Both the American Revolutionary War and the French and Indian War (as it was called in North America) have been the subject of many history books. The original American sources have been pretty much culled through, as have many of the British sources. But French sources have not received the same scrutiny. Why this is the case, is not clear. Of course, the French language is a barrier to English-speaking historians. I believe another factor is that French historians have not shown much interest in either war, and when they have, they have failed to use adequate footnotes, making it difficult for other historians to follow up on the sources they have used and confirm their credibility. In the French and Indian War and the Conquest of New France, William R. Nester, a professor at St. John’s University in New York City, helps to address this imbalance. His history of the French and Indian War (called the Seven Years’ War in Europe), which was fought from 1754 to 1763, is from the French perspective and he has relied on many original French sources. Interestingly, despite the title of the book, about half of the book, if not more, occurs in France and the rest of Europe. This decision is understandable; paraphrasing one contemporary, Canada was lost on the battlefields of Germany.
Nester starts his history by explaining the disorganized and weak state of the French political system. One might believe that because France had a monarchial system, its government was efficient, but the contrary was true. For one, the French legislature, dominated by merchants, lawyers and the middling classes who suffered the burden of heavy taxation (aristocrats were not taxed), frequently hesitated or refused King Louis XV’s constant requests for more funds to fight his wars and pay for his extravagant lifestyle. As a result, his administration was constantly deep in debt and always short of funds it needed to fight.
The court of King Louis XV was a convoluted maze of intrigue, dominated by the king’s beautiful but conniving mistress, Madame de Pompadour. Due to her heavy influence on King Louis XV, if she did not approve of a general or a foreign diplomat, that individual would either never be retained or would eventually be fired. This was no way to run a great country. Continue reading “Review: The French and Indian War and the Conquest of New France, by William R. Nester. Published by the University of Oklahoma Press, 2014 (paperback).”