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June 14, 2008

The War That Made America

A Short History of the French and Indian War
Fred Anderson – ISBN – 978-0670034543

Not especially short at 265 pages, it is nonetheless very well written and of particular interest to those who really don’t want to “know it all,” and enjoy his style and ability to deal with both historic detail and philosophy without being tedious. He satisfactorily explains how that particular war changed the landscape of North American power forever, by removing the French imperial presence while depriving the Indians of the only ally they had to arm and assist them against the Anglo-Americans who lusted for their land. (Not that the French didn’t!)

It also tempted the British Empire—in which name the war was fought--to imagine itself able to fully exercise exclusive power over the colonists, ultimately authoring the colonials American Revolution as a fight for their own liberty from empire. As well it encouraged Americans to indiscriminately see all Indians as enemies, and impediments to expansion, as it set the stage for the conquest of the remaining, huge portion of what is now the United States.

He emphasizes the oft overlooked fact that Washington learned and experienced command for the first time in this conflict, and did so in a less than redemptive fashion, leaving hundreds of wounded and dead soldiers; he did learn from the experience however, which was always Washington’s strength.

He reconfirms that European settlement ultimately reduced the native population by 90 percent, while emphasizing that, given access to western war implements also increased the violence of indigenous cultures. Said weaponry was usually the determinant factor in which tribes survived and conquered before they, themselves, were annihilated or conquered. War is not, after all, a one sided concept and the natives had been warring amongst themselves for centuries before the arrival of the Europeans.*

There are many companion maps to assist in the dialogue, and sufficient pictures to warrant better interest and understanding.

He eloquently remonstrates in his epilogue that “[it recalls for] us that even the most complete victories can sow the seeds of reversal and defeat for victors too dazzled by success to remember that they are, in fact, only human.”

If you’re inclined toward military historic writing this is a worthwhile book.

*which reminds of another book I found fascinating: War Before Civilization (ISBN-978-01951191210) which discusses in interesting detail the fact—unlike most anthropologists would prefer that we believe—that “primitives” didn’t really fight. They just got along and loved the land of which they were part, etc.

Posted by respeto at June 14, 2008 2:44 PM