Fred Anderson, The Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766

Subjects: Seven Years War, Stamp Act Crisis.

Clocking in at over 700 pages, Fred Anderson's Crucible of War follows in the footsteps of Bruce Catton's Army of the Potomac trilogy (my favorite history books of early high school) as a sweeping military history that narrates in detail the political and economic elements of its subject, while stopping at each battle to explain the mood of each general and the cut of each trench. I had a hard time putting it down.

Beginning with the splitting open of one Ensign Jumonville's head before the shocked eyes of young George Washington, The Crucible of War delineates each campaign and combatant of the Seven Year Wars and its aftermath (Pontiac's Rebellion and the Stamp Act crisis) in mesmerizing detail, while managing to thread along a few major themes, namely:

1. that only a handful of Englishmen and American colonists in the New World (Brig Gen. John Forbes, Quaker Israel Pemberton, and perhaps George Croghan, for example) ever understand what most pays d'en haut French take for granted - the centrality of Native Americans to colonial warfare and the balance of power,
2. about the same number of Englishmen in the metropole (William Pitt, Halifax to some extent) understand how best to get things done in the American colonies, which is to treat the colonies like valued allies rather than unruly subjects, and
3. these two arenas of misunderstanding do much to lay the groundwork for the Revolution that (NOT inevitably) follows the events of the Seven Years War.

You can also see elements of many other monographs at work in this book - The middle ground of Richard White, the Atlantic patronage of David Hancock, the feverish New England contractualism of (From Puritan to Yankee) Richard Bushman, and the Stamp Act aggro of Rhys Isaac, to name just a few.

Also posted at

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License