danger. That was even true of Prussia, the British ally: Prussia believed that Britain had abandoned it. When the American colonies later wanted to become independent, Great Britain received no help from the other Europeans.

  • This picture should show the new alliance of two countries: The figure on the left represents France, the figure on the right Austria.

  • A naval battle in 1759: French ships attempting to occupy Great Britain.

  • The ruins of the French city of Pondicherry in India. The British had ravaged it.