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The French and Indian War Without the French: Fred Anderson's Crucible of War.

Fred Anderson set himself a difficult standard to match with his superb first book, A People's Army.' Massachusetts Soldiers and Society in the Seven Years' War.(1) This carefully-researched and well-written study of the impact of the war of 1755-62 on Massachusetts society and its attitudes toward Great Britain has been followed by similar books on Connecticut by Harold Selesky(2) and on Virginia by James Titus.(3) Not surprisingly, Anderson's general history of the Seven Years' War has been eagerly awaited. The last comparable study, L.H. Gipson's The Great War for the Empire has not worn well,(4) particularly because of Gipson's patronizing attitude toward Indians and blacks and because of his pro-British bias. Anderson's Crucible of War is well-intentioned, fair-minded, and free from jargon, intellectual arrogance, and attacks on other historians. On balance, however, it is somewhat disappointing, excellent in the areas Anderson knows best, but deficient on a number of topics he has not researched adequately.

Some 200 of Anderson's approximately 700 pages of text are devoted to American social and political history. (These are intermingled with other topics, but I separate them for purposes of analysis.) His chief concerns are those he studied in his first book, but expanded geographically and chronologically. His argument that the war created stresses between Britain and her American colonies is basically sound, although too much can be read into those stresses (as has been argued by an article which Anderson does not cite by John M. Murrin.)(5) This topic, however, is one that has been studied frequently, by Anderson himself as well as by Alan Rogers, Jack P. Greene, John Shy, and others.(6) Moreover, his selection of 1766 as an end point for his book seems rather artificial. Nevertheless, Anderson is to be congratulated for the skill with which he has presented his argument and the depth of his research. Most of his 86 pages of endnotes deal with American history and he has mastered a wide range of published sources.

Roughly 100 pages of text deal with the effects on native peoples of the hostilities of 1754-60, the Cherokee War of 1760-61, and the general uprising of 1763-64 commonly called Pontiac's rebellion. These pages are an intelligent and sensitive synthesis of monographs by a number of historians, including such brilliant scholars as Richard White and Michael N. McConnell.(7) Again, his research is wide ranging and his writing clear and perceptive, even if most of what he says is not particularly original. His work, moreover, can be cursory; he devotes only one paragraph, for example, to the Paxton Boys affair.

He is much less sure-footed, however, when he discusses the British inner cabinet and its workings, particularly military strategy and post-war colonial policy. Incidentally, his account is somewhat confused about the relationship of the privy council, the cabinet, and the inner or secret cabinet, the last of which was the real locus of power. Although he has done considerable reading in the field, there are some important authors he does not cite, such as J.C.D. Clark and Karl W. Schweizer, who have not only written important monographs but have also edited the papers of such figures as Earl Waldegrave and the Duke of Devonshire.(8) Anderson tends, however, to lean heavily on secondary sources; for example, he cites only once Sir John Fortescue's edition of King George III's correspondence.(9) Consequently, as a work of British history Crucible of War is rather conventional.

Reflecting Anderson's announced intention of reaching a popular audience, one of the largest portions of his book, about 200 pages, is a military history of the war against the French and their Indian allies in North America. Anderson's writing is lively and occasionally creative, such as his account of Washington's attack on the Jumonville party, which began the war. His history is compromised, however, by an excessive reliance on published English-language primary and secondary sources. Of his approximately 2,500 citations only about half a dozen are in French and none are in German or Spanish. He never cites the major published documentary collection for French and Canadian military operations edited by Abbe Henri-Raymond Casgrain.(10) Although he is relatively free from anti-French prejudice, he does not present a balanced account of the war, failing for example to give adequate credit to the strategic genius of Governor General Vaudreuil. Worse still, the book has no discussion of the French government's strategic planning. King Louis XV is mentioned only in passing, and of France's four wartime foreign ministers, four war ministers, and five naval ministers (some, like War Minister Belle-Isle and Naval Minister Machault, of outstanding quality) he pays attention only to the Duke de Choiseul. (He does not cite, however, Choiseul's memoirs or his published correspondence with either his predecessor Bernis or his friend Danish Foreign Minister Bernstorff.)(11) Even on purely American military topics, such as the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, Anderson's conclusions do not inspire confidence. His explanations on page 359 for the recklessness of Montcalm (that he was "rattled ... out of his wits") and Wolfe (that he had a death wish) are at best simplistic and do not take account of Montcalm's distrust of the steadiness of Canadians or Wolfe' s habitual reliance on boldness to overcome all obstacles.

Choiseul more than once claimed that France was involved in two wars, one of her own in North America and one in Europe, in which she was only an auxiliary of Austria. This was merely a ploy to keep Austria from interfering with his negotiations with Britain. The war in Europe from 1756 to 1763 was intimately connected with the war in America and had a huge impact on the future of America. Particularly important was the war in Germany. By forcing the British to spend huge sums on defending their king's Electorate of Hanover, Louis and Choiseul sapped the English electorate's patience for a seemingly endless war and thereby saved France's access to the Newfoundland fishery. This in turn was indispensable for the rebirth of the French Navy, a prerequisite for France's involvement in the War of American Independence. The key French victory in Germany was the Battle of Kloster Kamp (16 October 1760); the astute Spanish Foreign Minister Ricardo Wall believed that had the French been defeated they would have had to evacuate all their forces from Germany. Although Anderson devotes only about twenty pages to the war outside America, he mentions Kloster Kamp twice -- on page 481 he calls the battle indecisive and on page 416 he calls it a British victory.

There are similar problems with naval history to which he devotes about fifteen pages, about half of them to the spectacular battle of Quiberon Bay. On page 381 he writes of the French putting to sea with full crews; in fact, the crews consisted largely of untrained landsmen. Two pages later he writes that after the battle twelve ships escaped into the River Vilaine but only three ever made it out. Actually, seven ships of the line escaped into the Vilaine and all but one eventually returned to Brest. This story is told in Maurice Linyer de La Barbee's excellent biography of the officer who engineered their escape, the Chevalier de Ternay.(12) Anderson should have been familiar with it, because Ternay also commanded the French squadron which captured Newfoundland in 1762 (which Anderson discusses on page 498).

About twenty pages of Crucible of War deal with the alliances of European princes and the making of peace. The only non-British monarch to whom Anderson devotes much attention is Frederick the Great of Prussia, yet Anderson does not cite the monumental Politische Correspondenz Friedrich 's des Grossen.(13) One of his few excursions into diplomatic history is his hint on page 802 that the Franco-Spanish Family Compact was the work of Queen Maria Amelia of Spain, who hated Frederick. She actually was a fierce opponent of closer ties with France, in large part out of anger at King Louis XV for spoiling the projected marriage of her daughter to Empress Maria Theresa's eldest son. Only after her death in October 1760, did serious negotiations begin. Anderson would have benefited from using the masterpiece of one of France's greatest military and diplomatic historians, Richard Waddington's incomparable La Guerre de Sept Ans: Histoire diplomatique et militaire.(14)

Anderson's attempt to discuss the war as a whole is admirable, but he has undermined his efforts by concentrating too exclusively on North America and by relying almost exclusively on English- language sources. Unfortunately he thereby provides ammunition to those who accuse American historians of provincialism. It should be said, however, that when discussing British-American colonists, his major interest, he does quite well. He is an industrious and talented scholar, an eloquent and colourful writer, and a spokesperson for progressive and humane values. I look forward to his future work.

New Haven, Connecticut

(1) F. Anderson, A People's Army ... (Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 1984), 274 pp.

(2) H. Selesky, War and Society in Colonial Connecticut (New Haven, Connecticut, 1990), 278 pp.

(3) J. Titus, The Old Dominion at War: Society, Politics and Warfare in Late Colonial Virginia (Columbia, South Carolina, 1991), 213 pp.

(4) Volumes 6 to 8 (New York, 1946-54) of his 15 vol., The British Empire before the American Revolution.

(5) J.W. Murrin, "The French and Indian War, the American Revolution, and the Counterfactual Hypothesis: Reflections on Lawrence Henry Gipson and John Shy," Reviews in American History, 1 (1973), 307-18.

(6) See, for example, A. Rogers, Empire and Liberty: American Resistance to British Authority, 1755-1763 (Berkeley, 1974), 205 pp.; J.P. Greene, "The Seven Years' War and the American Revolution: The Causal Relationship Reconsidered," Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 8 (1979-80), 85-105; J. Shy, Toward Lexington: The Role of the British Army in the Coming of the American Revolution (Princeton, 1965), 463 pp.

(7) R. White, The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815 (Cambridge, 1991), 544 pp.; M.N. McConnell, A Country Between: The Upper Ohio Valley and Its Peoples, 1724-1774 (Lincoln, Nebraska, 1992), 372 pp.

(8) See J.C.D. Clark, The Dynamics of Change: The Crisis of the 1750s and English Party Systems (Cambridge, 1982), 615 pp.; J.C.D. Clark (ed.), The Memoirs and Speeches of James, 2nd Earl Waldegrave, 1742-1763 (Cambridge, 1988), 340 pp.; and K.W. Schweizer, Frederick the Great, William Pitt, and Lord Bute: The Anglo-Prussian Alliance, 1756-1763 (New York, 1991), 358 pp.; P.D. Brown and K.W. Schweizer (eds.), Memoranda on State of Affairs, 1759-1762: The Devonshire Diary: William Cavendish, fourth Duke of Devonshire (London, 1982), 199 pp.

(9) Sir John Fortescue (ed.), The Correspondence of King George the Third from 1760 to December 1783: Printed from the Original Papers in the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle (London, 1927-28), 6 vols.

(10) Abbe H-R. Casgrain (ed.), Collection des manuscrits du marechal de Levis (Montreal and Quebec, 1889-95), 12 vols.

(11) J.-P. Guicciardi and Philippe Bonnet (eds.), Memoires du duc de Choiseul ... (Paris, 1982), 335 pp.; F. Masson, ed., Memoires et lettres de Francois-Joachim de Pierre, Cardinal de Beonis (1715-1758) (Paris, 1778) 2 vols., P.A.F.S. Vedel (ed.), Correspondance entre le Comte Johan Hartuig Ernst Bernstorff et le duc de Choiseul. 1758-1766 (Copenhagen, 1871), 256 pp.

(12) M. Linyer de La Barbee, Le Chevalier de Ternay (Grenoble, 1972 edn), 2 vols.

(13) The collection was published in Berlin, 1879-1939 and is 47 volumes in length.

(14) This five-volume work was published in Paris, 1899-1914.
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Author:Dull, Jonathan R.
Publication:Canadian Journal of History
Date:Dec 1, 2000
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