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Book review: Crucible of War by Fred Anderson

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I didn’t hate Crucible of War: The Seven Years’ War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766 by Fred Anderson …. but I don’t have a whole lot of good things to say about it.

First, a caveat: At the time of reading, Crucible of War was the only book on the Seven Years’ War that I had read. So, maybe I just didn’t know what to expect. However, it took me about 7 weeks to finish – which is about 5 weeks longer than it should have taken.

book about seven years warWhy learn about the Seven Years War?

After reading this book I agree with the author that “The Seven Years’ War emerges not merely as the backdrop to the American Revolution, but as both its indispensable precursor and its counterpart influence in the formation of the early republic” (745).

However, it could have been demonstrated a lot more succinctly.

My biggest hurdle with this book was ALL THE DETAILS. Naming every single British MP? Not necessary. A blow-by-blow of every battle? Not necessary.

If your primary thesis is that the Seven Years’ War was an “indispensable precursor” to the formation of the United States of America, focus your history on details that support that.

The best synopsis of the entire book:

“In the shaping of the world and the perceptions of both British and American leaders, the war became the necessary precondition for the development of an American nation-state that for most of its existence has been neither empire nor republic, but both. To see the Seven Years’ War and the Revolution together as epochal events that yoked imperialism with republicanism in American political culture may therefore enable us to take another step toward understanding a national history in which war and freedom have often intertwined. For ours is, in the end, an inheritance shaped no less by the quest for power than by the pursuit of happiness” (746).

If you’re looking for a solid, exhaustively thorough book about how the North American colonies went from British subjects interacting with Native Americans to revolting against the empire and creating a brand new country … THIS is the book.

If you just want to know what happened during the Seven Years’ War, this is NOT that book.

Do you have any recommendations for Seven Years’ War books?

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